Fear of rejection is a real, palpable thing. It keeps people from doing all kinds of things. Hell, it kept me from asking a girl out on a date until I was 18. Everybody fears having their hopes dashed.
In the writing biz, this fear is especially pronounced. You pour so much of yourself into your work, you dream of its potential success, but when it comes time to push it out the door, you hesitate. What if nobody wants it? What if they hate it? The pain at having to face the fact that your stories aren’t as wonderful as you hoped is so terrifying, some people never take their stuff out of their drawer/hard drive.
To be a published writer at all, you have to push past this. After a while, you grow accustomed to rejection. It always stings, it’s always a disappointment, but you understand that a rejection is not necessarily a reflection of your self-worth or talent or potential. There are lots and lots of reasons editors reject stories and manuscripts, and not all of them have to do with the quality of said manuscript. Sometimes they just bought something very similar to what you just wrote. Sometimes they can’t accommodate a story of that length. Sometimes they just don’t personally get it, even though some other editor might. And sometimes the story in question, wonderful though it is, is “just not right for this market.”
This is where we fall into the rabbit hole of self-rejection.
Self-rejection is what happens when you assume a market won’t buy a story and so you never send it at all. You look at the kind of stuff they publish, you don’t see how you’d fit (it’s too good, it’s not like your stuff, it’s not the kind of thing you do, etc.), and so you don’t even bother. The thing is, though, that this is routinely a mistake. So long as your story adheres to the submission guidelines (i.e. don’t send a graphic horror piece to a YA scifi market) and it is the best you can do, just send it. I’ve talked to a lot of editors over the years, and all of them tell me one thing: Just send it. Let us do the rejecting. Let us decide if it’s right for us or not.
Now, I know what you’re saying: “You’re kidding me. They want more submissions? Don’t they get, like, hundred and hundreds?”
Well yeah, they do, but they also want good stories. Right now I am assuming that you’re pretty good at this writing thing. You’ve done your homework, you’ve taken your craft seriously, you’ve revised and revised again. You are of professional caliber – you know it in your bones. Put your Impostor Syndrome aside for a second and remind yourself that you’re good enough for this. Assuming this is all true, then you are already stepping ahead of literally thousands of people who have not done their homework and don’t take their craft seriously and who haven’t bothered to revise and revise again. You’re already near the top.
So send it! Go ahead! The worst that you get is a “no.” And a “no” there doesn’t mean a “no” everywhere. Keep submitting. Keep going.
I’m going to tell you a little story here to conclude: About 4 or 5 years ago, when I had only a few semipro sales and not much to show for it, I wrote a short story called “A Crystal Dipped in Dreams.” It’s a post-apocalyptic piece, but an optimistic one. I submitted it to The Writers of the Future Award and it was one of the finalists, but it didn’t win and was never published. Disappointed, but certain that it would sell soon, I started subbing it out.
It was rejected again and again and again and, honestly, I eventually gave up. The only place I hadn’t sent it was Analog Science Fiction and Fact and they seem partial to hard scifi and more classic stuff than this was. I figured they wouldn’t want it.
Fast-foward to this past February, I was going through old stories that hadn’t sold but that I thought were good, just to see if there were any submissions I didn’t make. I came across this one and figured “what the hell” and subbed it to Analog. I guessed it would be a reject – the story just seemed wrong for them – but guess what? It sold! I just signed the contract today, marking my second sale to Analog and my sixth pro-story sale overall. Just goes to show what I know!
And what I didn’t know, you don’t either. Submit!
Hey, everybody! I’m back! Bad news first: I didn’t finish everything I wanted to in the summer. Good News: I have a short story out in Analog‘s November 2014 issue, available now! Check it out here!
Presumably, at some point there will be hard copies for sale somewhere (at least I *think* so), or maybe you need to buy a subscription, but whatever. If you have a Kindle or similar e-reader (which at this point includes everybody except my mom) go and read my story “Mercy, Killer” in there! You’ll like it, I promise (oh, and being one of the top scifi markets in the business, the other stories are pretty good, too).
