Let’s talk rejection. A subject I happen to be an authority on. (Trust me) I say that with gumption because facing rejection inevitably got me published. A while back, having completed a short story that I felt was, perhaps, ready for publication, I flipped through the Literary Marketplace and found the name of a journal that I thought would be a great fit for my thirty-five hundred word story.
Now, I must point out that I did exactly what most of the greats tell you not to do when actively shopping a manuscript. I did not fully read the journal. (Rinse Repeat) I did not fully read the journal. The journal, a small press, for which I was actively and fervently seeking publication.?
As writers there are certain things we must face about the writing. First, we must look ourselves in the eyes and tell it like it is. Particularly when we do bumble-headed stuff. Mine, obviously, was blindly shopping a magazine without fully knowing what they want. I had read some reviews of the magazine, and I had flipped through several of its pages and perused small editorials and glossy pictures that were there but that was it. However the biggest thing, and this was key, was that I didn’t read any of the stories that they had published.
Shame on me. I knew better! Even then, having been at it for a while and knowing that some e-zines, journals and otherwise change what they look for on weekly and sometimes monthly basis. Knowing that if they want a love story and you send them fantasy or science fiction, your work will be rejected. Why would I still not familiarize myself with the magazines requirements prior to submission?
The answer–mine anyway, is impatience. The infamous haste to get the story out. I had been working on that story for almost a year, on and off, and I felt like–hey, what the hell! Good writing is good writing, right?
Yes it is. But not every editor and publisher is looking for your particular story at that time. Your story could be the greatest thing since the Grapes of Wrath. Don’t matter if they aren’t looking for that type of story. Any author, agent, editor and publisher will tell you to read the market that you are submitting to.
Fast forward four months from the infamous date of blind submission and I visit the mail box to find that familiar ( yet alien) SASE with my name on it in the receiving address spot. The SASE that accompanied the master work that I so laboriously pored over again and again at the peak of about eight months. Full of hope, dreams and aspirations, I ripped the letter open and fished out a small four by six-inch slip of stationary ( this one was crystal clean, no coffee spots unlike many before) that was its contents.
At the top it bore the stamp of said magazine/journal. Familiar…yes, yes. The address–a university press–okay, knew that. But then sixteen words that seemed hardly worth the effort. It read:
“Thank you for letting us consider your work. Best wishes in placing it elsewhere.”
A tad vague, huh? But that is where, dear reader, as the writer I have to medicate( vodka, brandy or whatever the poison) and be honest with myself. Did I really deserve it? Yep! Because in this particular case, when I go back and look at the months it took to write and the length of time from submission to rejection, I still come back to that resounding fact booming like the tell-tale heart in my chest as I crab walk away from that damn mailbox. “Stupid, you didn’t even know what they wanted!”
I have received tons of rejections in my inbox. Some from old manuscripts others from magazine editors, others from agents. Rejections happen and not always as dramatic as this one. Let’s be clear. There are many journals that I have submitted to properly and still got the form rejection letter. (One of my lovelies, years after this lesson, I did publish) I read them, studied them and got the hand to the face. But at least with those I’d done my best work, all the way up to the research of the market. And it’s like Stephen King says in his memoir “On Writing” regarding writers sending to markets that they have not read. I’m paraphrasing, “You might hit the mark every now and then, but you don’t deserve to.”
The point is rejections are going to happen. Hell, someone’s getting rejected as you read this. If you are around long enough and are bold enough to send out work, it will happen. But do your best and then when they come in, read it, learn from it, dust your shoulders off and get back to work. Just don’t let slothfulness help the rejection letters along. Trust me, they don’t need any help. Any comments, let me hear you!