Dear Aspiring Writer,
I understand that you’ve just completed your first story! It’s all beta-read, edited, polished, and ready to go. That’s fantastic, and I’m so proud of you.
I just want to talk to you about rejection.
I’m sure you’ve heard it before. When you tell someone that you want to be a writer, they get that expression where they smile with their teeth, but not their eyes, and they speak to you in their calmest “I’m talking to a slow child” voice. They tell you that it’s really hard and that you will get rejected and that you probably won’t make a lot of money off it really fast. They make you feel like an idiot for trying to accomplish anything.
I’ve got these people too, and I’d rather deal with the sting of rejection letters than their condescending douchbaggery.
Rejection sucks, friend, plain and simple. The trick is shrugging it off and trying again. And rejection letters aren’t all that bad.
Let me tell you about “Cry of the Wendigo.”
I wrote this short story for an anthology several years ago called Airships and Automata. It’s the story of two fur traders in Quebec who find themselves trapped on an airship with a wendigo and have to kill it before it devours everyone on board. The second I submitted it to the anthology, I knew it wasn’t getting it.
And this wasn’t a lack of self-confidence either. I had literally fucked up. The anthology wanted the story’s focus to be an airship or a robot. The airship was just the setting in my story. Rejection didn’t surprise me.
But in the letter, the editor said that while I wasn’t getting in, he liked my characters. It was a very human letter, and very encouraging.
So I tried again, submitting to another anthology some months later. The story had been heavily edited, and I had even re-written the entire beginning. Still, another rejection. But this letter told me I had made it to the second round of submissions. I was a step above the guys that get tossed out after the first read. This was exciting.
I have just received my third rejection letter for this story.
Once again I was in the second round, having made it to what the magazine’s editors called their “fight night.” It was here they fought for the stories that had avoided the cull. I was in the rounds. Waiting, and waiting, while people I knew were getting rejections. I thought I’d be in this time.
Nope. Another rejection, but this time more generic, with no notes on what might have caused me to get passed over.
Truthfully, I find getting rejected after having made it so far into the selection process in more painful than a quick rejection. You were so close, and now you’re wondering what it was that held you back.
Although there were no compliments or advice on the rejection, I do take some measure of writer pride in knowing that someone at fight night was on my side. Someone thought my story was publishable, and they wanted to see it happen. I find myself wondering what they said to their peers about my work as they tried to convince them. Yes, they were out-debated in the end, but the fact that there were arguments for me makes me happy.
Now it’s just a matter of finding a new place to submit my story to. The same goes for you.
Keep trying, friend. It can be disheartening, even painful, at times, but someone is out there waiting for your story.
Someone who knows exactly where you are, because she’s in the same place.