So let’s talk about Rejection.
Man. I’ve been doing Rejection for a long time now. My very first rejection was from Cemetery Dance, a horror mag. It was a form rejection that looked like a copy of a copy of a copy of a manually typed page.
I framed it. It was my first.*
Since then I’ve been rejected by some of the best: Gordon Van Gelder has rejected me, Orson Scott Card has rejected me – I’ve been rejected by interns (McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern) and Editors in Chief, (Apex.)
I am always disappointed. I always heave a deep sigh. I’m never hurt, though. Not even by the rejections beside me, dated a couple years back. One is a quarter-sheet with check boxes – the ones checked are “Lacked any (or too few) of the following elements, which are imperative essentials in the fiction we buy: the dark fantastic, surreal, bizarre or strange,” and “The plot offered nothing new or interesting.”
Another rejection, for the same story, is another oft-copied full-page form rejection, with “disappointing ending” circled. At the bottom someone scrawled “poor ‘surprise’ ending” and stuffed it in my self-addressed stamped envelope.
I wasn’t hurt at all by any of that. Frankly, I agreed.
I sent the story back out anyway.** That same story garnered other hand-written rejections, including these:
“Good writing and sense of place, but unfortunately, I must pass on this one; though strictly a subjective call.”
“A nice piece of dark fiction.”
This is a strange game, this writing thing. We get conflicting messages; it’s hard to sort it all out.
I guess the key here is that everything I said above is wrong. They didn’t reject me. They rejected my story. Just that story. Not the other ones that I didn’t send them. Just that one.
So I sigh, and then I open my Submissions spreadsheet, and I enter the date that I received the rejection and anything notable about it (form letter, hand-written invitation to send more, note that it started too slow, etc.) Then, if I haven’t already, I go to Duotrope’s Digest and figure out where to send it next.
Submitting stories and receiving rejections is how I demonstrate to myself that I am taking my writing seriously.
Of the five I have out there right now, one is well past the normal turn-around and the other is right at the normal turn-around as reported by Submitting to the Black Hole. This could be a rejection-heavy week. The best thing I can do to prepare for that is to go pick the next market, and then get back to work on the next story.
* I went looking for it when preparing this blog post and couldn’t find it. I am distressed.
** A few more times. I have since declared that story ‘retired’ because as noted above, I tend to agree with the criticisms of it far more than the praise (though I sure did appreciate the praise.)