Good Stories Get Rejected Too

Rejections are tough, and getting bummed out is a perfectly reasonable reaction to being told your story isn’t going to be published, but it’s important to have a little perspective on rejections. This is the very core of rejectomancy, understanding that a rejection probably doesn’t mean what you think it means. It probably doesn’t mean you wrote a bad story or that your writing is terrible or any of the other catastrophic scenarios we writers like to read into a simple “not for us” form rejection.

But, hey, I’ve said this a dozen times on the blog, and since writers are supposed to show and not tell, let me show you something.

Last month two very cool pro markets opened their doors to submissions for a short time: Cemetery Dance magazine and Diabolical Plots. In addition to opening their submission doors to thousands of hopeful writers, these two markets did something awesome. They gave us a look at the actual submission stats. So let’s take a look at those numbers and see what we can see.

Cemetery Dance

  • Stories submitted: 1,750
  • Number of slots: 20 or 25

Diabolical Plots

  • Stories submitted: 1,288
  • Number of slots: 24

Now it might be easy to take a look at these numbers and despair. I mean, we’re looking at a sub two percent chance of acceptance for each market, but I would urge you to come at this from a different angle. With so many submissions and so few publication slots, the editors are going to turn away a lot of quality work. They have to because they can only publish two dozen or so stories out of the hundreds submitted. A rejection from one of these markets probably means you wrote a story that isn’t quite to the editor’s taste or is similar to one they’ve already accepted or half a dozen other reasons that have nothing to do with your writing ability. Want further proof and from the horse’s mouth? Check out this recent blog post from Brian James Freeman, one of the editors of Cemetery Dance magazine

All I’m trying to say here is don’t let the numbers or a rejection get you down. I firmly believe good stories eventually get published, especially when they’re written by diligent authors who follow the guidelines and continually work on their craft. Personally, I think a lot of it comes down to putting the right story in front of the right editor at the right time.

So keep writing, keep submitting, and keep going.

Oh, and a big thank you to the editors of Cemetery Dance magazine and Diabolical Plots for making their submissions stats public. I think that information is immensely helpful to writers, and this writer really appreciates the peek behind the curtain.

A Week of Writing: 7/30/18 to 8/5/18

Hey, all, it’s Monday, or, uh, Tuesday. Anyway, here’s the week that was.

Words to Write By

Another quote from Mr. King. This one comes from his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.

“I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs.”

—Stephen King

There are lots of opinions on adverbs in writerly circles, but let’s see what else Stephen King says on this subject in his book.

“With adverbs, the writer usually tells us he or she is afraid he/she isn’t expressing himself/herself clearly, that he or she is not getting the point or the picture across.”

This is what I focus on when I look for adverbs in my own work. It’s less the adverb itself and more the adverb leading to weak, unsure sentences. Whenever I find one, I ask myself two questions. 1) Am I using the adverb only because I’m afraid the reader won’t understand what I’m trying to say without it? 2) Is there a more precise verb I could use instead of verb + adverb? The answers to those questions may (and often does) lead to adverb removal and/or a revised sentence.

The prime adverb offenders in my work fall into three main categories:

  1. Useless -ly adverbs like certainly, truly, obviously, simply, and likely (plus a few others). These words rarely add value or nuance to the sentence.
  2. Positional words like back, behind, down, and over. Like the aforementioned -ly adverbs, I often don’t need these either.
  3. Hedging, imprecise words like almost, nearly, around, and often. I do keep some of these because they’re often useful (especially in dialog), but I overuse them.

The Novel

Well, the first read through and revisions are done, and I sent the manuscript off to one of my critique partners. It’s as good as I can get it right now because I’ve gone story blind. I’ve reached that point where I can’t decide what’s good and what’s not, and that’s when it’s time to get eyeballs other than your own on the work. I’m gonna take a break from Late Risers for a bit and focus on short stories and the next novel

Short Stories

I finished one short story last week, which I’ll sub to the The Molotov Cocktail’s FlashBeast contest.

A big fat goose egg for submissions last week.

  • Submissions Sent: 0
  • Rejections: 0
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Publications: 0
  • Shortlist: 2

With the push to get the novel finished and ready for my critique partners, I didn’t send any submissions. I did, however, get two shortlist letters from markets I’ve been trying to crack for a long time. I hope to hear good news on one of those soon.

Despite a slow month for submissions, I’m still at 77 for the year. Which means I need another 23 submissions over the next five months to hit my goal of 100. That should be a cinch.

The Blog

Two blog posts last week.

