Writing–Reading Goals/50 Rejections Results

Fiction S-Z (a sequel)

I set myself two goals for the years. I wanted to get fifty short story rejections and I wanted to read twelve books. The results were mixed, but honestly, it was an overall fail for both goals.

First the fifty rejections. That was kind of a lofty goal, in retrospect. I tend to submit in bursts and I really didn’t have enough completed short stories to make this possible. Even the short stories I wrote during the year weren’t really enough to make up that deficit. Even though I scaled back the goal to twenty in November, it still wasn’t enough. As of right now, I garnered seventeen rejections for 2012. An improvement over last year’s total for sure, but far short of my goal. I think next year I’ll be a little more realistic and shoot for a more obtainable number.

The reading goals I set for myself were pretty specific (if you remember; I didn’t…I had to look them up). Not only did I have to read twelve books, six of them had to be fiction and six of them had to be non-fiction. Of the fiction books, at least one had to be in a genre I don’t read. Of the six non-fiction books, one had to be a memoir and only one could be a re-read.

The good news out of this is that I ended up reading a total of twenty books and I did read a couple of genres I normally don’t read. The bad news is that I failed in the non-fiction goals.

14 1/2 of the books were fiction (Margaritaville had both short stories and essays so I counted it as half). 5 1/2 books were non-fiction, falling half a book short of my six book goal. Two of those books were re-reads. And I didn’t manage to read a full on memoir.

So while I read more fiction than I usually do and read more overall than I have in a while, I totally bombed the non-fiction portion of the goals. I think next year’s goals are going to reflect that and my need to achieve balance.

Overall, I’m pretty disappointed with my lack of achievement. I’ve got some work to do next year.

Writing–Rejecting “Just Visiting”

Rejection

I received a rejection for one of my short stories, “Just Visiting”. I wasn’t surprised by the rejection because I wasn’t thrilled with the story when I sent it. I was, though, surprised that I got feedback for it. Most places don’t have time to give feedback.

Most of the feedback was pretty critical and that sort of thing always stings. Even though I didn’t think the story was that great either, it still stings to have someone else say so. Rejection isn’t supposed to be taken personally when it comes to writing, but I’m human and sometimes I take it as such. My mindset wasn’t in the best place when I got that email.

I was already feeling questionable about the work I’d been doing on my NaNo project. The rejection for “Just Visiting” was a direct blow to the ego, particularly with the criticisms. Those two things combined with reading a book of short stories that I really like and think are good led me to question if I wasn’t wasting my time with this whole writing business.

However, there was one glimmer of hope for me. Included in the critique was one line of praise that really struck me. I was told the story had some good descriptive lines. When I first read the email, I wanted to respond and ask which ones because I feel like that is my weakest area as a writer. That one bit of positive feedback kept me hanging on and kept me from trashing the story all together.

After a few days of contemplation, letting the whole thing simmer on the back burner of my brain, I’ve now got a plan of how I can revise “Just Visiting” into what will hopefully be a better story.

I think my ego will appreciate the effort the next time I send it out.

Writing–50 Rejections Update

English: Logo of the band Rejected Español: Lo...

We’re about half-way through the year and my goal of getting 50 rejections. I’d love to say that I’ve already made that goal. I’d love to say I’m even half-way there. Unfortunately, neither is the case.

In fact, I haven’t even broken double digits.

As of right now, I’ve gotten 8 rejections, 2 acceptances (“Soul Sister” which is up at Suburban Fool now and “Powerless” which should come out next year), and I’ve still got 6 short stories out that I’m waiting to hear back on.

I admit it. I haven’t been as productive as I hoped I’d be.

Well, that’s not exactly true. I HAVE been productive, just not so much on the short story front. But when it comes to the short stories, yeah, I haven’t been as much of a go-getter when it comes to sending them out. I’ve got 5 ready to go and a couple of them have been sitting there, waiting, for quite a while.

I’m back to that hang-up of struggling to find an appropriate place to send them. Obviously, I read guidelines and I try to adhere to them as closely as I can. I don’t like to waste people’s time. But I’m not the greatest judge of my own work and I’m sure that there are pieces I could submit to places, but I’m on the fence on whether or not they fit. They could, but then they couldn’t. That indecision is probably costing me in the rejection numbers (and possible acceptances).

It’s something I’ve got to work on, for sure.

I’m not giving up on my goal. Sitting here now, it looks like I don’t even have a shot at it. And that’s kind of a bummer. But I have trouble quitting on things, even if they are long shots. I’ve got to see them through until the end.

And this is one of those goals that even if I fail, I’m still going to be better off than if I’d never tried in the first place.

