Submissions mean rejections, sometimes

The last few weeks, I’ve gotten back into the habit of submitting my work for consideration. For two or three years now, I’ve only submitted a couple of stories or poems a year. Mostly, they sold, and I’m grateful for that, but instead of taking that forward momentum and going with it, I retreated back into the day-to-day stress of trying to make a living. Neglecting what I love for what I need to survive.

But what kind of life is that? All along, I’ve wanted to keep working. It took a long time to convince myself that I’m in a secure enough place in my life that I can write, some, and submit, some. Get out there. Take a chance. So, I’ve been putting effort into that. I’ve been going through old work, looking at it critically, and revising it. (I take real joy in seeing that I’ve improved as a writer from where I was two years ago – and I was pretty good then.) I’ve even been submitting it to places that scare me. Big markets, pro rate markets, markets with tiny acceptance rates.

And I’ve already gotten some rejections, because that’s what happens when you share your stories. Not everyone wants to buy them. Even when they like the writing, it’s not always marketable, or it’s not the right fit for them at this time. When you aren’t writing something already bought (like a novel your publisher’s already contracted you for), you are guessing when you send your work into the world. There’s no guarantees you’ll succeed. The more you send out, the more rejections you garner, and that adds up. If you let it, it eats away at you.

It doesn’t bother me anymore, for a couple of reasons. One, I know that I’m a good writer and also a marketable one: I have a higher acceptance rate than I do rejections. Most authors can’t say that. Two, I know it’s the cost of participating in the process. All writers get rejected at some point. Often, you get rejected dozens or hundreds of times.

Third, and most important: I don’t want to sell a bad story to a bad market. That doesn’t help me. My goal isn’t quantity, it’s quality. I would rather publish two or three pieces a year, in solid, respectable markets, and eventually garner a reputation for quality, memorable writing, than be that writer who’s got 100 or a 1000 sales to low-paying or reprint markets, churning out forgettable work so similar as to be meaningless. For me, the path I’m on as a writer means being receptive when editors tell me this piece or that one needs work, or isn’t right for their market. I listen when an editor tells me to try somewhere else. I listen when an editor or my readers tell me that this line or that section doesn’t work within a story, even if I loved it. I’ll read slush for Lakeside Circus and I’ll read great authors and I’ll read everything that interests me, because I learn from it all.

I can convince myself to put my ego aside and create the best possible fiction because I know how amazing it feels to get an acceptance for a story or poem I’m truly proud of, and that’s the feeling I want more of. So I’ll take that rejection, and those notes, and that revision (or three) and I’ll get better. And try again.

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