Tag Archives: Rejection

Lonely occupation

Something you will hear time and time again is how ‘lonely’ it is to be a writer. I’ve always thought people said that because of the long hours you spend alone at the computer writing. This has always seemed a bit of a contradiction to me, because if you are writing you are spending time with your characters so you are not alone.

This week I got hit with the full brunt of the lonely occupation. After 329 days (and of that over two months spent in the ‘number 1 in the queue’ position) my novella got rejected. I really liked that novella and thought it had a chance. To really rub salt into the wound it was a form letter rejection, so much so that it went to my junk mail, and I opened it just before I started a particularly taxing day at work.

There was no-one I could tell. My work colleagues think I’m wasting my time with my writing, so it would just be confirmation to them that I’m being foolish, and my friends and family are all working through fairly serious issues at the moment, so I didn’t want to burden them with the ‘problem’ of my dreams not coming true. Instead all I could do was think to myself ‘that sucks’ and get back to work building intranet pages.

I have got a writer friend who I will burden with my disappointment when we catch up next week, but I know by then I will have gotten over it and integrated it into my reality. But I can say that this week I felt like a lonely writer. Then I felt guilty for not appreciating all the good things in my life. For me, writing and guilt go hand in hand so I guess I’m normalising already. But I’ll chalk this up as just another sucky week and move on. At least gay marriage was legalised, so it wasn’t a total loss.

Rejection transition

Like most of us, I’ve had a lot of rejection in my time. You would think I would be getting used to it by now, but it still carries a painful barb. My novel got rejected this week. To really rub salt into the wound it was just a two sentence ‘dear author…’ rejection. In recent history I’ve usually got a personal note to say it was good, just not what they were looking for, but that was bitterly absent on this one.

It was interesting to go through the rejection transition, which does speed up as you get more ‘used’ to rejection. The first step is what I think of as the ‘it’s me’ stage –where you read the subtext of the rejection as “what the hell are you doing wasting your time on this? You can’t write, so just stop, okay?”

The next stage is the ‘it’s them’ where the rejection reads as “we are too small minded to consider things outside the box and are closed to the potential of doing something different.” I used to stay in this stage for a long and angry time.

The final stage is the ‘the planets didn’t align’ stage where you realise they were just not the right publisher for your book. They were looking for something and this wasn’t it. Someone else will be looking for it and they will be as excited as a kid who has found their mother’s chocolate stash (behind the fantasy novels in the bookshelf) when they read your pages. That’s the publisher you want championing your book.

This time it took about 24 hours to transition, so I think I need to apologise to my work colleagues and I know I need to apologise to my family for my foul mood on Wednesday. I was in stage 1 at work and 2 at home. Sorry. And thank you to my fantastic friends for dragging me into stage 3 much faster than I think I would have been able to do so alone.

More rejection

In keeping with my send out something every month resolution, I’m getting much more experience at rejection. It’s funny but my response differs each time and I can’t work out if there is any reason behind it.

The good response is that I get a fire in my belly and go out with the ‘I’ll show them’ frame of mind. Unfortunately this often leads to me sending the story out straight away without giving it the proper review a rejection probably invites.

The medium response is that I hope that maybe I can get the story up to scratch and find it a home, all it needs is a really good edit, and then another one, and another one, and maybe one more time through the writers group. These responses often lead to the story getting trapped in a never-good-enough loop.

The bad response, and the one I had this week, is the ‘why do I do this to myself?’ response. I write to entertain myself, and maybe what I find entertaining isn’t what the world wants to see. This response threatens to bring my whole send out policy to a standstill.

Fortunately I’m OCD enough to know I have committed to sending out a new piece every month, so I will continue with that until the end of the year when I can make some new resolutions. But what may happen is that once they get rejected the stories can just sit for a while.

Or maybe I’ll show them and get it published in an even BETTER magazine!

