A Week of Writing: 7/22/19 to 7/28/19

Yeesh, have I fallen behind on these things. Okay, here we go.

Words to Write By

This week’s quote comes from Truman Capote.

“Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.”

― Truman Capote

You ever seen someone smother their french fries in ketchup to the point where you can’t even see the fries? Or maybe someone dumps so much cream in their coffee you say something stupid like, “Hey, you want some coffee with that cream?” Anyway, that’s how I’ve been feeling about my writing lately. I swear I’m not posting this to elicit sympathy. Nope, it all about the importance and hard truth in Truman Capote’s quote. Essentially, if you are going to pursue writing, you are going to fail or at least feel like your failing a lot, and I think Mr. Capote’s right. Every time I’ve had some success at this gig it’s been more meaningful because I know how hard I’ve worked for it, and how much harder I’ll work still.

So, even when you’re feeling like you’re failing miserably, and the rejections are piling up, and the revision just keeps going and going and going, remember how fucking great those fries taste with a little ketchup.

The Novel

Still working on the novel, still revising, but getting closer. Progress on the novel for the last couple of week was slowed by a vacation and then a story I needed to write for another project. I’m back on on it this week and what I hope is the final two weeks before a completed revision and the novel is back in my agents hands. (My lips to gods ears and all that.)

Short Stories

Uh, not great.

  • Submissions Sent: 0
  • Rejections: 1
  • Acceptances: 1
  • Publications: 1
  • Shortlist: 0

I have fallen of the wagon with submission in a serious way. The one bright spot here is an acceptance and a publication. There’s a submission window closing today for a market I do not want to miss, so I can guarantee at least one submission this week. Of course, I’m also off my pace for 100 submissions for the year, but I still have time to make that up.

The Blog

Fell down a little here too. Sensing a theme yet? 🙂

7/17/19: The Post-Acceptance Process

In this post I discuss what I do after an acceptance (a much less-used set of procedures).

Goals

The main goal is to get a story or two out to a market a very much like whose submission window close TODAY. Beyond that, it’s working on the novel (like a broken record).

Curious Fictions

I’ve published a couple more flash pieces over at Curious Fictions. They’re free to read, so head on out, give ’em a look, and throw me a like or two if you’re so inclined.

The first story is called “A Man of Many Hats,” and it’s one of the weirder things I’ve written. It was originally published by The Molotov Cocktail. The second story is an old, unpublished work called “A Friend for Abby.” .

“A Man of Many Hats”

Photo by James Bak on Unsplash

“A Friend for Abby”

Photo by SvedOliver on Shutterstock


That was my week. How was yours?

The Post-Acceptance Process

In a recent post, I discussed my process after receiving a rejection. Well, there’s a flip side to that, and I have a post-acceptance process too. It’s just as important as the post-rejection ritual, maybe even more so. Here’s what I do (or try to do) after what I like to call “the blessed event.” 🙂

  1. Enjoy it. This is a do as I say and not as I do kind of thing because, well, I suck at enjoying my successes. Here’s what you should do, though. Take a moment, revel in that acceptance, bask in the warm glow of validation, and tell yourself, “See, I am good enough.” It’s good for your confidence, it’s good for your soul, and it strengthens your resolve and determination for the rejections that are always right around the corner.
  2. Report. Okay, now that you’ve enjoyed the moment and read all the nice things the editor said about your story at least five times, it’s time to get back to work. Like a rejection, the first thing I do is go out to Duotrope and report the result of the submission. Unlike a rejection, however, this feels fucking fantastic. For me, it’s the best part. I get to select the acceptance option when I update the submission and then watch as my acceptance rate increases. It’s a wonderful burst of validation, and for some reason, it makes the acceptance feel more official, more real. All of that aside, it’s important to record the outcomes of all your submissions, whether they be rejections, acceptances, or anything in between. That data can be invaluable later.
  3. Respond. Now, unlike a rejection to which you NEVER respond, you need to respond to the acceptance quickly. Maybe not right that second, but within twenty-four hours at the very least. You need to let the editor know you’ve received their email and that the story is still available for publication. I guess you don’t have to say thank you, but I think you should. It’s the polite and professional thing to do in my opinion. In addition, many acceptance letters will ask you for additional information, like a bio, or include a contract. You need to address those things right away and get them back to the editor so they can get on with actually publishing your story.
  4. Celebrate. This is another thing I’m not particularly good at, but I think you should celebrate your successes. That could be as simple as heading out to Twitter and announcing the acceptance (unless the publisher has asked you to keep it under wraps for the moment). Or maybe you pour yourself a glass of wine (or your libation of choice) and drink to the win, because that’s what it is, a victory.

And that’s the post-acceptance process I try to follow. What do you do? Tell me about it in the comments.

Submission Statement: May/June 2019

Playing catch-up again. Here are my submission endeavors for May and June.

May/June 2019 Report Card

  • Submissions Sent: 11
  • Rejections: 12
  • Acceptances: 1
  • Publications: 0
  • Submission Withdrawal: 1

May was fairly productive with 7 submissions, but I stumbled in June and only managed 4 more. A few of the rejections were from stories submitted prior to May and June, but most were for those sent out in that two-month period. I withdrew one story and sent it out again last week.

Rejections

Twelve rejections for April.

