Tag: rejections

Learning to love rejection slips

More than a decade ago, in my day job, I took a series of customer service workshops offered by Ouellette & Associates. These were among the finest workshops I have ever taken, and at the time, the represented the only time I witnessed a true paradigm shift in our organization’s customer service. There were two principles they taught us that were particularly enlightening:

  1. Moments of truth
  2. The slogan: “Learn to love complaints”

It is in the context of the second item that I have been thinking of rejection slips lately. When I first started submitting stories way back in January 1993, I was highly influenced by Piers Anthony’s author’s notes. If a story of his was rejected, he considered the editor an idiot. That attitude lasted a few months before I realized that most editors knew a lot more about what makes for a good story than I do. I was just a beginning, I didn’t even have the fundamentals. This was the absolute wrong attitude for me to have. From that point, I started to change my attitude, slowly at first, but I like to think for the better.

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A brief writing update

I think I’m getting back on track in terms of my writing schedule (thanks again to Brad Torgersen’s inspiring post). For the second day in a row I was up before 5am and spent my two hours on two writing-related tasks.

First, I organized the scenes in “Rescue” in the order I think they should go, based on the work I’d done paring down the novel section to a novelette. At this point, the novelette is just a set of scene index cards in Scrivener. However, the novel section is now fully annotated with what should get cut, what should get emphasized, what should stay in and what should go out. Furthermore, I decided this morning to simplify the plot somewhat by taking out a subplot that, while interesting, is probably too much to handle in a novelette. All of that took an hour and so I didn’t start the actual writing. However: we have a free-writing session at the Arlington Writers Group tonight and if the weather permits, and I can get to the meeting, I’ll start the writing this evening.

Second, I took feedback I got from an editor on a story he turned down–very good, detailed feedback–and made some minor changes to address those issues and then got the story sent out to another market. I’m still hopeful.

Overnight I received my third rejection of 2011, but I also made my second submission this morning. Pretty good for the month of January.

That ate up the rest of my time this morning, and I trudged wearily out into the slush (a different kind of slush) to head into the day job.

This week’s submissions and rejections

It was so cold yesterday that I didn’t go out to check the mail. That’s pretty remarkable for a writer who lives for the mail. I checked it this morning and found a rejection slip for a story I submitted about two months ago. It was a personal note, detailing why the editor didn’t take it and I found it to be very helpful. In fact, it was the kind of rejection note that every beginning wishes he or she would get from editors, but still a rejection. I seem to have at least reached the stage where rejections, when they come, are almost always personal and helpful. It was my second rejection of 2011.

I did make my first submission in 2011 today and I feel pretty good about that one.

Writers live for the mail

Kelly finds it amusing that the first thing I do upon arriving home from work is rush off to the mailbox to check for any mail.  I’ve tried to explain to her that writers live for the mail, but I’m not quite sure she gets it.

Granted, there aren’t a whole lot of science fiction and fantasy markets these days that don’t take electronic submissions.  But so what?  We live for mail regardless of its delivery mechanism.  At this very moment, I have 3 stories out for submission.  One of those stories is at ANALOG (and has been for 51 days–writers count things, too!) and my biggest reason for racing to the mailbox each day is in the hope that there is NOT a small, self-addressed stamped envelope there indicating a rejection.

(Think of applying to colleges here, and the stress and anxiety sweated out over the mail.  Would you get a “big” envelope, indicating an acceptance?  Or a small one, indicating rejection?)

Each day that I don’t get something from ANALOG increases my hope that the story I have sent has made it farther and farther up the editorial scale.  Writers say that they want fast responses from editors, but what they really want are fast acceptances.  There is a thrill to not knowing as time stretches on.  A kind of quantum state of acceptance kicks in where a manuscript exists in both accepted and rejected states simultaneously until the wave function collapses and an SASE shows up in the mailbox–or an acceptance shows up in the inbox.

