The Rejection Archives: Rejection #7

Got another rejection from the vault to share with you. This is the seventh rejection I received after I started seriously tracking my submissions through Duotrope. Let’s have a look.

Rejection Number: 7
Story Sent: 2/2/2013
Rejection Received: 2/21/2013
Rejection Type: Personal Rejection

Aeryn,

Thanks for letting us see [story title].  I regret to say that it’s not right for [publisher].

I loved the incredible vividness of this story, and thought the ending was rather awesome.  [Redacted detail about the story] However, the long digressions into [theme of story], while interesting and well written, really slowed the pace for me.  It ended up feeling like there was too much internal monologue for the bit of action the story provided.

Best of luck with this in other markets.

Regards,*

This was one of the first detailed personal rejections I received when I got serious about submitting short fiction. The editor kindly explains exactly what their issue with the story was. I also liked how they included qualifiers like “for me” rather than using imperative statements. Though I did not change the story based on this feedback, it does NOT mean the editor was wrong. It means my story was not a good fit for this market and this editor. I went on to sell this story to another publisher shortly after this rejection. Again, I am not trying to show this editor was wrong for rejecting my story. Instead, this is a good example that a rejection from one market absolutely does not mean it won’t sell elsewhere. These kinds of rejections can also be very informative, and I managed to sell a story to this particular market the following year, partly because the feedback here gave me a good idea of what they might like.

*You’ll notice I pulled some details out of this rejection. I did that because it would give away which story I’m talking about and possibly identify the publisher. That’s something I always try to avoid.


Thoughts on this rejection or this type of rejection? Tell me about it in the comments.

Also, check out the first post in this series below:

The Rejection Archives: Rejection #1

A Week of Writing: 2/4/18 to 2/10/18

After a month hiatus on the ol’ writing updates, it’s time to get back on that horse. Here’s how I did last week.

Words to Write By

This week’ quotes comes from Anita Shreve.

“To ward off a feeling of failure, she joked that she could wallpaper her bathroom with rejection slips, which she chose not to see as messages to stop, but rather as tickets to the game.”

– Anita Shreve

I love this quote. Referring to rejections as “tickets to the game” feels so on point to me, because I truly believe they’re part of the dues every writer pays to grow, to get better, and to get published. Basically, you don’t get into the show without spending some time in the minors taking your licks. (Sorry, baseball analogy.) While I don’t think you need to celebrate rejection, taking some solace and strength in what rejections signify, i.e., you’re writing and submitting your work, is a good thing in my book.

The Novel

About a month ago, I sent my novel Late Risers to my agent for his first read. Last week, he got back to me with feedback. He said the novel was interesting and even compelling, but there’s some work to do before he starts subbing it to editors. I won’t go into a ton of detail here, but the highlights are essentially as follows. Punch up the beginning so the book stands apart from others in the same genre. Fix some issues that do not pass the “reasonable man” test. Add more action-oriented scenes that demonstrate certain key plot points. What I’m most happy with about this feedback is that I agree with 99% of it. More than him hating the book, I was afraid he might want changes that would drastically alter what I wanted to say with the novel. That wasn’t the case, and I feel good about where the book needs to go. Better than that, I feel like I know how to get it there.

Short Stories

Slow week, and so far a slow month.

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

I only have two submission for February to date, but one of my favorite markets opens for publication next week and there are some new contests I want to enter. So, I predict I’ll end the month  somewhere between eight and ten submissions.

The Blog

Two blog posts last week.

2/5/19: The Rejection Archives: Rejection #1

A new feature on the blog where I’ll share a single rejection from my extensive library of no’s and not for us’s.

2/8/19: One-Hour Flash – End of the Line

Another entry into my one-hour flash series, hastily scribbled stories not quite good enough for submission.

Goals

The next revision of Late Risers will have to wait just a bit longer as I have a Privateer Press novella outline I need to work on. I’ll finish the outline soon, though, and get cracking on Late Risers again while the outline is under review.

Submission Spotlight

This week I’d like to call your attention to a short story contest hosted by one of my favorite publishers, The Arcanist. They’ve been a flash fiction publisher for the last couple of years, and this contest marks their first foray into longer fiction. The contest calls for short stories up to 5,000 words with a broad theme of magic. The deadline is 4/1/19. For more details about the contest, prizes, and whatnot, click the link below.

The Arcanist Short Story Contest


How was your writing week? Tell me about it in the comments.

The Rejection Archives: Rejection #1

Something new on the ol’ blog today. I thought it might be fun to go through my extensive archive of rejections and share a few with you on a weekly basis. So let’s crack open the vault and have a look at some no’s, not for us’s, and we’re gonna pass’s.

Today I have the very first rejection I received in what I call the “Duotrope Era,” basically when I started seriously tracking my submissions.