I’ve just got to keep going.

Writing–50 Rejections

Sometime last month it occurred to me that I should try to get 50 rejections this year.

Now let me explain.

There’s someone I follow on Twitter that counts her rejections. She tries for a lot more in the course of a year (like 150). In the course of those rejections, she does manage to get some acceptances. And after watching her do this for a year, I thought to myself, what a great idea.

So naturally, I stole it.

I need something get me going and keep me going when it comes to writing/revising/submitting short stories. It’s like I go through bursts of productivity with them, but never fully commit to the constant progress. Aiming for 50 rejections will help me do that.

In order for me to obtain my goal, I need to be more proactive. I can just rely on sudden bursts of time. I can’t let stories languish on the shelf. I can’t just stick to the horror genre to submit to, especially since it’s not the only genre I write in. I’m going to have to broaden my horizons and be more dedicated to my work.

I’ve already got my first rejection for the year (also my first acceptance) and I’ve still got four stories out. I’m on my way. Now I just have to keep moving.

This doesn’t mean I’m solely after rejections. I’m not going to be sending out any stories that aren’t ready to go just to meet my goal. The idea is that I accumulate my rejections through the legitimate act of trying to sell my stories and get published.

I admit, it’s kind of daunting sitting where I am right now. I’ve kind of got a plan in place. I’ve got stories I’m working on. I think that once I get a few more stories out and I rack up a few more rejections, I feel better about this challenge.

For now I’m just going to keep my head down, keep working, and try not to think about it.

Let’s get those rejections flowing.

Writing–Rejected Motives

It’s time to come clean about Rejected.

While it was true that I self-published those nine stories to gain some experience in self-publishing and marketing myself and that I did want to put those stories to readers on why they thought the stories might have been rejected, I had another motive for publishing those stories.

I spent several years writing, revising, and submitting those stories, wash, rinse, repeat. While working full-time, my commitment to those stories was usurped in favor of a paycheck and the time and energy it took to maintaining it. When I finally decided to make a break for it and try to put together my own income through odd jobs, I came back to those stories and frankly, I didn’t like what I saw.

It’s not that I didn’t like the stories or thought that after several months of ignoring them that they suddenly became horrible. It’s just I was looking to make a new start. I wanted to start this go-round fresh. These stories were not fresh.

So I looked at them, arranged them, packaged them, and published them as much to put them out for people to read and judge them as I did to clear my own writing slate. Fresh start.

Not all of the stories written on that board during that time were wiped from that slate and put into that book. One of them, “Another Deadly Weapon”, was still out, waiting to be judged (it ended up being rejected). “Soul Sister” was finished, but isn’t a horror story, so it didn’t really fit in with the other stories, all of which are horror. “At 3:36” and “An Active Sleeper” were junk and not fit for publishing. So all of those stories ended up carrying over into this new go-round.

The mental effect of publishing those stories has been a great one. Those pressing weight of those stories, needy for homes of their own, aren’t crushing me anymore. They’ve got their home. Now I’ve got room, so to speak, to create new stories to try to house. That mounting pile of rejection has been swept out of my mental house. Now I can get to building a new pile.

I can always publish a sequel.

Writing–Rejection Persistence

As of last week, “Such a Pretty Face” has been rejected seven times since it placed 10th in the genre category of the Writer’s Digest Story Competition. Of all of the rejections I’ve received, the rejections for this story have been the most frustrating.

The little bit of success I got with this story, really the first bit of success I had as a writer, was enough to make me think that I had the talent and the skill to be a writer in terms of making a career of it. It gave me the confidence to keep sending out stories, to keep writing and revising, to keep accepting the challenges and rejections with the ultimate goal of acceptance. This story really started the ball rolling for me in terms of my writing career.

So it really knots my panties that I can’t seem to get it published. It was good enough to beat out 90 other people for a spot in the top ten, but not good enough to be seen in print.

The rational side of me knows that’s not necessarily the case and that rejection is subjective. It might not be the story the editor is looking for and that’s okay. It’s a difference of opinion, not a slight on the story.

But the irrational, emotional side of me wants to know what I’m doing wrong. Why is this story suddenly not good enough? Why doesn’t anyone like it? Why can’t I get this thing published? And then I start questioning whether or not I should keep sending it out.

Persistence is a big part of success in the writing business. I know that. Every writer and writing magazine says so and I believe it. It’s logic. But there comes a point when I start questioning the persistence and start to think that maybe the story isn’t meant to published.

