Normally I post here to inform the world of my pending publications and to share these glorious events with the world when they happen. This is all well and good, of course—I want people to read my stuff, right? and I want to celebrate my little victories, right? That’s what the website is for. But a problem arises, at least for this Minnesota girl, brought up to mumble about her successes with blood-red cheeks and the firm expectation that someone will ask her if she thinks she’s better than us now or when she’s going to write something important and shouldn’t she focus on her dissertation. Okay, so maybe that’s a different problem… but the one we’ll deal with today is the fact that, if I only share my victories, I start to feel like all I do around here is brag. And I hate bragging.
So. Today I shall discuss instead, Failure. Also known as every writer’s bad old friend: Rejection.
As of this writing, after over two years of submitting my work, I have received 55 rejections, from about fifty different magazines of various kinds. Highbrow places, awesome spec fic mags, cool-kid journals, weird-kid journals: I’ve been turned down all over the place. According to Duotrope, my acceptance rate is about 15%. Duotrope says this is pretty good, comparatively, considering where I send stuff—a lot of magazines only accept 1% or less of their unsolicited submissions— but those are my stats.
All this to say that, though I do win the game of submissions-roulette now and then, I also lose some. Much more often than not—so often, in fact, that it’s just normal and not worth mentioning most of the time. Sure, whenever I send something out, I hope that I’ll get accepted. But I know the odds are not good, and at this point a form rejection (they’re mostly forms) is just a sad bunch of blips on my screen. One tiny little hope gets crushed, yes, but I try to make sure I have a bunch of others, at least four or five tiny little hopes out wandering the world all the time. I get a rejection, I file it, I move on.
Plus, as a submissions editor (a.k.a. slush reader), I’ve seen the other side of this game. I’ve rejected stories I thought were good but not great, and stories that were great but not a good fit. This, of course, is a subjective judgment, and my good might be someone else’s mindblowing, awesome, instant classic, whatever. The standard is not only very high but also very subjective. So it’s actually wrong to equate rejection with failure—a rejected story is not necessarily a failed story. Just a dart that hasn’t hit the bullseye yet, so the best thing to do is throw it again.
So, there. I am humble! relatable! Aren’t you glad we had this talk? But next week, I return to my usual braggadocio. Because if something good is happening, hell yeah, I’m gonna tell you all about it.