Writers also read all kinds of things into these submissions.  Perhaps the longer my story is over at ANALOG means it really is rising up out of the slush, into the hands of assistant editors and maybe even Stan Himself.  Or perhaps, everyone is on summer vacation and manuscripts aren’t being read.  Or maybe–horrors!–the thing has been lost in the mails!  Such things have been known to happen.

There is not quite the same thrill with markets that take electronic submissions, and I’m not sure why that is.  Some of these markets even go so far as to tell you where in the queue your story sits, and some of them respond so quickly that you don’t even have time to built up to the requisite peak of anticipation.  Nevertheless, in all these cases, I am checking my submission spreadsheet several times a week to see how long various manuscripts have been out, daydreaming each time that one or more will come back with an acceptance–or, dare I dream it!–a cluster of them.

And when we do find that SASE in the mail, we don’t tear it open instantly.  We weigh it carefully in our hand, hefting it to determine if it is merely a form letter rejection, or perhaps something more, something editorial comment.  It is, alas, always light, but that doesn’t deter me.  Short story contracts are usually short and it would be easy to squeeze one into the envelope.  And of course, there is always the last resort: that the market has decided to accept manuscripts the way that John Campbell accepted them: with a bare check.  Could a check be in that SASE, we wonder?

Of course, eventually we tear it open to some amount of disappointment, but if we are serious about our writing careers, then this low point doesn’t last long.  For within a few minutes we have it in another envelope (or virtual one) and on its way to the next market on the list and before the day is out, we are once again seized by that lottery-daydream possibility that our story has already sold, and we are just waiting to get the official word.

I tried to explain all of this to Kelly, but she just thinks I’m some kind of obsessive nut.  Exactly, I toldher, what writer isn’t?

Two rejections before noon

I received two story rejections before noon today, and in some ways, they were oddly juxtaposed.  The first one was from a professional market to which I have never submitted before.  The rejection told me that the story made it past the first cut and went on to detail many of the good points of the story, but that in the end, they simply couldn’t put their finger on what was wrong with it.  In any event, it wasn’t quite right.  It was nice to get such detailed feedback from a pro market, and even though it wasn’t a sale, it was a confidence builder–especially since that story was written back in January.  It shows I am still improving.

Of course, some of that confidence was wiped away with the second rejection I received today.  It was from another professional market, one to which I have already sold a story, and in which my fiction has already appeared.  It was a form letter rejection slip.  In the past, I have received quite a bit of editorial feedback on stories I’ve submitted to this market, and so a form letter rejection felt like a step backward for me.

At the same time, it makes me want to try even harder to sell there again.  Rejections are always disappointing, but over time, you learn that you can’t dwell on them too much; you learn what you can from them and move on.  In that light, I’ve already submitted one of the rejected stories to another market.  For the other, I am making a few minor changes, based on what the editors pointed out as possible problems, before I sent it off tomorrow.

Rejections and short-lists

Yesterday, I got finally got a brief rejection note from Strange Horizons for “The Golden Watch”. It took 49 days from start to finish and that is nearly twice as long as any other story I’ve sent them. I’d like to think it meant I got farther along in the process, but the one-sentence message makes me think that maybe things were just backlogged.

For those keeping track, my submission log.

Strangely, however, when I woke up this morning, I had an email telling me that one of my photos from Venice, Italy was on the short-list to be included in Schmap, which is a free online travel guide. Oddly enough, I never submitted the photo. They found it on Flickr, where it is publicly viewable with all of my other photo sets from Europe. They do not pay, but they do give full credit, and since I don’t consider myself a photographer by any stretch of the imagination and never took the pictures with the thought of payment in mind, I granted them the permission to use the photo, should they choose it from the short list.

All-in-all, I’m disappointed about “The Golden Watch”, which I think is a good story, but which has made the rounds, and which even Edmund Schubert, editor of InterGalactic Medicine Show said he couldn’t tell me exactly why it didn’t work. So I think it’s time to retire it until a new market comes out.

And get to work on the next one.


Busy work day on Wednesday, but that’s really no different than every day has been. I noted that my reimbursement from my trip to Santa Monica was deposited yesterday, $2,060. Just in time for me to pay the bill, too.

