Rejection and how to deal with it
That’s an industry in itself right there. And, no, I do not propose to add my unqualified suggestions to the long list of self-help writing already out there on this very topic.
But as an aspiring writer (which, I suppose, I must be), I am finding that I am having to get used to a new level of rejection. After the success story of the last post, this time I want to talk briefly about the flip side of the coin. The less shiny, more scratched-up side of the coin.
After all, if every single one of your submissions was to be accepted, where’s the fun in that?
Having started this website as an outlet for my fiction writing, I found that other avenues were also open to me. In particular, I soon stumbled across all sorts of magazines and web sites with open submission policies, eager to scoop up some stories. Plus lots of competitions, dangling their literary carrots in front of my nose. So I started to enter some.
There have been successes in the last six months. I am now available in print (I may have mentioned this before!) and one of my stories has been performed to a live audience. I was also longlisted in a competition and I am led to believe that story will appear on an Irish radio station at some stage this year.
But there have also been rejections. The “thank you but it’s not what we’re looking for” emails. The eager clicking on links to check for competition winner lists that have resolutely not contained my name. This is, of course, part-and-parcel of becoming a writer, and it would be a dull place indeed if I still had nothing to learn. Luckily, I have an absolute mountain of stuff still to learn so this makes the world a very interesting place indeed.
Aside from the slumping of shoulders, the sighing and the general feeling of disappointment when one of these drops into my inbox – which I simply need to learn to get over quicker – I also find myself wondering what to do with the rejected works. Largely, I am left guessing as to why that piece was not selected for that competition or publication. Did it not fit the brief appropriately? Does it have merit, but was not the right story for that submission? Or is it actually a bit rubbish? All of these are possible reasons for rejection, but I have a feeling I know which is the correct answer.
For reasons that were entirely sensible at the time, I have found myself submitting a few stories that met a very narrow brief. Or, given the subsequent rejections, possibly didn’t. Either way, I now find myself with a tale that tells a very particular story. I could, I’m sure, offer it out to other places; perhaps it could find a home somewhere else. But when it has been written to such a specific brief, I am now finding that I may have inadvertently pigeon-holed it into a category that includes just that one specific publication. And they don’t want it.
Where do those stories go from here? My first reaction is to say nowhere. They should stay on my hard drive and think about what they have done. More pertinently, I should think about what they have done, or haven’t done, or possibly could do if I gave them a bit of a polish. And maybe some of them will never see the light of day. If they are genuinely not worthy of re-submission, even after a scrub up, then it is probably best that they slink off into a dark corner and never return.
What I absolutely must not do – so please slap my wrists if you catch me doing this – is to drop them on to this site as “new stories”. Of course they would be new stories on here, but I had bold ambitions for this site when I started it. I wanted to write stories that I wanted people to read. And if the tale has been given its marching orders from the editors out there in the world; if it is a story that they do not want to put their name to; well, then I shouldn’t just dump it on here as a last resort.
Perhaps these rejects will find a home. Maybe that gem of a story just wasn’t the right fit. But, at the end of the day, and irrespective of how much effort I have put into it, some of these pieces are just not meant to be. Somehow, I need to come to terms with that.
If at first you don’t succeed, maybe you should try, try, try again. But only if the story has merit.