Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Yesterday I received my first rejection out of this latest batch of submissions. I knew everything I sent out wouldn't be accepted, especially not on the first pass, but knowing NO's are inevitable doesn't magically make them easy to deal with. If I'm not careful, they can undermine my confidence, my resolve, because let's face it, how many of us have unshakable confidence and resolve in the first place? We all have our moments of this is pig slop, no one outside of a pigpen could possibly like this, our phases of wondering if we're cut out for this writing gig at all, if we should just hang it up already and put Ol' Wordy out to pasture.

In this current instance, the rejection came from a publication I particularly like, so that makes the NO sting a little extra. So how am I dealing with it? Typically, I'd go over the piece with as critical an eye as I can manage (it's always difficult to maintain objectivity on your own work), looking for things I might improve on. Of course there's always something that can be changed, but if I didn't feel it was ready to send out, I wouldn't send it out, so it basically comes down to a choice between three options: leaving it as is (I consider tweaking a few little things "as is"), reworking the entire thing, or retiring it, at least for the time being.

For me, the choice depends on several factors, some of which I talked about in my previous post.

Yes, I did just write this on a sticky note because I couldn't find a pic

First, is there another market where it might work as is, or will it require major revisions to even be considered elsewhere? I'm not talking pandering, crafting it to suit a particular publication and coming across contrived. If a story feels that way, chances are it's not going to work regardless. I'm talking the sorts of instances where other potential markets have a 1,000 word limit and the piece is 1,200, or it has "objectionable content" that lots of publications won't touch. Can 200 words be cut without leaving it too bare bones? Can the content be toned down without stripping away the characters' personality or leaving them lacking in motivation or making the entire thing too tepid, whatever the case might be?

Second, how many times has it been rejected? Only a few, okay, those particular editors just didn't care for it, maybe another one will. But once a whole stack of NO's is amassed, maybe it wasn't ready to send out after all. One thing that helps me decide is how well it's been received by whoever's served as a sounding board. If they're confident it's fine as is, okay, let the NO stack rise a little higher. But if it keeps rising, eventually I have to face the fact that it just isn't working and proceed from there to major revisions or retirement.

Third, any special circumstances that might exist. This particular piece is very short, so there isn't a lot available to revise; major revisions would mean an entirely different story, so if it ends up amassing a NO stack, out to pasture it goes.

One thing I've learned from this instance is that I don't need a routine reminder of a specific NO, in the form of the rejection sitting in my inbox, seeing it every time I check my email. For others, that might serve as motivation to try harder, but for me, it just says Hey, here's that rejection again, in case you forgot and doesn't produce anything worthwhile. It also draws my focus, making me think about what I should do with that little story, which would be all well and good if I were trying to figure that out, but at the moment, I'm working on other stuff, so not helpful that way, either.

So I got rid of it by moving it to a "writing submissions" folder. No point in leaving it there on the front page if it's only going to present a potential focus-grabber and/or stressor each time I run across it. (And yes, I will submit it elsewhere soon, but I'm taking today as writing-only, no market hunting.)

Empty platitude as it might sound, it also helps to focus on the positive. For instance, the fact that I'm staying on track with my writing goals, continuing to participate in flash challenges, and I've traveled 2,437 words further along into new territory, as my first western tale is now up to 6,380 (and I'm having fun with it, just like I imagined).

NO happens, but that's just the way the creative cookie crumbles.   

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