[This is part of a continuing series on the craft of writing fiction.]
Rejection, nobody likes it. Whether it’s a job you’ve applied to, someone you asked out on a date, or a rejection of a more…literary nature, it can be tough to take.
So, what’s the aspiring job applicant, lover, or writer to do?
Well, here’s one trick I’ve adopted that helps to soften the blow of rejection if only just a little.
It’s a technique I’ve modified from the Stoics. The ancient Stoics took this to an extreme, but for this little exercise, let’s assume it’s a rejection (or loss) of a relatively small nature, say, a rejection of your latest story.
Here’s the Stoic solution: as you send out the story, pretend like it’s already been rejected. Like it’s something you’ve already lost, and you won’t be nearly as disappointed whatever the outcome is. If the story gets accepted you’ll be pleasantly surprised and if it’s rejected, the blow won’t come as much as a shock.
Now, this is not exactly what I do. But I do something like it. I assume the piece—when I send it—has already been rejected. Well, what then? I play out that scenario in my mind’s eye and I always have a plan for what I’ll do with it next.
First, I know I’ll put the rejection in my “Rejections” folder in my Gmail and I’ll also note it in Duotrope. But I also have a list or idea of the next market I will submit it to. I usually have a list of about five or so markets which should come next down the line. And I even have a plan for what to do over the longer term.
For me this takes some of the emotional, erm, baggage out of the process. I have a step-by-step plan for the magazines (this could apply to agents/publishing houses, too) that I will apply to, one after the other, as rejections come in.
But this leads to two more questions.
What is the limit for rejections before you give up on a story?
A while back at RavenCon, there was a panel where a much more experienced writer than I said he would let a story pile up 25 (25!) rejections before trunking (archiving and putting it away forever) a story.
In my personal experience. That is about right. My story The Number Thief reached 23 rejections before, amazingly, it was accepted on the 24th try. It was close!
Which leads us to the next question…
What if a story reaches this limit?
Well, that is tough. I have not had a story reach this point yet. But here’s how I would handle it:
I would ask myself, “Darius, do you believe in this story? Does it still say something vital to you?” If I answered, “Yes” to that question I would self-publish it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or some other venue that offers the same sort of service.
If, in all honesty, I answered that question, “No.” I would trunk the piece and turn to thinking about something else. It’s not the greatest solution, but not every story is going to make it. And that’s probably a good thing. (You want quality stuff out there because it represents you).
Well, that’s all for this week. But before I go a short writing update.
I’m working on a longer story right now which I’ve labelled “TP.” It’s almost there, but not quite. Once it’s done, I have lots of editing, editing, editing to do.
I will edit TP and at least two longer works I’m working on right now. I love writing first drafts, but lately I’m really trying to hone my editing game. And it’s just about time to turn to that. Will let you know where it’s all at next time.
Until next time.