David Stevens

Posts Tagged ‘rejection’

Rejectomancy

In Uncategorized on January 6, 2019 at 4:02 am

Jane Sullivan writing in this Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herald, suggests that writers aim for 100 rejections as a new year’s resolution. She cites an American literary writer being pleased with her 43 rejections in a year, and shellacking (there is a word I have not read in a long time) her rejection slips onto her writing desk. Another writer achieved 101 rejections.

I don’t have many rejection slips as such, though I have many rejections. I have a few written notes from the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, before they moved onto email. I don’t know that I would want to waste the paper and ink printing out rejection emails. I don’t think I would varnish them onto a desk either, I prefer Stephen King in his On Writing where he refers to sticking them all through a large nail or hook (I’m too lazy to flip through my copy).

Over at Rejectomancy, Aeryn Rudel achieved 100 rejections this year. Aeryn often comments on the tier of rejections, whether a form rejection is standard, or indicates something positive about a story. I confess that I am happier when I get a template 3 response from CC Finlay at F&SF:

Template 1 is the “didn’t grab me” template. The beginning of the story did not grab me.

Template 2 is the “didn’t work for me” template. Your story was good, I read it all the way through, but some big thing didn’t work for me, usually the ending. I know, endings are hard. But the emotional payoff, what you remember most about a story, is how it makes you feel at the end.

Template 3 is the “didn’t win me over” template. Look, you’re probably a pro. This is a good story. You know it’s good. You’re probably going to sell it elsewhere. Maybe I can tell you the idiosyncratic reasons why it didn’t make me all hot and tingly so that I can’t stop thinking about it day and night, night and day. Maybe I did. But either way, you probably don’t care. It’s a no. You’ve already got your next market lined up and you’re ready to send it out again. AS YOU SHOULD.

I am happier because I think “hmm, I’m probably a pro”. I’m not.

Sullivan quotes the same writer as saying that a rejection is a conversation. That is a nice positive spin. Its probably not true, given the extreme likelihood there will be no feedback at all. That is not a complaint – given the amount of reading slush readers and editors have to get through, what time do they have to provide feedback. Sullivan notes the writer “treasures the rejections that come with some encouraging comment, however small”. I used to think feedback is valuable. However, that is not always the case. Some examples: two of my children have a chronic illness, which required many visits to emergency wards when they were little. In one story, I tried to draw something positive from that experience, and channel some of the frustration and set out some of the experiences. A slush reader from a magazine I once respected responded “Story is a mishmash of misery fiction and purple prose”. Well, even if it was, fuck you. (No, I did not respond. I may not be a pro, but I am professional.) I took that to heart, which I should not have done, and would not have done for another story. However, I cannot imagine a universe in which that comment helps. A rejection from the same magazine of a different story later on demonstrated to me why I should take their comments with a grain of salt. I received two comments:

“… really strong narrative voice and prose control.  …  it’s all developed and described quite well”

and

“This piece is unfocused and almost stream of consciousness and difficult to get a sense of what it’s about”

Guess what I learned?  Flip a coin. I am not complaining here, just commenting that feedback is not necessarily useful.

So, how did I go in terms of rejections? How would I go with a target of 100 rejections for 2019? I have no idea whether such things are of interest to anyone other than myself, but here goes.

In 2018, for the fourth time in five years, I moved myself and (this time part of) my family between continents, returning to Australia from Europe. It has been an adventure, but I cannot see myself doing it again. I had three stories published, which in the words of my old parish priest, I commend to your generosity: The gods of the gaps; Miracle Cure; and Baby, cold outside. (The different colour of the text means you can click on the words and be transported to the story. The first two can be read for free.) I wrote nine stories, which was good compared to recent years. And my stories – this new batch and some older ones – were rejected 145 times. So hell yes, I can be rejected 100 times in a year very easily. When a story is rejected, I look at it again, take on board any feedback, consider editing, and then send it out again. As CC Finlay says above, “you probably don’t care. It’s a no. You’ve already got your next market lined up and you’re ready to send it out again. AS YOU SHOULD”. Rejection does not bother me any more, not much. It hurts more to almost make it, to find out I came close. Rejection does not stop me submitting. However, I wonder sometimes if it might stop me writing, on occasion. I don’t know. I think there are enough other forces at work there, that I don’t have to worry about that one!

Sullivan writes, “seeking rejection … encourages writers to aim higher”. Why aim low? I don’t. I understand what she means though – one should not let the fear of rejection stop one form submitting to a market. You have to be in it, to win it, as some lottery ad said some time.

How is this year going? Two rejections. Two submissions.

I did not know whether it would look unprofessional to publish this. It doesn’t matter. But feel free to check out any of my published stories, which can be viewed here.

 

Advertisements

Flip a coin

In Uncategorized on September 15, 2018 at 3:09 am

It is quite possible you can learn something from feedback accompanying a rejection. I’m sure someone has. A recent rejection of a story of mine was accompanied by feedback from two of the slush readers for the magazine:

“… really strong narrative voice and prose control.  …  it’s all developed and described quite well”

and

“This piece is unfocused and almost stream of consciousness and difficult to get a sense of what it’s about”

Guess what I learned?  Flip a coin.