I hit that point with “Such a Pretty Face” at about rejection number four. I started questioning the wisdom in sending the story out. I had my bit of success with it and maybe that’s all I was meant to have with this story. It’s kind of an odd, illogical thought, but one that I have when I get back that rejection. I’m prone to those odd thoughts.

I keep sending it out, though, because I keep coming across anthologies that I think might be a good fit for it. And I’m always disappointed more with those rejections than any other story.

I once again received a rejection for “Such a Pretty Face” and I’m once again debating the wisdom of sending it back out again. But, it’s in the ready pile, waiting. Because I know I’ll come across someplace irresistable and I’ll send it out.

And I’ll dread the rejection that may come back.

Stories By The Numbers

 -Submitted: 2
-Ready: 9
-Accepted/Rejected: o

Writing–Writing for First Place

My first foray into the writing world was submitting my work to a local contest. The contest was cancelled due to a lack of interest and I got my story and entry fee back, but that was a pretty big step for me. It was the first time I let someone outside of a very specific group read something I’d written and judge me on it.

That contest didn’t pan out, but it gave me the courage to submit my work to others. My first real success as a writer was winning 10th place in the genre category in the 77th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition. Imagine my surprise to open up my copy of the magazine and see my name listed among the top ten as I hadn’t been notified yet.

My story didn’t get published, but I saw my name in print. Someone thought my story was good enough to beat out at least 90 other people (the top 100 was listed on the site). It was an incredible ego boost and it encouraged me to move beyond contests and start submitting to publications.

Submitting to contests was a good first step for me. It let me ease into things. Not placing in a contest wasn’t the same as getting rejected in my head. Submitting a story and getting it rejected was more personal. My hide wasn’t thick enough to handle that yet. But losing a contest was different. I’d not won lots of things. That was easier to deal with.

Those first few contests and that first win really helped set the tone for me when it came to dealing with rejection. Let’s face it, submitting to a publication is a lot like entering a contest. You hope to win and get the prize, but lots of times you get that letter that lets you know that you’ve lost.

I’ve found so many ways now to deal with rejection that, while I get bummed and frustrated sometimes, I’ve never been devestated and rarely thought about giving up.

And I still have an appreciation for contests. Now that I’ve got that regular income from the day job, I can afford the fees once again. I once again entered the Writer’s Digest Story Competition. I’m hoping for a repeat of last time, if not a straight out win.

But if I lose, no big deal. I’ll just move on to the next contest and try this one again next year.

That’s what winners do.

Story By The Numbers

Submitted: 2 (“Another Deadly Weapon” is my contest entry; “Such a Pretty Face” is still out)
Ready: 9 (“Soul Sister” joins the growing list)
Accepted/Rejected: 0

Writing–Rejection Before the Rejection

I knew that when I decided to pursue writing as an actual job that I was going to have to toughen up pretty quickly. Rejection is the name of the game and persistence is the only way to win. To be persistent for the long haul, you have to be able to shake off the NO’s, heal quickly, and move on.

I caught on and adapted quicker than I thought I would, particularly after I realized just how subjective rejections could be (as I rambled on about in a previous post). There’s not much sting to them anymore. I make note of them for my records, jot down and consider any feedback I get (some of it has been helpful, some of it hasn’t), and put the story in my review pile so I can re-read it, tweak it, and send it out once again. A rejection now hardly gets a rise out of my disappointment meter.

In fact, I’ve gotten so good at rejection that I started rejecting my stories before they officially get rejected. If it’s been more than six months (usually it’s longer when I look at my records and realize that the piece is still out), I consider it rejected and move it to the review pile. Yes, I should probably get into the habit of inquiring about submissions because that’s good practice, but I still have to get over my hang up about feeling like I’m bugging people. Instead I just guess rejection and move on.

This has worked out for me so far, but has recently led to some confusion. As in I’ve gotten rejections for stories I already called as rejected. a couple of those official rejections came not too long after my own rejections.

However, the most recent one came several months after I considered it rejected, almost a year after I’d submitted it. The letter (an actual, physical bit of paper) was addreessed to me and was sorry to inform me that they wouldn’t be using my story. Except the story they referred to in the rejection letter was actually the title of an anthology that I had been published in that I offered up as a credit. Oops.

Yeah, I might have been momentarily confused, but that rejection didn’t sting at all.

Writing–Kiki and the Idea Notebook

If I were a more popular writer, I’m sure more people would ask me where I get my ideas from. And I would tell them that I get my ideas from my notebook.

Shall I clarify? I suppose I’d better. Don’t want to be thought of as any more of a loon than I already am.