7/30/18: A Week of Writing: 7/23/18 to 7/29/18

The usual weekly writing update.

8/3/18: “Do Me A Favor” & Other Free Flash Fiction

Last week, I published another story with The Arcanist. This blog post features all the stories I’ve published with that market to date.

Goals

With the novel out to my critique partners, I want to turn my attention to short stories and get more submissions out. I’ve got stories that need quick revisions and then can go out again, so I’ll likely focus on those first. I’d also like to evaluate where I’m at with the next novel I want to write. I started it last year, got about 30,000 words into it, and then set it aside for Late Risers. Time to go back and assess what I’ve got with fresh eyes.

Story Spotlight

As I mentioned above, I published another story with The Arcanist last week. It’s called “Do Me a Favor” and you can check it out by clicking the link or the picture below.

“Do Me a Favor”


That was my week. How was yours?

A Week of Writing: 7/16/18 to 7/22/18

Another week gone by, another week of writing, revising, and submitting in the books.

Words to Write By

This week’s quote is something I definitely struggle with at times.

“If I waited for perfection… I would never write a word.”

—Margaret Atwood

Though I think Margaret Atwood approaches a level of perfection I can only dream about, I can certainly relate to the sentiment in her quote. Many, many times when I was writing the first draft of Late Risers, I had to tell myself “Get it done, get it down, fix it in post.” In other words, keep writing, even though it feels awful, even though every fiber of your being screams “This is garbage!” Strangely, now that I’m reading and revising, it’s those passages where I had to force myself to soldier on that are some of my favorites.

The Novel

I had a good week with revisions on Late Risers, and I’m about halfway done. I’d like to finish this week, but I have to change one major plot point at the end of the second act that will require changing a lot more downstream. That may slow me a bit, but the book will be better for it. Last week, I also had a few moments of “Hey, this might be pretty good.” Delusion? Maybe. I’m a terrible judge of my own work. It’s a lot better than how I usually feel, though, which sounds like “Hey, this is all a hot dumpster fire.” 🙂

Short Stories

Still revising stories for a pair of submission windows closing at the end of the month. Revisions on the novel have slowed me way down in this department, but maybe I can rally this week.

A slow, slow week for submissions.

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

Yikes. Only one submissions this week. That puts me at 75 for the year, and despite a very slow month, I’m still ahead of pace for my goal of 100 submissions.

The Blog

Two blog posts last week.

7/9/18: A Week of Writing: 7/9/18 to 7/15/18

The usual weekly writing update.

7/12/18: Watch Out. That First Line is a Doozy

I return to one of my favorite subjects in this post: crafting a good first line for a short story.

Goals

I’d like to be at least three-quarters done with my initial revisions by the end of this week. I also need to get at least one story revised for a submission window closing at the end of the month. That one is kind of nonnegotiable if I want to submit to this particular market.

Submission Spotlight

As I mentioned above, I’m revising a story to send to a market that is only open to submissions this month. That market is Diabolical Plots. Why submit there? Well, for starters, they are a SFWA-qualifying market that pays .08/word. They also allow up to two submissions per author during the submission window (I’ve already got one in). The bad news? They close to submissions at the end of the month, so if you have a story that fits their guidelines, get it in now. Details in the link below.

Diabolical Plots Submission Guidelines 


That was my week. How was yours?

A Week of Writing: 7/9/18 to 7/15/18

Welcome to another week of writerly works.

Words to Write By

This week’s quote deals with those tricky endings and even trickier beginnings.

“The first sentence can’t be written until the final sentence is written.”

—Joyce Carol Oates

This quote reflects something I’ve been thinking about as I go through the first draft of my novel. It’s very clear that even if I stick the landing, I’ll almost certainly need to rework the beginning to match. For me, I think this has a lot to do with how I approach longer works. Though I work from an outline, the first couple of chapters are this “feeling things out” stage both with the plot and the characters. I hit something resembling a stride after about 10,000 words, but I leave a lot of clunky characterization in my wake before that. Anyway, I’m looking forward to getting that final sentence written (revised), so I can take another shot at the first sentence.

The Novel

Made more solid progress, and I’m about a quarter of the way through the initial revisions. I made some big changes last week again, matching chapters and character motivations to the new setup. I also completely changed an important secondary character. He just never quite worked for me, and a lot of it had to do with how blandly I described him. I happened to see someone on TV, I can’t even remember which show, and something clicked, and I was like, “That’s him. That’s the character.” It was more of an appearance thing than personality, though the change in appearance has opened a lot of new avenues for interesting character hooks.

