Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Going Soft

I received a heaping plate 'o rejection this week. These were relatively minor undertakings, in the grand scheme of things - a short story that had been sitting at a publication for the better half of a year, and some workshops proposed for a conference. These are barely bugs on the windshield in the sense that they won't alter my course or affect my plans in the least.

But they still stung. More than usual.

A lot of it probably has to do with the dire state of affairs in general. Gloom's ankle deep on the ground these days, and there's more than enough to go around. I bear no ill will toward my rejectors; hell, everyone in publishing's being forced to say "no" even more often than usual these days. I'm even open to the idea that other submissions had more merit than mine. (!!!)

But what's bothering me this morning is that I had a tougher shell than that. I'm the veteran of hundreds of rejections, after all. A year ago, I was eating rejections for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I had adopted a practice of cussing at my computer when one arrived and getting back to work. Much as the words themselves go straight from the brain to the screen, with only a fleeting trip through the fingers, the rejections went straight from the mailbox (virtual or actual) to the trash, with only a cursory acknowledgment from me. No mooning. No sulking. No f'ing whining allowed.

So that's today's plan. Enough with the whining. Yesterday, my husband and I took a long hike in the Las Trampas hills. We came across a dozen cows in the path. They were a calm but immovable lot. We had to detour through the brush. That's a cow for you. And not a bad model for writers: I ain't going anywhere.

photo: franco folini


Eric said...

I do sometimes console myself with the story that Jack London wallpapered three entire rooms in his cabin with rejection letters.

Having spent a lot of time on the other end of query letters - although it was for a non-fiction magazine - I can safely say that there are so many diverse reasons for rejecting a story idea or a story or anything else, that, for the writer, there is never any way of knowing what the reason really is. (Unless a kindly editor takes pity on you and tells you.)

Laura Benedict said...

I always wonder at writers who seem to immediately pick themselves up after a rejection and move along to the next submission. Nobody has thick skin, I think--just calloused, perhaps?

There's lots more good news down the road, sweetie, and the folks who rejected you will be kicking themselves!

Steve Hockensmith said...

Years and years (and years and years) ago, I took a fiction writing course taught by a lovely guy named Gene Wolfe. He's no Stephen King or John Grisham, sales-wise, but in science fiction/fantasy circles he's quite the big deal. Adoring fans, worshipful critics, multiple Hugo and Nebula nominations, acolytes like Neil Gaiman and Thomas Disch, etc. So one day in class, Gene passes out the original manuscript of one of his short stories. So we could see what a properly formatted story looks like, y'know. And the first person he hands it to says, "What are all these little letters and numbers across the top of the first page?" And the rest of us lean over the table and see something that looks like this:

PLBY .32
F&SF .32
ASF .32
ANA .32
TZM .32

And Gene says, "Oh, that's how I keep track of where I've mailed a story and how much it cost. For the tax write-off."

And the thing is, the story -- and as I recall it was pretty damned good, like just about everything Gene does -- was rejected by more than twenty magazines before he finally sold it.

We were all dumbfounded. I mean, *we* were used to being rejected, rejected, rejected, but who would dare reject a new story from Gene Wolfe?

The answer: an editor. Any editor, given the right circumstances. And the circumstances are more often right for a rejection than an acceptance. For everybody. Even Gene Wolfe.

The moral of the story: Screw 'em if they don't know genius when they see it!

O.K., that wasn't supposed to be the moral. But it's probably better than the one I was trying to build up to. So go with it.

Lord knows it's worked for me.


Chris said...

Wow, after Steve's fantastic comment, I got nuthin'. Except to say hang in there -- most times, this stuff just rolls right off, but every once and a while, you feel the sting of a bad beat. So chin up, kid. Nobody ever said taking the world by storm would be easy.

Mags said...

I rejected myself last week. Was under consideration by an agent I enjoyed dealing with, who'd promised to let me know in another day or two, so her agency decided that was just the time to do something skeevey. I pulled my book. It f**king sucked!

But then the mail came, and along with it a nice, proper "don't reject us, we'll reject you" communique, and all was right with the world again.

I'm still under my desk, but the husband pokes food at me every so often, so it's cool.