I’ve been noting over on Facebook my story rejections as they come through (13 so far this year, on a total of 15 submissions). It is heartened to see my friends reply with indignant responses, most of them aimed at the editors, and while I appreciate their sticking up for me, I probably need to clarify my own take on these rejections slips.
- Stories are rejected not authors. This is another way of saying that rejections are not personal. Editors act as gatekeepers for their respective markets, and are trying to get the very best possible stories they can. Rejecting a story is not a reflection on the writer, merely a reflection on the editorial taste for that particular story.
- Editors know what they are doing. After mentioning a rejection, I often get comments to the effect of “what does s/he know, anyway?” Editors know what they are looking for and they won’t accept anything less than the best. I wouldn’t want a story of mine accepted unless an editor thought it was worthwhile. While I understand an appreciate the sentiment behind my friends’ comments, another point is that the editor usually has an advantage over the friend in that the editor has read the story; my friends usually haven’t and are going on faith that the story is worthy.
- Editors have different tastes. A story rejected by one editor can and will be picked up by another. The stories that I have sold each collected their share of rejections before finally being accepted somewhere. Editorial tastes vary. This goes for established pros as well. In my conversations with other writers, I’ve found that, to this day, they have stories rejected at one major market, only to be accepted at another. It is for this reason that I always have the next market in mind and when a story comes back, I try to get it out to the next market that same day.
- I try to learn from every rejection. When I was starting out 15 years ago, I inherited my views of editorship from those authors that I admired. I soon learned that a seasoned author can take a different view of editors than someone starting out. Now, I look at rejection as a way to learn. I am at the stage where, more often than not, I get some kind of editorial comment back on the story. I might not always agree with the comment but I can always learn from it.
Sometimes, though, it can be frustrating receiving a slew of rejection slips. Sometimes, it can seem as if no progress is being made. But this is just frustration talking. I look at the stories I am sending out now and find that they are much better than the stories I sent out last year. And the stories I was sending out last year are better than the ones sent out the year before. I can see the improvements and the key is to take the rejections, learn from them, continue to write, continue to improve and soon enough the tide will turn, fewer rejections will come in because better stories are going out.