Rejection

This year one of my NY resolutions was to submit a new piece of writing for publication each month. It has to be a new piece that I send off, so if a previous month’s submission gets rejected, when I next send it out it doesn’t count toward my sub for the month. So at the moment I have three pieces doing the rounds (yes, I have had one accepted, yay, but more on that closer to the publication date).

This means for the first time in a long time I’m getting lots of rejections again. The funny thing is that I’m not taking the rejections personally anymore. I just tick it off on my spreadsheet and move on (well, if I’m honest there are about five parameters collected on my spreadsheet and there may be some auto-graphing, but that’s just my Excel OCD).

I think one of the reasons I’m better able to cope with the rejection is the thick skin my writers group has calloused upon me. In my current group we each submit every month. This means a) I must write something every month, and b) I’m used to people giving me feedback on my stuff, not all of it good!

I’ve heard stories of people who fall apart when they get a critique of their story because the reader didn’t love every word. They completely blank the positive feedback and focus on the bad bits (these really are opportunities to make your story the best it can be and should be embraced). I hate to think how they must react when they get a form rejection with no explanation.

There is so much about being a writer that has nothing to do with writing, and I think accepting rejection and criticism is a big part of it. After all, even if you get a publisher who LOVES your story, there will always be people who read your stuff and write horrible reviews, or feel the need to tell the world why they think you should go back to your day job.

I don’t know if I’m ready to embrace the level of rejection and criticism that published novelists get, but thanks to my writers group I know I’m a lot closer to being ready.

Fear

If there is one thing that my penchant for self-help books has taught me, it is that fear does not need to be of the heart-rate-increasing variety. Some fears do not spark your adrenalin or send your skin clammy. In fact some fear does not show itself at all. Why, because it is so ingrained that you know you will never let yourself face it, so your body does not get worried.

One that falls into this category is the fear of failure. Different people are afraid of failing at different things. For writers there are lots of failures we worry about. The story won’t come out on the page as perfectly as it looks in our heads, so we don’t write it. People won’t like the story when we finish writing it, so we don’t show it to anyone. Publishers will tell us that we have no skill and we should quit now, so we don’t submit our story. Academically we know these things probably won’t be issues, but it doesn’t stop the fear from getting in.

A lot of self-help gurus preach that you should do one thing a day that scares you. I think this is actually really good advice. It trains you to a) look for fears and be aware of them, and b) know that you can survive facing them. It is very easy for us to let our sub-conscious mind go about making our decisions so we don’t even know what we are afraid of, keeping us in a little, secure, safety-bubble.

But that won’t help you to become the best that you can be. Facing your fears is how you grow. That is how you learn what you are capable of, and it gets you to stretch beyond the familiar to the possible.

I think my fears have been holding back my submissions this year. I’ve subbed only two things, and one of those got accepted. Not a bad hit rate, but it is a terrible submission rate. So with what is left of the last two months of this year I’m going to face that fear. Let’s see what is possible.

Remember; it is just one opinion

Over a year ago I sent a story in to a magazine and quickly made it through the slush reader rounds to get to the editors. The story was not picked up. They held it for a month longer than they said they would in the hopes that it would fit with one of the themes of the magazine, but alas, it did not quite match with what they published in that quarter.

So when I got my rejection I actually got a note from one of the editors who said that it was very well written and the fact it had got ‘this far’ was an indication of the quality of the story. The editor explained that the only reason they were rejecting it was because they did not like to hold onto stories for more than 3 months.

I put that story through two writers groups who offered small tweaks, but for the most part kept it as it was. The small changes suggested did add to the story, and I thought it was definitely a more polished and tight package as a result.

I sought, and was granted, permission to resubmit the story. Having previously been told ‘it is with regret that I let this story go’ by the editor of the magazine, I wasn’t expecting much grief from the slush readers, so imagine my surprise when I was knocked out in the first round just a few days after I submitted the story.

From all the feedback I have got on this story I know it is succinct, humorous and entertaining, but even in my writers groups (in both instances) there was one person who just didn’t like it. They couldn’t exactly say why, but they “just didn’t like it.”