I get my ideas from my idea notebook. Of course, I have to put the ideas into my idea notebook, too. A lot of those ideas have been in that idea notebook for so long that I don’t remember where they’ve come from, though. Some of the ideas I don’t even remember having them, can’t remember writing them down. Those are the best. They’re so fresh and new. It’s like they were put there by an idea fairy.

As for the rest, I had to get those ideas the old-fashioned, hard way. I kept my eyes and ears open and asked “what if” a lot.

To me, ideas and inspiration can strike anywhere. I get hit with it a lot either in the shower or doing laundry. I don’t know why, but those two activities tend to bring out the best ideas in me. I can almost understand it with the laundry. I write a lot of horror, my washer is in the basement, and my basement can be a creepy place to be. I guess when I’m showering, I’m just looking for a way to keep myself entertained while I go through my daily cleansing ritual without much thought.

My ideas are all different. Sometimes it’s just a scene. Other times it’s a character. There are times when I’ve read an article in the paper or saw a segment on the news or some other program and just kept asking “what if” until I had something I liked. No matter what, almost all of them go into the notebook.

Few ideas come to me fully formed and ready to write at that moment. Even fewer insist on being written that second (if I really like those ideas, I will rearrange my schedule to accomodate them so I don’t lose their urgency and thrill). The fully formed ideas are harder to put into the notebook. They seem to go stale quicker than the fragments, suggestions, images, and dialogue.

I like to flip through my idea notebook at least once a month to refresh my memory on what goodies are lurking in there. Sometimes an old idea jumps out at me like a new frog fresh out of the pond. Sometimes I wonder what the hell what I was thinking when I wrote this bit down. But I don’t get rid of it.

The idea notebook is sacred like that. It’s where my ideas come from. 

Stories By the Numbers

Sent Out: 3
Ready: 3
Rejections: A story I called rejected last week due to no response last week got an official rejection this week (with a personal invitation to submit again because they liked my story, but didn’t think it worked with what they were doing for that project).

Writing–Rejection Subjective

One of my biggest obstacles to changing my writing from hobby to job was the fear of rejection. I don’t do well with failure. Even as a kid it gave me serious anxiety. I’d be so afraid of failing or making a mistake that I’d just freeze and wouldn’t do anything. Then once I was forced to actually do it and found out that even if I did make a mistake or fail, it wasn’t the end of the world and then I had no troubles.

Writing was no different. The idea of being rejected (and therefore, not good enough) stopped me cold in my tracks. It was the combination of entering contests (because in my head that’s not being rejected, it’s just not winning, and I can handle not winning) and reading Stephen King‘s On Writing that helped me get past my rejection fear.

The first story that ever brought me any kind of validation that I might be good writing was “Such a Pretty Face”. It won 10th place in the Genre category of a Writer’s Digest story contest. It got me 25 bucks, but didn’t get the story published (I did get to see my name in print in a magazine, though, and that was pretty cool). I was really proud of the acoomplishment and proud of the story. I then decided to try to get “Such a Pretty Face” published.

And that’s when I learned a valuable lesson in rejection. It’s a subjective thing.

Despite placing in the contest, “Such a Pretty Face” has been rejected six times since then. SIX! You’d think that 10th place showing would count for something. It’s a GOOD story. Someone told me so. I’ve got a certificate to show for it.

It was very frustrating to have one person say the story was worthy of a ribbon, but everyone else not think it was worthy of being read.

Of all the rejections I’ve received for “Such a Pretty Face”, only one suggested I make any changes to it. The changes he suggested made me realize that he totally missed the point of the story. And that made me realize that I was forgetting the human element of the submission process.

Not every rejection I get is because the story was bad. Sure, I’ve sent out stories I shouldn’t have and they were rejected for very good reasons. But some rejections left me scratching my head. Now I realize that maybe those form looking rejections might not have all been form rejections and maybe they meant it when they said these weren’t the stories that they were looking for.

It seems silly, but up until that point it didn’t occur to me that someone just might not like my story. I never thought that maybe it might not what they were looking for or they’d already seen too many similar stories lately or they didn’ t think the story fit with the publication as well as I did. Yes, until that point, I didn’t realize that rejection might not have anything to do with the quality of the story.

If you’ve read any of my other blog posts, it should be no suprise that I am this slow on the uptake.

So  my attitude towards rejection has changed a bit. It’s still disappointing, but now that I know that it doesn’t automatically mean that my story is shit, the sting doesn’t linger quite as long. Getting back on that horse is quicker and easier.

And if it’s the last thing I do, I will see “Such a Pretty Face” published.

Stories By the Numbers

Ready: 3
Submitted: 3