Real-Time Rejection: The Journey of “Story X”

If you’ve been following this blog, you’ve seen a number of posts about rejection letters: the different types, how to deal with them, and so on. I’ll keep posting those letters, but I thought it might be fun to let you all see the submission process and the resulting rejections happen in real time.

So here’s what I’m gonna do. I’ve got a shiny new story that has never been submitted to any publisher. It’s a virgin story, and its head is filled with ridiculous and naïve ideas about immediate publication with prestigious spec-lit magazines (or maybe that’s just me). Anyway, I’m going to start submitting that story immediately, and then post and discuss the rejection letters it receives as they come in.

The framework for this little experiment will be fairly straightforward. I’m going to give “Story X” ten chances for publication. I’ll submit it ten times, and if that final, tenth submission results in a rejection, I’ll retire the story and post it as a freebie on the blog.

I’m not going to reveal the name of “Story X” yet or name the publications I send it to (as usual), but here are the basic details. It’s a short story, under 3,000 words. It’s nominally a horror story, but it could easily be categorized as magic realism. It has a very Twilight Zone-esque feel to it, and it’s totally fucking rad. Okay, I made up that last part, but the rest is true.

I’m going to start the submission process by sending it to the high-profile, ultra-prestigious spec-lit magazines with quick turnaround times. Once those publications have rejected me, I’ll start targeting other publications with slower response rates. I’ll submit the story to the first publication the moment after this post goes live.

Of course, this whole experiment could blow up in my face if the first place I submit to publishes the story, but I’m willing to take that chance. In my entire ten-year career, I’ve only ever had one story published by the first place I sent it to. So, I feel confident we’ll get pretty deep into this thing if and when the story gets published.

Success is a long shot, painful rejection a certainty, and education and entertainment a maybe, so follow along as I chart a course to disappointment.

3 thoughts on “Real-Time Rejection: The Journey of “Story X”

  1. Pingback: It’s all success even when it’s not | My Words

  2. Aeryn, I’m curious to know if the 10 was an arbitrary number or is that kind of your rule of thumb toward either shelving a story or revising (either significantly or not, in absence of any constructive feedback)? Does it depend on how strong you feel the story is?

    • Yeah, it was an arbitrary number I chose for this particular series of posts. Felt like a nice round number. I don’t really have a rule of thumb when it comes to how many rejections I’ll let a story accumulate before I revise. I’ve had stories accepted after more than ten rejections, for example (sixteen is the current record).

      If I really believe a story is strong and it’s just a matter of finding the right market for it, then I’ll keep submitting, especially if it’s getting “close-but-no-cigar” rejections. That’s how I felt about the story that was rejected sixteen times, and I finally found a home for it.

      That said, I’ve revised a story after just one rejection because the editor gave me some really good feedback that I agreed with.


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