I recently had another story rejected. The editor forwarded the reviewer’s comments to me. I found a couple of valid concerns in them, but also some other types of concerns.
The biggest problem here is that the two reviewers found different reasons for rejecting the story. One loved the magic as portrayed, the other focused on that as his/her main reason for recommending rejection. The basic flaw they found in that regard is that they did not understand exactly how the magic works. My contention is that magic is, in fact, magic. It is somewhat mysterious by nature. In a short story, there is not enough time to be explicit about the inner mechanisms at work here. I am disappointed that a slush reader for a fantasy magazine does not realize this.
The other reviewer thought that a couple of transitions were too sudden. One in particular has the protagonist suddenly struck down. The suddenness of this episode is an essential part of the plot, in my estimation.
Thus, the quandary continues. To revise or not to revise. On these two points, I have to decide not to revise. I do think they are essential to the story. Other points raised will be incorporated into some changes in the wording in a couple of places to address them.
All in all, I think that this illustrates the dangers inherent in submitting stories. Slush readers have many other concerns than picking out subtle points in the story. They just don’t have time to deal with that. Their tastes also differ from one to another. Contradictory opinions are just part of the process that we have to accept.
I like to include a certain amount of subtlety in my stories. I think it enriches them. Making everything explicit and explained in great detail just damages the story. I do not like stories that do that. Leave something to my imagination, for Heaven’s sake.
I guess I will just keep submitting the story, with some revision, until I find an editor or slush reader that appreciates it.
I spent this morning indexing three more issues of Vision. The index is now current through Issue 63. Also — a milestone. Over 1000 articles indexed! 1009, to be exact. Whew! That is hard to imagine. Of course, I’ve been working on this off and on for 7 or 8 years. In terms of articles per day, that’s not a lot.
Now it’s time to put that aside and work on writing (I’m off today, YAY). I got a rejection from Untied Shoelaces of the Mind on “A Momentary Lapse of Reality”. The note did, however, include some very useful comments on why this story did not work for them. Thank you, Editors!
Time now to dive in and make a few changes so I can send it out again.
I said “Phooey”, and I meant “Phooey”! Phooey!
Bete Noire Magazine sent me a form rejection for “Worse Than Death”. It has since gone on to Waylines Magazine.
All in a day’s work.
Nightmare Magazine rejected my short story “That Others May Live”. One-day turnaround on this one. Ouch! That’s second time for me. They also rejected “Worse Than Death” back in December. Two days on that one.
Actually, that is one of the reasons I like this market. They don’t mess around. They advertise a maximum 2-day turnaround on most rejections with up to 2 weeks on their short list.
It’s a tough market that publishes some good work, so I will continue to submit. Back to the drawing board. Marketing research is underway.
Just catching my breath right now. We’re short-handed at work (again!) with Fall Quarter breathing down our necks (next week, Yikes!). We’re on break right now, so I am taking a couple of days off. I’m looking forward to getting a few little things done.
One thing I am doing is getting some more work done on “What Dreams May Come”. This short story has finally taken a turn in the right direction after a couple of years of semi-serious thrashing around. I just need to do some research on oil painting to get the final layer put on it. I got a beginner’s book on oil painting (about which subject I am abyssmally ignorant) and will study up on it some on my days off, with an eye to getting this thing finished this weekend.
I am also working on some revisions to “That Others May Live” and hope to get it back into circulation early in October, if not before. I also need to get “The Dying of the Light” tightened up and polished some more, so I can kick it out the door. “The Gravedigger’s Tale” is also begging for some more work to get it into submission shape. My days off will be busy ones, it seems, but lots of fun.
That 100th rejection has been a real relief. I finally feel like I can stop holding my breath every time I send something out. Now that I have passed 100, I feel like an old pro. At getting rejected, at least.
My 99th rejection came in over the weekend, and number 100 arrived last night. yay?
This is definitely an ambiguous achievement. On the one hand, it demonstrates commitment and perseverance in the face of adversity. On the other hand, I would much rather have 100 acceptances in hand.
In honor of the occassion, I am declaring a virtual holiday. That means, of course, that it is not a real holiday, but I give you permission to take one if you wish. Unfortunately, I don’t have that luxury.
Onward to the market listings and my next submission.
I received my 97th rejection letter today. I am officially starting the countdown to 100. I anticipate reaching that goal around the end of the month.
100 rejections is a true milestone. Everybody who is anybody has amassed triple-digit rejections. Three I know of off the top of my head are Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, and Harlan Ellison. High cotton indeed.
I am looking at this as a time to reflect on the value of persistence and as evidence of my commitment to writing. A celebration will be in order when the big day comes. Maybe I’ll break down and eat a piece of chocolate cake.
I’ve been getting feedback on one of my current favorite stories from my crit-group partners, and I have come to a painful realization. One of my favorite scenes has to die. It’s beautifully written and emotionally wrenching, but…
It does not advance the story. It’s a tea party in a graveyard, a wonderful set-piece vignette that goes nowhere and does nothing. I hate this. I love this scene (or whatever it is), and sending it to the Elephant’s Graveyard is killing me. I know the story will be better without it. I know that. It still hurts.
Author Catherine Ryan Hyde has an essay up at Glimmertrain about rejection letters (thanks to Christian for the tip). Go read it. Now. I can wait.
Okay. Now that you’ve got the real scoop on rejections, let me put in my two cents worth. I have 88 rejection letters myself. So far. I plan on getting a whole lot more before I am done. Did you notice how many Ms. Hyde has gathered over the course of her career? Makes me feel like the rookie I am. I can only dream about such lofty heights.
Rejections are actually badges of honor. They are not reflections on your own self-worth; neither are they reflections on the worth of your work. What they are are recognition that you have the fortitude to finish your work and the courage to send it out into the world. They are recognitions that someone out there knows you and your work and recognizes you as a writer. “A Time to Every Purpose” was rejected seven times before it hit the right group of editors on the right day and found a home.
Rejection is only one step on the road to publication. Everybody has to deal with it. It certainly does hurt, but you can’t let it throw you for a complete loop. Keep writing, keep submitting. One day your work will fight its way through the flames and knives, over the chasms, and into print. Who knows? There may be an editor just waiting for your next work with eager anticipation. You won’t know if you don’t try.
Win Number 1:
Rain! Finally, a significant rain. Around 1 inch over the past 24 hours. That still leaves us about 6 inches short for the past year, but it’s a great help. I might be able to have a garden after all.
Win Number 2:
My short story “Rounding the Cape” is now online in the current issue at The Harrow.
And I lose one:
Got my first rejection of 2008 this week. Though I understand the reason why magazines have to use form rejections, I still loathe them. Oh well, time to get over it and get the story back out into the world.