  • Standard Form Rejections: 2
  • Upper-Tier Form Rejections: 5
  • Personal Rejections: 5

Lots of personal rejections lately and a few of those were shortlisted rejections, and number of them had similar feedback. I have some stories that seem to be falling between the genre cracks, and I’m essentially getting “not horror enough” rejections from horror markets and “not fantasy enough” rejections from fantasy markets. I’m not one-hundred percent sure what to do about that except try and find markets looking for broadly speculative submissions. I think I may have found a few, and I did resubmit these stories there, so we’ll see what happens.

Spotlight Rejection

This is a shortlist rejection, and it’s one that highlights many of the things I talk about on this blog.

Thank you for your patience. This submissions period was perhaps the most competitive I’ve ever had here at [publisher], and my final decisions were extremely gut-wrenching. With my current production schedule, I’m only able to produce two stories a month, and must reluctantly turn down many stories that I would love to accept. Unfortunately, [story title] is one of these. Thank you for making my decision so difficult. I hope to read more of your work in the future.

This rejection illustrates that writing a good story, even one the publisher likes, is not a guarantee of acceptance. You’re often up against a lot of competition for just a few spots (two in this case), which, as this publishers says, forces them to make tough decisions. Sure, these shortlist rejections can be disappointing, but, like always, it’s important to keep things in perspective, never take a rejection personally, and look for the silver lining. If a story is getting shortlisted, that means it has potential, and you should definitely keep submitting it. Also, I think it goes without saying that a shortlist rejection means the publisher likes your writing, and you should believe them when they say something like “I hope to read more of your work in the future.” I’ll send this story out again soon, and I’ll definitely send this publisher another piece during their next submission window.

Acceptances

One flash fiction acceptance that I’ll announce soon. It’s with a new market for me, so that’s always good. That brings me to 7 acceptances for the year, which is a bit behind my total from last year at this point. Hopefully, July will be a more successful month in that department.


And that was May and June. Tell me about your month(s).

Form Rejections: What Do They Actually Mean?

As a longtime student of rejectomancy, I’ll be the first to tell you the arcane art of divining meaning from rejections only gets you so far. Sometimes a rejection just means what it says and nothing more. Attempting to read complex hidden motives into a simple “no thanks” can lead you down a dark, miserable path of self-doubt. In this post, we’ll discuss how to avoid that path with some examples of form rejections from my own collection and a little rejectomantic analysis.

Form Rejection #1

Thank you so much for thinking of [publisher]. Unfortunately [story title] is not quite what we’re looking for at the moment. We wish you the best of luck placing it elsewhere.

This is a standard form letter, using very standard language. Things like “not quite what we’re looking for” and “best of luck placing it elsewhere” are the stock in trade of form rejections. There’s no point in reading further into a letter like this, and let me give you two reasons why. One, this story sold on it’s next submission. Two, this market published the last story I sent them before this one. So, I KNOW this publisher likes my writing enough to publish it, and I KNOW this story was good enough to sell elsewhere. That data tells me this form letter meant one thing: the story wasn’t a good fit for THIS publisher. That’s all.

Form Rejection #2

Thank you for submitting [story title] to [publisher]. We appreciate the chance to read it. Unfortunately, we don’t feel it is a good fit for us and we’re going to have to pass on it at this time.

Thanks again. Best of luck with this.

Another standard form letter. “We don’t feel it’s a good fit for us,” is just another entry on a long list of boilerplate phrases that make a form letter a form letter. Again, there’s no need to read further into this. There’s no feedback here, just a polite no thanks. Move on and send the story somewhere else. That’s what I did, and this story sold a few submissions later. One more thing, this story was rejected nine times before it sold, five of those rejections being ones just like this. The point is a bunch of boilerplate nos doesn’t mean a yes isn’t right around the corner.

Form Rejection #3

Thank you for submitting your story, [story title], to [publisher]. Unfortunately, we have decided not to publish it. To date, we have reviewed many strong stories that we did not take. Either the fit was wrong or we’d just taken tales with a similar theme or any of a half dozen other reasons.

Best success selling this story elsewhere.

This is a form rejection, but I like that it breaks down some of the reasons why you might be receiving it. Wrong fit, similar theme, etc. are all perfectly valid reasons for a story to be rejected, even a good one, even one the publisher likes. In other words, they’re kind of saying what I’ve been saying all throughout this post: don’t read into form letters. Like the other stories rejected here, this story eventually sold to another publisher.


So, what did we learn from these form rejections? One, they generally don’t mean much other than no, and, two, each of the stories rejected here went on to sell somewhere else. If I had read dire meaning into any of these rejections and stopped submitting those stories, well, I’d have three fewer acceptances to my name.

Look, form letters are just a polite and efficient way for an editor to reject a story when they don’t have the time or need to offer more feedback. But, hey, I get it. If you’re new to the process, something like “don’t feel it’s a good fit” might send you down that aforementioned dark path in search of the TRUE meaning being the word “fit.” Let me turn the light on and save you some time. It doesn’t mean what you think it means. It’s just a no, nothing more, and one of dozens and probably hundreds you’re going to get if you keep sending out submissions. Move on, don’t read into it or dwell on it, and send that story out again.

Thoughts on form rejections? Tell me about it in the comments.