Short Stories

Worked on revisions of a couple of short stories last week, though I didn’t write any new ones. This week will likely be focused on revisions as well, as I need to polish up a couple of stories for two pro markets briefly open to submissions.

A slow(ish) week for submissions.

  • Submissions Sent: 2
  • Rejections: 2
  • Acceptances: 1
  • Publications: 0

I only sent two submission last week, though one of them was accepted. (I’ll take a fifty percent acceptance rate any week.) I’m up to 74 submissions for the year, and I’d like to hit at least 80 before the month is out.

The Blog

Two blog posts last week.

7/9/18: A Week of Writing: 7/2/18 to 7/8/18

The usual weekly writing update.

7/12/18: Go for the Goal: 100 Submissions

In this post I talk about my goal of 100 submissions for the year and why I’m pursuing it.

Goals

Cue the broken record. Keep working on the novel and keep sending those submissions.

Submission Spotlight

Flame Tree Publishing has an open call for two more anthologies, Haunted House and Cozy Crime. Flame Tree is an SFWA qualifying market (with pay rates to match). They’re okay with reprints, simultaneous submissions, and multiple submissions. Deadline for these two anthologies is 7/29/18. More details in the link below.

Flame Tree Publishing Anthologies 


That was my week. How was yours?

Go for the Goal: 100 Submissions

This year I set a goal to send 100 short story submissions. It’s similar to the 100 rejections goal, but the focus is a bit different. Let me explain why I’m doing it and subjecting myself to all those rejections. 🙂

Why 100 submissions? Here are my top three reasons.

  1. Number goals motivate me. This is more about me personally than any sage advice on submissions. I’m kind of a stats nerd, and these kinds of goals, as arbitrary as they are, keep me focused and push me to keep writing, submitting, and so on. Your goal needn’t be 100 submissions if you’re not a numbers person. It could be broader. Some like submit to more pro markets, for example.
  2. It keeps me writing new stuff. In order to send out 100 submissions, you need a fair amount of material to send. So I’ve been writing a lot more short stories this year. Sure, a lot of it is flash, but I’ve been pretty consistent with a new story every week or so.
  3. It’s pushed me to diversify. I’m primarily a horror writer, but the simple fact is I run out of horror markets pretty quick. There are a lot more fantasy and sci-fi markets, generally, so I’ve been writing more in those genres, with some success. Hell, I even wrote and sold a mystery story this year. Of course, a lot of my sci-fi ends up being horror/sci-fi and my fantasy is generally dark fantasy, but, hey, it still counts.

So, how am I doing with this goal? Let’s look at some numbers.

  • Submissions: 73
  • Pending Submissions: 8
  • Unique Stories: 26
  • Acceptances: 9
  • Rejections: 55
  • Withdrawals: 2

I’m satisfied with those numbers, and I’m well on my way to hitting my goal (and then some). I’m also happy with my acceptance rate so far (about 14% based on completed submissions), though I’d always like it to be higher. As usual, there have been a fair number of short-listed stories that ended up getting rejected, and I feel confident those stories will find a home and increase my acceptance rate down the line. Out of my 100-plus submissions, I’d really like to hit 15 acceptances, and I feel like that’s doable (he says, jinxing himself).


Got any submission goals of your own? Tell me about them in the comments.

A Week of Writing: 7/2/18 to 7/8/18

Happy Monday. Here’s a week of writing wins and woes.

Words to Write By

Another quote from King, and one that’s especially important to me since I tend to write a lot of horror.

I try to create sympathy for my characters, then turn the monsters loose.

– Stephen King

It seems simple, but if we just look at horror movies as an example, so many fail at this basic concept. If you don’t care about the people in the story, you won’t care when horrible things happen to them. I love writing about monsters, but I sometimes have to look at them like the dessert course after I finish my character vegetables. I’m not always successful, of course, and a few stray bits of broccoli have, on occasion, been fed to the literary pooch under the table.

The Novel

Got through a couple more chapters last week. More heavy revision as I catch up the manuscript from the changes I made in chapter one. There’ll be more of that this week, as chapters five through ten need revision to conform to a slightly altered plot. But I feel good about what’s happening, and the book is taking shape.

Short Stories

Finished one new story this week called “She Has a Way with Things That Grow.” Yeah, that’s a long, clunky title, I know, and it’ll likely shorten up to something a bit less wordy. It started as flash, but I think it’ll end up somewhere around 3,000 words.

A good week for submissions in some regards and terrible for others.

