Tag Archives: rejections

My first contract!

The mail arrived a few minutes ago and included among today’s delivery was my first contract and check for a story sale! How cool is that! The contract itself is very simple, straight-forward and in plain English, making it easy to understand, but I already knew what rights to the story I was selling going in. There were two copies, one for my files, the other of which I must sign and return. I will get it in the mail on Monday, before I head to L.A. My story, “When I Kissed the Learned Astronomer”, will be appearing in less than a month.

While I did get paid for the story (and IGMS pays “professional” word rates, so the check was substantial) the bigger deal for me is the sale itself, not the amount I received. I’m almost tempted to frame the check instead of cashing it. Instead, of course, I will deposit the check , retain one-third of it to pay any income taxes that I will owe on it, and use the remainder to celebrate this achievement of mine in some way.

Now all that’s left is for the story to appear and I am both excited and anxious for that to happen. I’m excited for all of the obvious reasons, proud of my achievement, can’t wait to show it off to friends and family, etc. I am anxious, however, at how it will be received. While I admire and appreciate stylistic writing, like that of Alfred Bester, Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, and Barry Malzberg, to name a few, my primary focus is not on being artsy with my style (for the most part), but in telling a good story. I write to entertain and I think that should be the first goal of any fiction, science fiction or otherwise. It would please me greatly if people who read my story enjoyed it for the fun tale that it is. But will readers whom I have never met actually enjoy it? Certainly if they don’t, I will hear about it and hopefully, I will have the good sense to learn from it, to see how I can improve in my craft.

And what about future stories? I’m working my way through the expanded version of “Graveyard Shift”, but none of the several other short science fiction stories I have going are moving well at all. No one wants to be a “one sale” writer. Just yesterday, I received a rejection note for my science fiction poem “Schrodinger’s Intersection” from STRANGE HORIZONS. I’ve made one sale, and naturally, I want to do it again. But I want to do it right, I don’t want to over-do it. I imagine these worries and concerns are common for all freshman writers, but saying so and realizing it is so doesn’t make the task any easier. Still, I am more inspired than ever before, regardless of my worries and hopefully that inspiration will prove fruitful.

Record-setting rejection speed!

Recall that I submitted a story to Baen’s Universe on Friday? Just a moment ago, I received a rejection from one of their editorial assistants, only 3 days after submitting the story (and two of those days made up the weekend)!

It was not a complete form-letter rejection. I at least received some feedback on why the story was rejected:

In this case, we did’t feel that the story’s events unfolded quickly enough. There are many reasons this happens; among them, too much infodumping, excessive description, and long sequences of internal contemplation.

Well, this evening, I’m going to send them my novella, “Graveyard Shift” because that story does unfold quickly. It’s like a toboggan ride down an ice-flume.

One rejection: one submission. It all balances out.

The “good rejections” file

I have a file of “good” rejection slips that I have received over the years. I think that every wannabe writer should have one of these files. What is a good rejection, you ask? Let me explain. For those of you who are non-writers, you must first understand that most magazines that accept fiction get bombarded with it. The major s.f. markets get 800-1000 manuscripts per month, each. There simply is no time to give each manuscript even a brief, let alone detail critique of why it doesn’t work. So most magazines sent out form letter rejections. Sometimes these letter just inform you that the story was rejected. Others are form letters that list the most common reasons that a story was rejected (not any of which may be why your story was rejected. This can be frustrating for a writer who wants to improve his or her craft because you don’t know why the story didn’t work.

On occasion, however, a writer will get a rejection letter that gives some indication that not only was the story read, but that at least something about it was good. On rarer occasions, you’ll get a letter from the Editor himself (or herself), indicating that you made it through the slush pile readers and that your manuscript was passed on for the editor to read. On even rarer occasions, the editor will praise your story and tell you what was wrong with it and why it was rejected. (This rarest form of rejection–what I consider “fouling one off”, has happened to me three times.)

It is these rejection slips that I consider “good” rejections. They show progress and I keep them around and pull them out occasionally to see how far I’ve come. They help me feel good about my writing. I’ve pulled them out just now and figured I’d post a few of them so you can see what some of my “good” rejections have looked like over the last 12 years or so.

Good Rejection Slip

ANALOG Rejection

I received a rejection slip from ANALOG for my novella “Graveyard Shift” today. The only thing notable about it was that I don’t ever remember getting a brief letter actually signed by Stanley Schmidt before. Normally I just get a printed form letter from ANALOG. Maybe they’ve changed the way they do things, but from the wording of the brief note, I take it that Stanley Schmidt actually read my story, which means it managed to get beyond the slush readers.

The next logical place to send it would be F&SF and so that’s where it will go next.

Rejection and revisions

I got out of the office later than I wanted to this evening and finished up “Sanctuary” on the train ride home. It’s a great story and I’d recommend it to anyone who is a science fiction fan, and anyone is a fan of good storytelling.

When I arrived home, I had several pieces of mail, including the easily identifiable (to a writer) self-addressed stamped envelope, which in my experience usually holds a rejection slip. It did have a rejection slip for my novella, “Graveyard Shift”. It was a form-letter rejection, which was disappointing since my last rejection from ASIMOV’S was a personal letter from Sheila Williams. It also marks the longest ASIMOV’S has ever taken to respond to a story of mine: 123 days, or roughly 1/3 of a year. Then again, at 20,000 words, this is the longest story I’ve ever submitted to ASIMOV’S. The story is going to ANALOG on Saturday. Since I will be in New York, I am tempted to take the manuscript into ANALOG’S offices (the way that Isaac Asimov did nearly 70 years ago), but I won’t. At least I know that it should get to the ANALOG pretty quickly.

At this point, I have two things “out”: my science fiction poem “Schrodinger’s Intersection” has been at ASIMOV’S for 33 days now. And I am working on revisions to “When I Kissed the Learned Astronomer” at the request of the editor of INTERGALACTIC MEDICINE SHOW. Actually, the revisions are complete and I reread the story today and I think that the revisions improve the clarity of the story. I have a few minor tweaks to make, and then I’ll send it back to the editor tomorrow, as promised.

Laundry is underway. I have lots of chores to do, but I have a little more time than I thought. I’m leaving work at about noon tomorrow. I thought my flight was at 4:30 and I was going to come home, do a few things, and then head to the airport. But it turns out my flight isn’t until 5:30. I don’t have to rush as much.

In the nick of time

I signed up for the writer’s group just in the nick of time. This afternoon I received my second rejection slip from F&SF in the last 8 days. This time it was for the short-short “Blind Date”. The wording of the rejection was only slightly different than that of “Graveyard Shift”. Instead of “this tale didn’t hold my interest”, it read, “this tale didn’t work for me.” Does that mean it did hold his interest?

First rejection of “Graveyard Shift”

When I got home from work tonight (late because of happy hour), I had a the obvious rejection, the self-addressed stamped envelope that I had sent along with the manuscript of “Graveyard Shift” to F&SF. It looks as though I got John Joseph Adams basic rejection this time, which I suppose could be considred a step back.

In any event, I’m going to send out the story tomorrow to ASIMOV’S and in addition, I’m sending my story, “Blind Date” to F&SF. I’ll get them packaged up tonight and sent off before noon sometime tomorrow.


Also in the mail this evening was the October/November 2006 of ASIMOV’S.