I guess my allocated slush reader was one such person. It shows you, particularly in the world of slush, that just one opinion can make the difference between getting picked up and getting rejected. When it is just one person who sees your story, it is just one opinion that comes into play, so we need to remember that.

I won’t take this rejection to heart because I know that a lot of other people have enjoyed this story. Just as easily, one day in the future, a different opinion may see this story being published.

I need to keep this in mind for all my rejections!

Nearly eight months

That’s how long it just took for one of my stories to be rejected. I had actually assumed it was rejected three months ago when I had  not heard from them within their rough guide of when they would be making their decision, so it was not with disappointment that I received this email, but surprise.

It was a form letter rejection, so I’m not sure if my story got close to being picked or if it was just lost in the back-log for all that time. The thing that did really surprise me was the invitation to submit again next year. Forgive me if I sound bitter, and I do appreciate that in the scheme of things in the writing world I am at the bottom of the food chain (and I’m okay with that), but waiting nearly eight months to reject a piece of flash fiction, in a flash fiction anthology where most of the stories submitted are around 1,000 words is just too long!

The disappointing thing is that I know a lot of the people who put these anthologies together are writers themselves, so surely they know the disappointment you feel when you have had a story locked up for nearly a year while someone makes a decision about it. Even if they sent a generic update email at the four-month mark I’d not be quite so miffed.

It makes it very hard to write a ‘cutting-edge’ piece of science fiction, because if the first person you sub it to doesn’t take it, then it is old hat by the time it gets sent to the second potential publishing opportunity.

I know there is no solution. This is just how it is. It really is no wonder that people are turning more and more to self-publishing as a first option for their work. I’m not there yet, but I do not hold it against those who do choose that path.  

Yes, I guess it turns out I am a bit bitter 🙂 and I must concede that it could be something about that particular story, because the last place held onto it for over a year before they rejected it.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Ugh.

Rejecting rejection?

I’ve been a bit prone to the feel-sorry-for-myself’s recently. While I’m all for a little wallowing in misery, there does come a point when you just start to annoy yourself with the indulgence. I think I’ve got to that point now.

I got the triple-pack of rejections over the past fortnight, and two were for stories I really like. Usually when these two get rejected (ugh, I can say usually) I get personal feedback about which parts the editor liked, and why it is not quite right for their line-up. These most recent rejections were the stock standard ‘dear author’ generic single-sentence replies, so my joie de vivre took a bit of a beating.

As always happens in the minutes following, I spiralled into the ‘why am I doing this’ and let’s not forget; ‘I’m going to give up on this whole writing malarkey.’ But the moment I thought about quitting writing every instinct within me rebelled. I need to write, if I don’t I get grumpy, not to mention that writing is the only way to exorcise my mind of all those ghosts of stories not yet written.

So really this rejection triple has made me realise I’m not questioning the purpose in writing, but in sending it out to publishers. For now I’ll going to keep sending, while I’m still undecided, but don’t be surprised if in the future, especially if the stories start to pour out like some have recently, I might just post them on line (after peer review and editing) and let the world ignore, love or hate them at their own whim. For me writing is about getting read, and how that happens really isn’t of great concern.

Now I’m stamping out the feel-sorry-for-myself’s, I’ve reworked the rejected babies and am sending them on their way. I’m also starting the three stories that have only got as far as a few jotted notes over the past couple of weeks. Being a writer is about writing, not necessarily about being published. I know millions would argue against me, but I think we all need to find our own path, and more and more I’m thinking this is mine.

The dark mask of the internet

Dark mask of the internet

Have you ever noticed how even the most mild mannered person can turn into a screaming lunatic when you get them behind the wheel of a car? Well it seems the internet is having a similar effect on people.

Recently I have come across some nasty instances of cyber bullying or harsh judgemental attacks, and I refuse to believe that there are really that many rude people out there. I think the relative anonymity afforded by the internet comments and rating systems gives people free rein to let out all their personal frustrations on others who are simply sharing their art or feelings.

