Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Rejection: The Necessary Evil

By the power of the people (via last week's poll), this week I will discuss rejection.

Rejection sucks.

Goes without saying, right? We all know how horrible it feels to be rejected...by a pretty girl/handsome boy (depending on what floats your boat). But fiction rejections are a little different.

When someone rejects your story, they are not rejecting you (like the pretty girl/handsome boy did). They are rejecting your story.

Say it with me. Raise your right hand, and in a confident and determined voice say, "I am not my story!"

Feel a little better?

I know it's only a little, but bear with me.

When a market (an agent, editor, magazine, anthology, whatever) rejects your story, they are simply stating that your story is not right for their particular needs at this particular time.

For instance, (I love this example...I tell this story all the time) once I saw on ralan.com a call for submissions to the anthology, Requiem of the Radioactive Monkeys, and I thought to myself, how cool would it be to write a story for that anthology?

So I wrote a piece of flash (they were calling for a maximum of 500 words) and sent it to them. They didn't buy my story. Sad face.

Things first got worse. I faced the dilemma...now there will be a flood of rejected radioactive monkey stories and no one will buy mine because they will be so sick of reading about the lives of radioactive monkeys.

So I waited.

And waited. But trust me, good things happen when writers wait.

When enough time had passed, I re-worked the story to about 1,000 words and started shopping it around and bam! Sold it to Doorways Magazine. Unfortunately, I don't think Doorways is still in circulation, but it was cool horror magazine while it lasted.

In this case, being rejected by one market opened up the opportunity to be accepted somewhere else, and to refine my story to a more comfortable/appropriate length. Trust me, often the next market might even be better than the one where you were rejected.

That has happened to me several times. And I know it breaks the rule of sending to the best markets first but sometimes, depending on when markets are open or closed and where you have other stories in queues, you can't always submit top-down. (But you should when possible.)

And now for some personal rejection-bragging... As of this morning, I have accumulated 314 rejections for my short fiction & poetry and 15 rejections from agents and/or publishers for my novels. (I honestly thought the numbers were higher...so that's making me feel a teeny bit better this morning.)

These rejections are like badges of honour. You should flaunt them, because it shows that you're trying. That you're sending your work out there.

No one will buy your story and publish it if the story sits on your hard drive and never experiences the opportunities out there in the world.

Writers must treat their stories like baby birds. Once they're ready we shove them out of the nest and hope they can fly.

Even if sometimes they hit the ground with a painful thud!

As I mentioned in my post on submission trackers you must keep detailed records of the places where you've sent your work.

For two reasons.

Reason 1: Bragging Rights

If you're going to brag about your acceptance and rejection rates, then you must keep accurate records of where they have been submitted.

Reason 2: Double Submissions Are Embarrassing

In the publishing business, editors really don't appreciate you sending a story back to a place where it has already been rejected (even if you've made substantial changes). Believe me, in three or five years, you might forget that at one time you sent that story to Magazine X.

So, are you still sitting at your computer (or reading your tablet), wringing your hands, feeling overly terrified/uncomfortable/some other yucky emotion at the notion of sending out your story?

You are not alone!

As a matter of fact, for one of the writers' groups that I belong to, some of our members find the task of submitting to be completely overwhelming.

But we have a collective cure (or at least a deterrent) for this affliction.

At our annual group dinner, if any member has gone one calendar year (since the last group dinner) without submitting a single story/query then they must wear a corset or bustier to the dinner.

No exceptions. (Seriously, even if you're a guy!)

So, you probably guessed it, we don't have a lot of guys in our group!

And to be honest, I've been known to wear a corset to the dinner simply because it's fun. But that's besides the point.

So if you're having real trouble fretting about rejection, set yourself a horrible punishment for not submitting.

Rejection is part of the gig.

If you choose to be a writer, you must develop a thick skin for rejections.

Remember, chocolate can be a strong ally in the battle against the rejection blues.

Do It Now:
Go to Ralan.com or Duotrope to find a market for a work that is sitting on your hard drive, ready to be thrown into the world.

Found one?

Great! Now send that puppy out into the world.

Don't forget you must send it out in a professional manner. For details, read my post on Market Listings.

Good luck, to you and your story. Let it fly and be free!

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