On Rejection and How to Manage It

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This year was the year I actually started to submit my stories. It was a bit of a big step – I’ve been writing since I was 12,  and had finished 7 books over the course of my teen years. I never actually submitted them though. I was never sure that they were good enough.

And to make them good enough was hard work. Multiple drafts, beta readers – the effort I put into these things was huge.

Short stories though? A different matter.

For me, short stories explore a moment, a situation or an idea. If I don’t sell it – well, that moment/idea/situation is still there, I can still use it in something else. It can still be the catalyst for a novel. It can still pop up in another short in another type of way.

It’s easier to care less about moments. It’s still hard though, but I’ve found two things that make it easier:

  1. Lots of rejection
  2. More moments

The first seems… well. How does rejection get easier by being constantly rejected? Well, you stop hoping. That may sound terrible, but the important thing to note is that your opinion of the story, and your idea of its worth, should not be tied to your hope of publishing it. And if it is… well, that must have been a miserable story to write. Writing is hard. If you wrote something that you didn’t love, just because you thought it would be published? Well, kudos, I would struggle with it.

Remember that caring about your story, and thinking that it’s great, doesn’t mean that you have to loose faith in it if it’s not published. You should still care, you should still think it’s great. Strive to improve it, but improve it for the sake of the story, not because you think your changes will help sell.

Trying to chase what you *think* will sell is like chasing a cheese roll down a hill. Even if you do catch it, you’re puffed, you’ve wasted some perfectly good cheese, and you won’t have gained anything in the process.

Loosing hope in publication is freeing, as long as it isn’t tied in with loosing hope in your story. The market is fickle, and editors like what they like. Strive to improve, but never loose site over the fact that you think this story is good enough.

And when you loose hope in publication, sending it out becomes easy. It’s just shooting off an email, updating a spreadsheet, and moving on.

I honestly find it harder when i make it past the first round. Personal rejection letters are also hard. They give hope, and thus make me invest myself in the publication process again. It gives me something to loose.

If you can’t quite divorce the idea of publication being what validates your story, then there’s another solution to dealing with rejection: the creation of more moments.

Move on. Break up with your story, write the next one. Keep sending things out, but become enthralled in new moments, new characters. Remember that it was this you originally loved, not the cycle of sending things out only to have them shoot back at you.

There are two ways that this works – one, it gives you distance from your previous story. This allows you to revise and look at it in a harsher light. It also reminds you that, well, maybe that person didn’t want to buy it. But you can still write. You can still improve. You can still bring characters to life.

I find each story reassures me. It’s comforting.

And on the more practical side of things – the more you right, the more you have to send out, and the greater the chances of being accepted.

Image taken from flickr under creative commons, attributed to Caro Wallis

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