Kirstyn McDermott said it beautifully in her blog post about a girl who (possibly naively, possibly as a marketing stunt) had a go at someone for giving her book a ‘bad’ review. The personal attacks she has suffered are completely out of proportion to what she did and her Amazon rating has been trashed.

Rebecca Black released a song with rather silly lyrics called ‘Friday’ and as a result she has been subjected to abuse and death threats, death threats! But it doesn’t even need to be that extreme, just read the comments at the bottom of any of the Woman’s Day True Confessions and you will see people condemning others based on a 500 word write up of what is usually a very complicated and painful situation.   

It is heartening to see that in all these cases you also see other anonymous warriors in the comments line-up defending these people, but it is sad that it only takes such little things to fire people up to the point where this defence is needed. Criticism is just a form of opinion, which by definition can be neither right nor wrong, so it should be offered as such.

I remember not so long ago a song was released that made me want to rip my own ears off each time I heard it, I won’t tell you what it was, but it involved a frog whose sanity was in question. Did I threaten the producers of the ‘song’, did I send hate mail? No, I turned it off if it came on the radio, and I certainly didn’t buy it so I could give it a bad rating. I also, grudgingly, acknowledged that for some people it was not a torture to listen to it, so perhaps it did have a place in the world. Just not my world.

So far I’ve been lucky enough not to be subject to this sort of attack, but unfortunately it seems that anyone who puts themselves out there for long enough will eventually suffer this fate. Some even call it a sign of success. I would ask you though, next time you are so fired up to want to leave a critical comment somewhere, just think about how you would say it if you were talking to their face? Perhaps if we all did this then comments would be more about how to fix problems rather than pointing out perceived errors and the assumed character flaws that led to them.  

Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox now!

Nat

The rollercoaster of rejection

Each time I get that reply email in my inbox; RE: Submission; story title goes here, my heart skips a beat. My email does not give me a little preview of what the body of text says, so for a moment it can go either way. Is it an acceptance, or a rejection? I won’t know until I open it.

As you can imagine more often it is the ‘we enjoyed reading your story, but felt it was not right for our publication’ version of email rather than the ‘we loved your story and we want to publish it’ type, but for every sub there is a moment where in my heart it has been accepted. Especially when the email is about a novel.

A perverse part of me enjoys that moment, and I have been known to put off opening the email so I can draw out the feeling a little bit longer. When I open it and get the bad news of rejection I used to feel hurt, but I’ve found a great way of getting over that is to have my next market picked out so that I can quickly crush the pain of rejection with the hope of a new submission (after re-reading the story, of course, to ensure I am still actually happy with it, it might be getting rejected for a reason).

Then there is the other side of rejection which is not so exciting, and that’s no response at all. If the market listing says they don’t respond but consider it rejected if they haven’t responded within a certain time frame, I’ll put a note in my submissions tracking spreadsheet so the date is flagged, then I take that as a rejection. But there are some places that just say nothing and give no hints about what they are thinking.

This is a bad position to be in. Do they like it and they are just finding the right time/place to publish it? Have they lost it? Was there a change in staff? Did they lose my contact details? Or have they dismissed it and just cheated me of the few seconds of hope with the response email?

Unfortunately this is all part of the process, and you need to have a plan. Mine is simple, for a short story; after three months query (unless their market listing says not to). If they don’t respond to the query, after six months consider it rejected (you may want to start sending it to other markets before you get to six months). I’ve never had a story accepted after six months with no contact from the publisher beforehand, so I think it is a safe to assume they don’t want it. For a novel I do the same, but query after six months, reject after twelve.

There is nothing wrong with being rejected, and generally you get a very generic rejection email, so you can come up with all your own excuses (didn’t fit in with the existing line-up, they already had a story with a similar theme, wasn’t genre enough etc.). But once you have had a story rejected a few times you would be wise to take a closer look at it, or give it to someone else to read and give you some hints as to why it was rejected.

Remember, each rejection is one step closer to that story’s acceptance! And I promise, even your favourite author has had good work rejected. Don’t let it get you down!

Happy writing,

Nat