When reading the bios and the various “how I made it” stories of other writers, a common theme soon emerges. The rejection slip. They’ve all had them. Great big wads of them scattered around studies and offices, stuck on spikes, pinned to noticeboards, shoved in drawers, and filed in waste paper bins.
Some writers take rejections of their work badly, which is understandable if they have spent ages researching the subject(s) covered in their story, taken the time to draw together well-rounded and believable characters, painstakingly plotted a devilish story arc for them to follow, and then, after all that, wrung their OEDs dry polishing and perfecting every last sentence. To then have an editor, agent or publisher turn around and issue a form rejection with no feedback… well, you can imagine how said writer might get a wee bit tetchy.
On the other hand you have writers that are happy enough to get their work out there. They’ve probably got five story ideas bumping into each other for every one they manage to get onto paper. The rejection slips don’t really matter so long as they keep the faith that one day one story will make it into print. In the meantime the struggle is deciding which one to write next. Indeed I’ve read some writers’ desires to collect, say, a hundred rejection slips in a year, which I think is a great way of going about it.
(Just as an aside, I reckon I could do that quite easily. All I’d need to do is write a 5000 word horror equivalent of Finnegan’s Wake and send it to every publication on Duotrope. I can imagine the responses: “Dear author, Thank you for your submission but I regret to inform you we will not be considering your work for our upcoming Erotic LGBT Cthulhu Stories With Cake Recipes collection.”)
Anyway, blathering aside, this post is a means for me to record my first rejection email. Penny Fiction had an intriguing opening for thirteen-word flash fiction stories. (That’s intriguing in a “How on earth can you write a story in thirteen words?!?” kind of way.) But when I had spotted that “THIRTEEN WORDS” itself contains thirteen letters I quickly came up with a gruesome sentence using each letter and fired it off. Two-and-a-bit months later I get a reply to my original email.
It’s my first rejection.
You know what that means? That’s right, folks, someone has actually read something I wrote! Well, that wasn’t so difficult, and with a bona fide rejection I’m now in good company!
Lots of perfectly decent stories don’t make it into print for various reasons. Look at the submissions pages of your favourite fiction magazines and they often state they receive well over a hundred submissions for each story slot they have. Even after subtracting all the stories about torturing and butchering ex-girlfriends in freezing cold outhouses, the odds aren’t good.
But there is always a chance, and I’ve got the bug. It’s time to properly start chucking stories out there starting with Shroud Magazine, whose submissions window closes at the end of the month. I’ll submit a little cautionary tale about why you should always ask for ID when answering the front door, even if you were expecting “The Gas Man” to call…