Tag Archives: Rejection

Another man’s treasure

A while back I talked of rejection, inspired by a short story I particularly liked being turned down yet again. The funny thing is the first time I sent it out to the potential publisher they held onto it for ages and then ‘regretfully rejected’ it. The next two rejections were outright, if they could have e-spat on it they would have.

Last month the story got accepted. But not only did it get accepted, the editors claimed to have ‘loved’ the piece (cool). How funny that with no difference in the manuscript one publisher can see nothing but faults, and another ‘gets’ the story and likes it. This is a classic example of what I’ve been rabbiting on about for so long now; you have to keep plugging away until you find the right reader. If you like your story someone else will as well.

Now I wouldn’t be a real writer if I didn’t admit to being superstitious, so I’ll tell you neither the short story title nor the publisher name until I get the contract 🙂 But suffice it to say that when you do get the yes, it doesn’t make the pain of all the “no’s” go away, but it does remind you why you keep suffering through them.

Happy writing!


To E or not to E?

One of the options I mentioned in the previous post was self-publication. One of the cheapest and easiest ways of self-publishing is epublishing (online). But when is it right to shun traditional publishers and go it alone?

The fact is you need to ask yourself if there is a reason you work hasn’t been picked up by another publisher. Maybe there actually is something wrong with it? And if there is, then it needs to be fixed before it gets published! It can be hard to pick up when you have a problem with a story because writers tend to fall into two buckets; those who think everything they write is great, and those who think everything they write is crap. Many vacillate between the two, but never sit in the middle ground.

So the best way to work out if your work is ready to be self-published is to look at external feedback. This could be a writers group, it could be an editor who you pay to look at your work, or it could be ‘positive rejections’ from publishers. Believe it or not, sometimes publishers will say great things about your work, and then still reject it. If you have started getting those rejections, it might be time to consider epublishing.

I have to admit I fall into the group who believe you should exhaust all other options before self-publishing, but remember that other options include non-paying markets. While not always as competitive as the paying markets, they are still competitive, and that means only your good stories will be picked up. After all, you never know which story will be someone’s first exposure to your writing, so it is important that everything you have out there is the best that it can be, and that requires another set of eyes.  

Happy writing!


All writers are great

Yes, it sounds like something that would be said by a member of the generation that were given participation awards at school, but I can assure you that I’m firmly in the Gen X category where the ribbons only went down to third place and sometimes a wooden spoon was handed out for coming last so you had a memento of your humiliation. However the statement about great writers is true. But perhaps I do need to tack a little bit on to the end of that… All writers are great to someone.

I am amazed at how often I can be glowingly recommended a book which I cannot force myself to finish, likewise a book I love is slagged by others. It is uncanny how often a writer taps into the global ‘love’ list while also squeezing themselves into the dreaded (but apparently profitable) ‘hate’ list as well (Dan Brown, Stephenie Meyer, anyone who has a number 1 bestseller basically).

So what am I saying? That you don’t need to try, someone will love the words you chuck together? NO! What I’m saying is that if you love your stories, then others will too, just not everyone. Rejections will come, people will slag and stories will be placed forever in the bottom drawer… But someone will love your work, someone will want to publish your work and someone will silently thank you for inventing a story that resonated on such a personal level with them. It might just take time. After all, there must be some truth to the oft’ quoted saying (attributed to so many people that I just had to pick one from a long list):

“There is a word for a writer who never gives up; published.”

                                                                        – J. A. Konrath

Finally, love her or hate her, I think J. K. Rowling wrote some great books and here is a commencement speech she gave at Harvard University in 2008. If you haven’t seen it I think it is well worth watching:

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Clusters of Fortune

For some strange reason writing rejections always come in groups. I find I manage to shrug off the first one pretty easily. But the second one, which always follows just 24 short hours afterwards, always delivers a bigger blow than it should (especially when the reason for rejection is that the reader believes it is too hard to find a 100 year old oak tree in Australia. Never mind there are heaps of 100 year old oak trees here, never mind that I never said the story was set in Australia. Never mind it’s not even important to the story. Not bitter, not bitter, not bitter…). We won’t even talk about what the third rejection does (and you always know that one is less than a week away). That is the cluster rule of writing.

But there is an upside.

Acceptances, too, come in groups. I told you of the recent hold request. Just a day after that I had a story accepted. Irrational superstition forbade me to tell you about it until all the pieces of paper were signed and the proofs approved. But the excitement of receiving good news so hot on the heels of good news is as uplifting as the second rejection is crushing. It makes you believe there is a future for your writing after all.

I’d like to say that is why we do it. Why writers write. But the truth is we write because there are stories in our heads that haunt us until we put them on paper and give them to others to read. It is a personal exorcism. The frustrating part is how difficult it is to get your babies read.

So please, read abundantly, read openly and read dangerously. You never know where you might go or what you might learn. And the more people read, the more magazines will print stories and the more clusters of acceptances I will get in my inbox!

Happy reading,



Every writer, even the newest to the game, knows that rejection is part of the job. But knowing doesn’t make it is easier to take. You remind yourself that it is the story, and not you, that is getting rejected. But when you birthed that story, crafted it, re-wrote, re-modelled and loved it, then you can certainly find no reason to break out the un-used poppers from New Year’s Eve when you get that ‘sorry but’ email. It always cuts.

The pain, the dejection and the ‘I’m not going to do this to myself anymore’ I’ve managed to get down to about 12 minutes. It used to be as many days, but I’ve been working on it –something for which my partner is eternally grateful. At least I know I am not alone in this.

One of my favourite spec fic writers, Robert J Sawyer, talks about one of his short stories and the tale of its rejection. Lauded as being a standout story, nominated for and coming runner up for the coveted Aurora Award “Lost in the Mail” got rejected 17 times before it was accepted. 17! On my little spreadsheet (and all writers know about these spreadsheets; adding graphs and macros can eat up hours of procrastination time), when my stories hit 10 subs, I usually figure they are dead. I don’t actively kill them off, but they fall off the other spreadsheet which tracks those stories I’m actively re-working and following up.

And there is the lesson.

If you set your cut off at 10, you might miss the success at 17. If you set it at 20 you might miss the success of 42. The thing is, maybe the story does need more work, maybe a little tightening here, a bit more explanation there, and there is nothing wrong with considering and acting on that. But maybe, just maybe you simply haven’t yet found the editor who gets it, but it doesn’t mean you won’t.

So, I’ve just reviewed my short story, I’m still happy with it, so I’ve packaged it up and sent it off into the world again. It might come back, in which case I will pack another lunch for it and send it out again. Or maybe this will be the time it will find a new home. It was only attempt 3 after all, so I shouldn’t put too many expectations on it.

Cross your fingers!