Rejection Number: 1
Story Sent: 4/16/2012
Rejection Received: 5/5/2012
Rejection Type: Common Form Rejection

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 pretty standard form rejection, but I like that the publishers lists some reasons why you’re story might have been rejected. As standard form rejections go, it’s a good one: polite, encouraging, and to the point. The publisher still uses this form rejection–I got one a few months back. If it ain’t broke, and all that. If you submit work in the same genres I do, you’ve likely seen this rejection a time or two.

The interesting thing about this rejection is when I received it, I hadn’t done much in the way of consistent story submissions, so despite this being a common form rejection, it stung. You see, I hadn’t developed that thick rejectomancer hide yet, and, like many authors, I read all kinds of things into this simple rejection. In the years since I’ve learned not to do that, that rejections are not personal, and the best medicine is to get back to work and submit the story somewhere else. Now I take rejections like this in stride because I know even if this publisher didn’t like the story, another might.


Thoughts on this rejection or this type of rejection? Tell me about it in the comments.

Submission Statement: January 2019

Well, here we are, one full month into the new year, so let’s see how 2019 is treating me so far.

January 2019 Report Card

  • Submissions Sent: 9
  • Rejections: 7
  • Acceptances: 1
  • Publications: 2

Nine submissions isn’t bad, and it puts me on pace for my 100-submission goal. Seven rejections is pretty average, and a lot of these were for submissions I sent in 2018. One acceptance and a couple of publications round out a decent month.

Rejections

Seven rejections for January.

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

Both personal rejections were for the same story, and one of them was a short list rejection. Those are always a little tough. You know you got close, just not close enough.

Spotlight Rejection

The spotlight rejection this month is one of the personal rejections.

Dear Mr. Rudel,

[Story Title] is a very good story, but unfortunately, it doesn’t quite match our needs for [upcoming] issues. I hope you find a good home for it elsewhere.

What I want to highlight here is something I talk about a lot–writing a good story is only one part of the equation (and important part to be sure) that gets you an acceptance. As the editor states here, sometimes a “very good” story does not get accepted because it just doesn’t fit the content needs of the publisher. There are, of course, many reasons that might be. The voice or style could be a little off for the market, or maybe the story doesn’t match up with stories they’ve already accepted for upcoming issues, or maybe they’ve recently published a story that’s similar, or maybe a dozen other perfectly valid reasons. The point is don’t take these kinds of rejections too hard, but do take the editor at their word and send that story somewhere else.

Acceptances

One acceptance this month from a market new to me. The story “The Sitting Room” is a reprint, and it’s one of the few pieces I’ve written that does not have a supernatural element. You can check it out under publications below.

Publications

Two publications in January, both reprints, both free to read online.

“The Sitting Room”

Published by Mystery Tribune (free to read)

“The Rarest Cut

Published by EllipsisZine (free to read)


And that was my January. Tell me about yours.

Off the Hook: More Fun with First Lines

For the past couple of years I’ve written blog posts examining the first lines of my short stories. All of this is based on an essay by Stephen King called “Great Hookers I Have Known” from his collection Secret Windows. In the essay, he examines first lines (from his works and others) looking for “hookers,” which are (in old-timey publishing lingo) first lines that grab a reader’s attention. It’s a great essay if you can find it, and I do believe a great first line can help you land a publication, but how important is it?

Let’s once again try to answer that question by looking at my own work. We’ll focus on some of the stories I published last year, those that are free to read online, and see how I did. You can check out the first line here, and it it grabs you, follow the link to read the rest of the story. I’ll score each opening line with a letter grade and tell you why I think it’s a good one or not.

1. “The Food Bank” published by The Arcanist

A beetle the size of a battleship came out of the afternoon sky, its gargantuan wings buzzing like the drone of a thousand helicopters.

I think this a pretty good sentence. It’s definitely weird, and I think it does what a good first line should do – get the reader asking questions. Grade: A-

2. “Simulacra” published by EllipsisZine

Ice and a snow weren’t the best material for the task, but Jason didn’t have much else to work with.

Not terrible, but certainly not grab-you-by-the-throat good. I think it works a little because it might get the reader wondering what Jason is working on here. Still, not fantastic. Grade: C+

3. “Two Legs” published by The Molotov Cocktail 

There had been no meat for too long.

Though it’s short, I think this one is solid. There’s something kind of icky and ominous about the word meat, and I think this sentence does enough to get the reader on to the next one. Grade: B

4. “The Inside People” published by EllipsisZine

Victor wiped the spittle from his mouth after another coughing fit and stared up at the tower.

Well, this one is definitely descriptive, and it does pretty well as an establishing shot. Grade: B-

5. “Do Me a Favor” published by The Arcanist

“I need you to shoot me in the head.” Howard tapped his temple.

This one gets your attention, doesn’t it? One of the better first lines I’ve written, I think. Grade: A

6. “The Last Scar” published by Trembling with Fear

The morphine is starting to kick in when Sergeant Freeman raps his nightstick against my door.

