The rejection game

Being a writer means that at some point you have to send your work out into the world, whether it’s to agents, publishers, competitions or journals. A large part of that is dealing with the inevitable tsunami of rejections that come your way. It’s hard to accept when you’ve poured your heart and soul into your fiction, harder still if a piece is something you feel particularly proud of.

Submittable isn’t always the most encouraging sight

This can wear you down, especially when social media often gives the impression that your peers are doing so much better. Just when you’re feeling down about your progress, your timeline seems to be filled with people tweeting, “I’m delighted to announce…” or others congratulating friends on their latest victory.

To be fair, they’re far less likely to yell, “Disappointed to announce that, yet again…” from the rooftops. But the reality is that — bar the occasional genius/jammy dodger who takes off like a rocket — all writers experience the frustrations of rejection after rejection. And in order to persevere, you have to learn to take those knocks in your stride. The only good side of it is that they make the enjoyment of an occasional hard-earned Yes all the sweeter.

In the name of transparency, I thought I’d write a blog post laying out my own few successes and considerable failures so far this year, from January to date. I’ve had a fairly quiet year because I haven’t been able to write much for family reasons, so what I’ve been submitting is what little finished work I have left in my folder (the less said about the half-finished stuff the better). I have no idea whether my hit rate is good, bad or perfectly average, but here is the full picture, for what it’s worth…

  • Print journals submitted to: 2
  • Rejections: 2
  • Online journals submitted to: 13
  • Rejections: 8
  • Acceptances: 4
  • Withdrawn: 1
  • Anthologies submitted to: 1
  • Acceptance: 1
  • Short story competitions entered: 4
  • Didn’t place: 2
  • Pending: 2
  • Flash fiction competitions entered: 3
  • Didn’t place: 2
  • Shortlistings: 1
  • Overall number of short stories/flash fiction submitted or entered since January 1: 23
  • Rejections/didn’t place: 14
  • Acceptances/placement: 6
  • Withdrawn: 1
  • Pending: 2

Do I feel bad about any of the above rejections? Not particularly. I’m more focussed on the six times this year that someone somewhere has liked my work enough to say yes. I don’t have any expectations that anyone owes me a place on a list or in their publication, so frankly it’s always a pleasant surprise to get a Yes instead of the anticipated No. Do I start to doubt my work when it is rejected multiple times? Hell yes. But the options are to keep plugging away or to stop — and I know which I’d rather do, even if it’s for an audience of me. Also, it’s comforting to know that it’s happened to the best of writers, as these famous author rejection letters show.

If you have any strong opinions on the matter, or would like to share your own success vs sob stories, let me know in the comments below!

Photo: Michelle Bryant/Pixabay


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