  • Submissions Sent: 0
  • Rejections: 1
  • Acceptances: 2
  • Publications: 1

For the first time in a long time, I didn’t send a single submission last week. I’m not too broken up about it, though, since I’m still on track for my goal of 100 submissions for the year. Plus, I got two acceptances and a publication last week, so that’s pretty awesome. More submissions will go out this week.

The Blog

Two blog posts last week, both of the “here’s what I’ve been up to” variety. Last week was a good week for new followers, though. So if you recently started following the blog, thank you!

7/3/18: A Week of Writing: 6/25/10 to 7/1/18

The usual weekly writing update.

7/6/18: Submission Statement: June 2018

My submission endeavors for the month of June.

Goals

As usual, keep working on the first read-through/revision of the novel, and get more short stories revised or finished and out the door.

Story Spotlight

This week’s story spotlight marks a dirty dozen publications with The Molotov Cocktail. They recently published my story “Two Legs,” which you can read for free by clicking the link below.

“Two Legs”

Bonus Kitten Round

Yeah, I know it’s not exactly writing related, but we adopted this little fuzzball last week. His name is Fidget, and I look forward to many years of shooing him off my keyboard as I attempt to write stores, novels, and blog posts.


That was my week. How was yours?

Submission Statement: June 2018

June was another active month that kept me well ahead of pace for my goal of 100 submissions for the year. Here’s the down and dirty.

June 2018 Report Card

  • Submissions Sent: 12
  • Rejections: 10
  • Acceptances: 1
  • Publications: 1
  • Other: 1

Twelve submissions is great, and I ended the month with 72 total for the year (and an average of exactly twelve per month). A couple of the rejections stung a bit, only because I thought I had a good shot at an acceptance on at least one of them. Still, I did get an acceptance from a market I haven’t submitted to before, so that’s always good. The publication is for a story accepted in May, and the “other” is a withdrawal letter.

Rejections

Ten rejections, which is about average for my submission output at this point. Here’s how the rejections breakdown.

  • Standard Form Rejections: 5
  • Upper-Tier Form Rejections: 2
  • Personal Rejections: 3

Half the rejection were upper-tier form or personal rejections, and there was one short list rejection and a couple of close-but-no-cigars. I really wanted an acceptance for that short-listed story because it was for a fairly prestigious anthology, and I thought my story was a nice fit for the theme. But that’s the way these things go, and editors have to make tough decisions when they’re filling those final slots. This is one of those stories that’s gotten close a couple of times, so I think it’ll find a home in the near future.

Here’s a quick breakdown of how long it took for each market to read and reject the story.

Rejection Date Sent Date Received Days Out
Rejection 1 8-Apr-18 1-Jun-18 54
Rejection 2 11-May-18 1-Jun-18 21
Rejection 3 10-Jun-18 14-Jun-18 4
Rejection 4 17-Jun-18 18-Jun-18 1
Rejection 5 11-May-18 21-Jun-18 41
Rejection 6 26-Apr-18 24-Jun-18 59
Rejection 7 25-Jan-18 25-Jun-18 151
Rejection 8 25-Jun-18 26-Jun-18 1
Rejection 9 26-Jun-18 27-Jun-18 1
Rejection 10 27-Jun-18 29-Jun-18 1

Pretty standard rejection times for these markets, though some were a bit speedier than usual. The longest wait was 151 days, and that’s because the story was short listed. In that case, the publisher sent a short list letter to inform authors the wait time could be longer than usual as they made final decisions.

Other

The “other” this month was another withdrawal letter.

Dear Editors,

I submitted my short story [story title] to [publisher] on [date]. I sent a submission status query on [date]. At this time, I would like to withdraw the story from consideration. 

Best, 

Aeryn Rudel

This is an example of one of my basic withdrawal letters. Like all queries and withdrawals, be professional and simply state the facts.

Acceptances

One acceptance for the month, from a market I haven’t subbed to before (but almost certainly will again).

Many thanks again for your story, we both really enjoyed it and would like to publish it at [publisher]. Attached is a copy of our standard contract for you to fill in, sign, and return.

In my experience, most acceptance letters read like a very welcome type of form letter. I think this is because they are the opening salvo in a longer communication between editor and writer. Yes, you should always respond to acceptance letters. 🙂 Additional communications of a much more individual nature always follow, revolving around the contract, any necessary edits to the story, when the story might be published, etc.

More on this acceptance as it nears publication.

Publication

One publication in June. My story “The Inside People” was published by Ellipsis Zine. You can read it by clicking the link below.

“The Inside People”


And that was my June. Tell me about yours.