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Notes from the Labyrinth
Unobtainium and Dragons' Bones
another thought about short stories and rejections 
5th-Jan-2007 12:15 pm
writing: fennec-working
Since Summerdown is due August first, and I currently have, um, well, less than 1,500 words of it, it is highly unlikely that I'm going to get many short stories written this year. Which makes me sad. Writing novels is like Apple Charlotte--it's incredibly complicated and frustrating and time consuming (and, no, I do not make my own Apple Charlotte, I gang up with my father to make my mother do it), but omg you could wallow in the taste and the texture and the pure orgasmic nirvana of it for, like, weeks, and it's even BETTER the next morning (notice, please that I am conflating process and product here in the most shamelessly brazen way). Short stories, on the other hand, are like pomegranate seeds. You have to work to get them out of the matrix of pith, and then they're tart and odd and crunch between your teeth and you immediately want another one.

I doubt I'll go completely cold turkey off short stories, but I'm not committing to anything.

Which makes this a handy moment to talk about stats, again.

buymeaclue has a lovely, thoughtful, level-headed post about rejection letters, to which I'd like to add the following:

It's not just you.

You are not, as Tyler Durden says, a beautiful or unique snowflake. All around you are writers getting rejection letters and presenting the full gamut of responses, from tears to fury. (Yes, I have cried over a rejection letter. Yes, I have been infuriated by a rejection letter.) And it gets easier, the more you do it, but the process really doesn't change all that much.

As for example, I made my thirtieth short-form sale last night, on a story that racked up twenty-eight rejections in previous incarnations, and then got sat on for almost two years while I figured out what the fuck I thought I was doing. And for those thirty sales (one of which was a solicited novella, and one of which was a co-sale with matociquala for which I don't actually have the stats), I got two hundred thirteen rejections. Fifty-four of which are on the eight stories still circulating from editor to editor.

You should be sensing a theme here. I'm obstinate as a mule. Being a successful short story writer (and I'm not sure, btw, that I'd necessarily describe myself as all that "successful") requires both patience and fortitude. And if it isn't going to kill you, it also requires a professional attitude. Your job is to write the stories to the best of your ability and send them out. The editor's job is to decide whether or not she wants to publish the story. Your further job, if he decides no, is to accept it and move on: send the story out again. Remember that you are, in fact, asking the editor to give you money for the story. Submitting a story is not like asking someone out on a date. Getting a rejection letter is not like having your crush-object refuse to go to the prom with you.

Wrong metaphor. Choose again.

It's a hard thing to try to do. But I think it really does help to remember that you aren't alone, that the editor who is rejecting your story is also rejecting tens or dozens or scores or hundreds of other stories. It's not personal, and you only make it worse for everyone, especially yourself, if you treat it as if it is.

Meanwhile, I have a novel to bake.
Comments 
5th-Jan-2007 07:10 pm (UTC)
Being a successful short story writer .... requires both patience and fortitude.

Being a successful writer requires lions? That's kind of cool, actually. (Maybe that's why they named them that?)
5th-Jan-2007 09:15 pm (UTC)
I personally thought it was because being a public librarian requires patience and fortitude. ;)
5th-Jan-2007 07:19 pm (UTC)
Yes'm. *starts figuring out the next market for last year's once-submitted story.*
5th-Jan-2007 07:49 pm (UTC)
You know, I've merchanted at SCA events and a few craft fairs. People come by, they look at your stuff, they pick it up, they fondle it, they put it down, they move on to the next person selling stuff. They may or may not buy anything from you. They may or may not like what's on your table. That doesn't mean that what you've got sucks; it may not be just what they're looking for, it may not be in their budget, they may not have it in mind to buy anything Just Then, but still want/need to know what's out there. They may need a specific item that looks just a certain way. They may not need what you have today, but are glad to know you're there, and want to have a business card.
If you do not show up and put your stuff out on the table, they won't know it's there to be bought. There is no point in complaining about people who never buy anything if you aren't showing them it's there to buy. At which point, they may not buy anything, and you have to hope you don't end up writing off your expenses for the show as a dead loss. But still--you have to lay it out nicely, and hope for the best.

5th-Jan-2007 09:40 pm (UTC)
But braving odium philologicum would be worse. And you wouldn't even be getting any money for it.
5th-Jan-2007 10:47 pm (UTC)
Not that my one submission makes me an expert at this but I am trying to view it as "I finished something." Doing that, I can keep working on stories and trying to find them homes. If I focus on the "I got a rejection" aspect I don't think I'll ever make it. Maybe to succeed as a writer you have to have an active sense of denial.
6th-Jan-2007 12:07 am (UTC)
Yes, you finished something - and you started something too. Because you've done it once and that's one more time than some folks ever do. Cheers!
6th-Jan-2007 12:14 am (UTC)
Interesting reading, this one:) I don't often reply in here but thought I would this time. *g*I'm at the opposite end from you; I primarily write short stories, despite my recent foray into novel-dom (woo hoo, a whole new word*g*). I've found that rejection letters are the same with either market, more or less; it's just that the word count is larger. You take 'em with a grain of salt, and keep going, is my view. Bards in the SCA run into it too; I get commentary every so often if someone doesn't like so and so that I've done. But like the merchant in here - Milord, I probably have run into you but don't know:) - we get our stuff run over by the populace because well, we've put it out there. That has to be taken into account when deciding to do any kind of performance, and I'd say you could apply it to the real world.

Ok, now I'm going back to some short story work*g*
6th-Jan-2007 04:41 am (UTC) - All that yummy synchronicity
Anonymous
Thanks for posting this today, Sarah. This very afternoon I received rejections for both a novel and a short story. Your words are a salve on my wounds.

And, yes, both novel query and short story already are repackaged for mailing to other agents/markets tomorrow morning.

--John League
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