Saturday, November 26, 2011

Rejections: Form VS Personal

Most of the rejections you receive will be form letters. It is important to remember that just because a rejection is a “form” it doesn't mean your story is bad. Nor does it mean the editor is a heartless meanie who can't be bothered to send you a personal note. Form rejections are a necessary part of the business.

Sometimes you'll be fortunate enough to get a personal rejection. These usually offer specific reasons on why a story wasn't accepted and, on occasion, may offer advice about how to improve the story. But, although personal rejections may be more encouraging than form rejections, in the end they both mean no.

The worst thing you can do is let rejections of any kind discourage you from continuing to seek publication.

So, what have you submitted today?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Rejections: The Skinny on How to Handle the Inevitable

If you're seeking publication, at some point you will have to deal with rejections. And no matter how much you do to prepare for a rejection, some of them will hurt. Maybe because it was a publication you really wanted to be part of. Or maybe you thought a particular was a perfect match for an anthology. Or maybe because you feel like you're running out of good markets to try. Or you just had a bad day.

Any number of things can make a rejection hit a nerve, but there are steps you can take to dull the sting.

  1. Have a Plan – before I send a story to a first market I like to have the second (and usually the third, fourth and fifth) market lined up. This keeps me focused on the business at hand – selling a story, instead of bogging down in doubt over whether a story is any good or overanalyzing if it's a good fit for a particular publication.
  2. Don't Take It Personally – I know it's difficult, but there is nothing to be gained by getting bent over a rejection. There are plenty of novice writers who like to think editors are evil dream-crushers, but that's just silly. Badmouthing an editor who sent a form rejection (or even a personal one) only makes you look like an asshat. And even if you keep your ill-will to yourself, fuming over a rejection is just a waste of time. Time that would be better spent resubbing the rejected story and working on new ones.
  3. Keep it in Perspective – this is hard until you make your first sale or have your first acceptance, but I find it's easier to keep going if I keep the rejections in perspective. While it's true that the number of rejections you receive is NOT predictive, I like to count how many rejections I have in relation to acceptances. Although the ratio is nothing more than one number compared to another, it helps keep everything in perspective.
  4. Take a Break – no matter how much I try to stay focused on the idea that writing is work and rejections are a part of that work, I still get bummed out sometimes. That's okay. Usually when I start feeling overwhelmed by the rejections popping up in my email-box, I take a break for a day. I read a good book or chill out listening to a favorite album or cook a special dinner. Even when you don't take rejections personally, they get discouraging. It's important to remember to do things that keep you in a positive frame of mind.

No matter how long you've been writing and seeking publication, rejections still suck. But after a while they start to be just another part of the job.

So, what have you submitted today?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Rejections: The Skinny on When to Edit/Revise

One cool thing about improving as a writer is that you'll start getting personal rejections instead of form letters. But personal rejections are more likely to give you a specific reason why an editor (or slush reader) rejected a story. Some times that can be a good thing. Other times you may find yourself falling into the “edit/revise” trap.

Any time a story is rejected it's always tempting to take another swing at it with the editing machete or send it to a different beta reader in hopes of finding something that needs “fixing.” The best piece of advice I can give on the matter is: DON'T.

This isn't to say that I've not gone back over stories after getting several rejections and tweaked or rewritten sections in order to improve them. Sometimes after you gain a little distance from a particular piece of work you do realize it could use a little more polishing. But you should never EVER think that just because something has been rejected that it's not good enough. Especially if it's the first rejection. Or the second. Probably not even the fifth.

Here's why. We all know that luck plays a huge role in getting an acceptance – that perfect timing that gets your story in front of the right editor on the right day – and just because one editor decides they don't want a story, doesn't mean the next guy (or gal) won't want either. Even when the first editor tells you exactly why they didn't want it. If you had enough confidence in your story to send it out to the first market, then send it to the second. And the third. And the fourth.

Back in the spring I wrote a short story called Insomnia. I sent it to a market I thought would be a great fit. After a while I got a rejection. A personal rejection that explained that while they liked the idea they felt there was no conflict in the first 2/3s of the story and it read like the beginning of a longer story rather than an actual story. I will admit I was tempted to try and rework it, add more conflict to the front half. But when I thought about it, I already believed the front half had enough conflict and it was a complete story. That's why I'd sent it out in the first place.

So, I sent it to Daily Science Fiction. And they bought it.

A rejection – form or personal – is NOT the best indicator of when to revise a story. YOU ARE. If you think it needs more work, then work on it. If you think it's good, then keep submitting it.

I've pulled stories out of rotation to try and clean them up further and some of them have been vastly improved. Others were just a waste of my time because they DIDN'T NEED FIXING.

Sure, we writerly folk can be a little delusional some times, but we are still the best judge of when our stories are as good as they can be. There's nothing wrong with reworking something, but don't waste time adding or removing commas or subplots or a half-scene that adds a little humor to an otherwise bloody story just because you got a rejection or six.

So, what have you written today?