 

Well, that wouldn’t get through the slush pile, would it?

In Uncategorized on May 19, 2018 at 6:05 pm

Julian Barnes’ review in The Guardian of William Trevor’s final collection really inspires me to get it now and read it, despite the toppling pile of books my puritan-self (who the hell is that? I’ll fight him!) says I have to read before I can buy any more. Here I steal, not from the stories of course, which I have not read, but from the review, which I have:

There are also slippages of identity and function to be endured.

And there are doubts and ambiguities at every turn.

Trevor’s fiction is full of precise evasions – and evasive precisions.

And:

But it is the reader’s pity too, as we go back over her story and better understand …

Hmmm…

Trevor does not make a point of being demanding or obscure; but he is very subtle.

This relates to an incident whose significance escaped me for two readings.

Mr Trevor certainly was not writing for any slush pile! Thank goodness. And how generous a reader is Mr Barnes.

The theme is set, and odd it is

In Uncategorized on May 3, 2018 at 5:46 am

Sorry, but this one is a little too odd for us

Two days in a row? Are you guys talking to each other about me behind my back? 🙂

Life is short. I am never going to have a career or find celebrity as a writer. Don’t want to. In the little bits of time that I have, my magpie eye picks up on crooked shiny things, and I play with them for a while. I ignore the ordinary, because I spend enough time with it the rest of the day. The strange bits and pieces from my own tiny corner of the universe, these are the things that I want to share. The characters I have met and had fun with. The man whose mind spent too much time in the brain of a lizard, and is having trouble unpacking into that of a human. A cosmonaut heading to the land of the dead. Neil Armstrong, trapped in a child’s bedroom. A spider woman and an insect man dancing the dance of death – and love! A man who never dreams, except of blackness and things shifting around a little bit, and what he finds near his back fence. The secret true history of Lawrence of Arabia, with djinn and ghouls.

If my little oddity catches the eye of an editor, as it sometimes does, and gives some pleasure to a reader, what a bonus. A little affirmation, and a joy shared, before heading back to the mundane world. And that, dear reader, is what it is all about, for me at least.

(“Why I write”: sheesh, now he thinks he’s George Orwell.)

Having said all of that – after something of a pause, there is a new edition of Three-lobed Burning Eye magazine appearing this month, and it is extremely important that you keep an eye out for it, burning or otherwise.

Does that mean you don’t love me?

In Uncategorized on May 2, 2018 at 6:29 am

This is a strange story that is oddly written start to finish.

Why, thank you!

The story is crowded with observations that seem unnecessary and bizarre

In Uncategorized on March 19, 2018 at 8:43 pm

Quite. Otherwise, what would be the point?

Cutesy

In Uncategorized on November 13, 2014 at 9:06 pm

Have I mentioned that I cannot stand a cute rejection? It doesn’t make me feel better, and it makes me think I wasn’t taken seriously. I dislike them even more than normal rejection. At least I am used to normal rejection. Cute rejection is worse than chirpy morning people. I think I like rejections that aren’t really rejections, they’re acceptances. That’s the kind of rejection I like! Now I’m getting cute. And I don’t like it. (Do they have hand puppet rejection – now, that would incite violence.)

Lucky Number 113

In Uncategorized on February 22, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Just worked my way through 113 e mails, quite liked this one 🙂

Hi David,
Thank you for submitting your work to XXX, and our apologies for taking so long to provide you with a response. We were saving the acceptance emails until last.
Yes, congratulations! We’d love to publish your story, pending the editorial process.

Details to follow …

Needy as anything

In Uncategorized on December 7, 2013 at 9:54 pm

Story J*:
From Daily Science Fiction – “PS This was an almost for us”.

Story E*:
From someone else – “Probably your best attempt. Very well written, and I loved how descriptive it was, but, frankly, the competition is tight here, and I’m forced to turn down otherwise good stuff”.

Thanks heaps! Great to get some positive feedback. Still, you wouldn’t want to be doing this if you didn’t enjoy the whole process! That reaching feeling, almost there, but not quite …

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent as they travel from slush pile to slush pile

An encouraging word for a hypocrite

In Uncategorized on November 12, 2013 at 2:09 am

I ranted commented previously about one line dismissals of stories, and how hard it can be to work out what they mean.

I am such a hypocrite. I get another one line critique with a rejection and I am very happy about it.

I like the mood this piece evokes, but overall I felt it just didn’t do quite enough with itself … I wanted another layer of story here.

Though we aren’t taking this one, I shall look forward to your next.

I understand this critique. I was trying to do a particular thing with this story, mostly to do with mood though I thought with sufficient narrative, but this magazine wanted more, and that is fair enough.

Oh, you hypocrite! Oh you needy swine! Oh yes, this one you understood. Your sanguinity, your contentedness has nothing to do with the last seven words, does it? Shame on you.

(Give me a hint of praise, and I’m ok with everything. Please don’t tell me that’s a character flaw … )