Stay tuned for more actual content on this blog in the coming weeks. For now, you’ll have to settle for going out into the world and reading my fiction. Life is hard sometimes.
Hello! It’s just me, popping in temporarily during my blog-hiatus to update you on more publishing news from Yours Truly. At long last, my story “The Great Work of Meister VanHocht” is released in the 13th volume of Stupefying Stories. The story is some of my best work, I think, so I hope you read it. Also, for those of you fascinated in my world of Alandar (yes, both of you!), the story is set in the city of Eddon and deals with golemsmithing.
Anywho, you can read it (and all the other wonderful stories in the volume) on Kindle by going here.
Also, for those of you looking to read more stuff by me, check out the “Where Can You Find My Stuff” tab in the sidebar to the right of this post. It has links to all my publications/honors thus far.
What it doesn’t include, of course, is the stuff yet to be released. Stay tuned for my story “Mercy, Killer” in next month’s issue of Analog, the release my novel The Oldest Trick, Part 1 early next year, and of course my short story “A Revolutionary’s Guide to Practical Conjuration” in The Writers of the Future Anthology, Volume 31, to be released next year.
Thanks, and now back to revising. See you all again soon, I hope!
WordPress has just informed me that it’s been another year of me writing this blog o’ mine. Seeing how I don’t have anything else pressing to discuss, this anniversary is fortuitous as it gives me something to write about, if only briefly.
I have pretty consistently posted about twice a week on this blog: almost always on Monday, and then again on either Wednesday or Friday, depending. I’ve doubled the number of followers I have and views on the site have varied from several hundred to fifty. This summer it has been around fifty pretty much consistently. This puts me behind the 2011-2012 view numbers, but that’s okay. I barely promote this blog and fifty views a day is enough for me to know that somebody is reading this thing and that I can be found if someone is looking.
While I enjoy blogging, my purpose here isn’t really to blog, per se. I don’t want to be a ‘blogger’ by trade or affectation. I’m a writer, and writing a blog is a way to establish that I exist to a digital world that is barely aware of me. This is, in essence, my digital office, wherein I make small inroads into making sure my name pops up in a Google search. I’m trying not to invest too much of my time into it, since the more time I spend here, the less time I spend actually writing. Of course, as somebody who has difficulty doing things by half measures, two posts a week are my minimum standard for maintaining this thing. If I’m going to write a blog, I’m going to write a blog; it isn’t something I’ll abandon on a whim. If I intend to quit updating for a while, you’ll hear about it.
On the subject of my professional aims, this has been a pretty good year in terms of writing. As of this moment, I have four stories accepted to various publications. Some of them haven’t supplied me with contracts yet, so I hesitate lauding them, but one of them is a really big publication credit to my mind (*cough* Analog *cough*). When I have a fixed idea of when these four stories are going to be released, I’ll be certain to let you know and prod you to buy/read them.
On the novel-writing front, things go well there, too. This summer I wrote the first third of the sequel to The Oldest Trick (mostly because I love Tyvian Reldamar, and for no greater professional purpose) as well as more than half of a new novel, which is currently titled simply Lych – it’s urban fantasy, which is a bit more saleable in the current market (I hope), and I hope to finish a rough draft by the end of winter at the latest.
The two novels I have finished and am shopping around (The Rubric of All Things and The Oldest Trick) are still under consideration at Harper Voyager books following their open submission call, which is a good thing. At last check, the editors told me they were both ‘very much still under consideration’, which I am taking as a hopeful sign one of them will be picked up. The Rubric of All Things, by the way, was the one that made Quarterfinalist for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. All good news!
Finally, on an ‘actually pays me money’ professional note, I have been promoted out of adjunct professor-hood to a full-time lecturer/faculty associate of English at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences University (whew! some title – I know). I start that new position tomorrow, which is very exciting as it will be the first time in my professional life I will have an office of my own (it may even have a door!). Go me!
So, in closing – thank you all for reading, and please continue to do so. This blog has been a great way to get the creative juices flowing and to share some of my ideas with whoever wants to listen. As a writer and a teacher, I do so enjoy hearing myself talk. I am glad there are at least a few people out there who do, as well.