Early in the afternoon, I heard back from Edmund Schubert at InterGalactic Medicine Show on my story, “The Golden Watch”. He’d requested revisions on the story a while back, but this time he was writing to tell me that while he liked the style and the characters, something about the story just didn’t work for him and it was time to hand it back to me. He sounded as though he felt pretty bad about it, but I thanked him for taking the time to work on it with me. I always learn a lot working with Edmund and his advice and insights into story-telling are always helpful. Still, I was pretty disappointed (in myself, not in the rejection) and so I treated myself to a banana split. I decided that instead of submitting the first three chapters of my novel to Viable Paradise, I’m going to send this story instead; it’s the perfect workshopping story. Edmund isn’t sure why it doesn’t work, and I’m not sure where to go with it from here. Maybe others can help.

After work, Kelly and I headed over to Avalon at Arlington Square to sign our lease papers. There was an incredible amount to read and sign. My current lease is (and has for the last 6 years) been 2 pages long and has worked just great for me and my landlord. This lease and various satellite papers exceeded 30; fine print, too. But read them we did, and sign them we did. After, I asked if we could go back to the unit we saw so I could take some measurements so that we can figure out where things will go. Kelly was incredibly patient as I spent 45 minutes measuring. On the way over, we passed right by our new place. I snapped a picture:

(We’re the one in the middle.)

For dinner, we took advantage of the mild weather to walk over to Whole Foods and get small salads at the salad bar.

Rejection slip from Space & Time

I received a rejection slip from Space & Time late last night on my story, “Wake Me When We Get There”. It was the 9th rejection I’d received on that story, which is one of my favorites. It took 90 days from submission to rejection. However, it was also the 3rd “positive” rejection. I know that a rejection is a rejection no matter what. But this one was held “in the final batch for consideration”. The editor said, “It was a good effort, but in the end there were others we felt were a better fit.” Not quite as stellar as the rejection I received from Sheila Williams as Asimov’s, but encouraging.

I’m still waiting to hear back on a story at InterGalactic Medicine Show, and I’m hoping to get back to regular writing this week. Maybe attending Boskone this weekend will help inspire me to get started up again.

Rejections and submissions

On Saturday, I received a rejection from Intergalactic Medicine Show on my story “Wake Me When We Get There”. Edmund Schubert said that he had published a similar story several issues back and so he couldn’t use mine. I must admit that I didn’t go back and read every story in the previous 4 issues before submitting this one. If I had, I would have known better.

So this morning, I submitted “Wake Me When We Get There” to Space & Time Magazine. They recently opened for submissions. It marks my 7th submission of the year and sets a record for the number of times I’ve submitted a story (this is the 9th place I’ve submitted “Wake Me”).

Aside from the NaNoWriMo work (which came to a stand-still this weekend), I’ve got two promising stories underway. There is a chance I might get them completed before the end of the year.

Rejection for “Wake Me When We Get There”

I queried on my story “Wake Me When We Get There” which had been at :Electric Velocipede: for a while. I heard back from John Klima earlier today: a rejection. Although he did ask me to send more fiction his way when they reopen for submissions in October.

In the meantime, I’m trying to keep myself busy working on some other stories.

Rejections and requests

I received a rejection from WEIRD TALES this afternoon for my short short story “Of the Knowledge of Good and Evil”. It seemed kind of form-letterish but it also asked to keep them in mind for future stories. I typically don’t write WEIRD TALES-like stories, but if I do, I’ll send them another one.

I had a request from Edmund Schubert, editor of IGMS, for an author essay to appear on his blog for the upcoming appearance of my story, “When I Kissed the Learned Astronomer” in Intergalactic Medicine Show. The story should be out in a few weeks (they are waiting on the artwork). Edmund runs a series of essays by authors who publish stories in the magazine and the essays talk about the creation of the story. I wrote back to him telling him I’d have one within the next 10 days (which was what he requested). I have some homework now.