Like number four, this one falls into that establishing shot category. It’s descriptive and gives you a fair bit of information. It’s not knock-your-sock-off good, but it’s not bad either. Grade: B-

7. “What Kind of Hero?” published by EllipsisZine

“Look what I made.” Alyssa held up a black jumpsuit.

Yeah, not great. I think I got away with this one mostly because the story opens with some rapid-fire dialog, and the lines after are better and, well, you get to them quickly. Grade: D+

8. “Bear Necessity” published by The Molotov Cocktail

The knock on Jerry’s door startled him. 

This is a first line saved by a much better second line. In this case, that’s – He nearly jerked the shotgun’s trigger and blew his TV to atoms. Those two together is maybe a B+. Alone, this is not much to look at. Grade: C-

9. “When the Lights Go On” published by The Arcanist

We don’t turn on the lights in Moore, Idaho.

I think this is the best of the bunch, edging out number five by a hair. It’s short, subtle, and I think it sets the tone of the story right away. Grade: A


Of course, these grades are entirely subjective, and you might disagree with my ratings. The question remains, though, does that first line help you get published? Let’s look at the two best (in my opinion). I sold “Do Me a Favor” on the first try, and, yeah, I do think that first line might have helped me a bit. On the other hand, I sent “When the Lights Go On” everywhere, and though it garnered a lot of short lists and personal rejections, it took me 10 tries to sell it. I honestly think “When the Lights Go On” is the better story, but the best first line in the world is just one piece of the publishing puzzle. You still need that winning combo of right story + right editor/market + right time.

Thoughts on first lines? Tell me about it in the comments and/or share some of yours.

Let’s Play Rejection Bingo

Today we’re returning to rejections, but we’re gonna have a little fun with it. If you’ve been submitting your work for any length of time, you’ve likely accumulated a bunch of form rejections, and you’ve no doubt recognized common phrases that appear in these rejections. So let’s play a little game, and see how long it takes to get a Rejection Bingo!

Before we get started, a little disclaimer/info. Editors use these phrases because they send out a lot of rejections, and they need a boilerplate template to save time. That’s a good thing because it generally means every writer gets a response to their submission. Plus, honestly, these phrases often are a good and gentle way to communicate the no. Keep in mind a boilerplate rejection does NOT mean the editor is not being sincere or they didn’t like the story. In fact, some of the phrases below often indicate a higher-tier rejection and/or even a short-list rejection.

Okay, with that out of the way, here’s the card (in standard manuscript format, of course). The card has 25 common form rejections phrases, so over the next week or month or whatever see if you can get a Rejection Bingo. Feel free to fudge the phrases a bit. For example, if you get a rejection that says “Elected not to publish,” go ahead and count that as a “Decided not to publish.” This is just for fun, after all. Finally, yes, it is absolutely possible to fill up more than one space on the card with a single rejection. In fact, I have one old rejection that would almost get me a bingo all by itself. 🙂


Did I miss any good/common phrases for my rejection bingo card? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll consider an edit.

A Week of Writing: 1/7/19 to 1/13/19

Another week of writing come and gone. Here’s how I did.

Words to Write By

This week’ quotes comes from Ernest Hemingway.

“The hard part about writing a novel is finishing it.”

– Ernest Hemingway

What I like about this quote is that finishing can mean different things to different writers. For example, I can finish a first draft no sweat. For me that’s a simple act of following the outline and putting one word after another. Same with the initial revision. I can take a pretty objective approach to my revisions, set a goal, and then get it done. My struggle is with the type of finishing that means someone else has to read the novel. That could be my critique partners or more recently, my agent. Because at that point, finishing means the work is going to be judged, and I will very likely have to make some hard decisions. I’m at the point now, and though I’ve done what I needed to do, letting go of the book was not easy.

The Novel

Late Risers is done-ish. What I mean is I revised the book to a place where it was ready for my agent to look at it. I spent last week finishing one more revisions, and then I sent the manuscript to my agent yesterday morning. As I alluded to in Word to Write By, this was not easy. In fact, it might be the most acute “submission anxiety” I’ve ever experienced. I expect to be making more revisions based on my agent’s feedback, but waiting to hear back from him is going to be a nerve-wracking in the extreme. So, what to do?

Instead of obsessing on a novel that’s no longer within my control, I’m going to work on another novel. It’s one I started last year and manged to get 30,000 words into it before I switched gears to the current novel. Now I’ll go back and finish the first draft, and it will be my next big project, and hopefully, the next manuscript my agent reads.

Short Stories

Got a few submissions out last week. Nothing earth-shattering, but still positive yardage.

  • Submissions Sent: 3
  • Rejections: 1
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Publications: 1
  • Shortlist: 0

All three submissions were to the same publisher, and the rejection came from a pro-market I’ve been trying to crack for years. One publication last week, which you can check out below.

The Blog

Just the one blog post last week.

1/7/19: A Week of Writing: 12/31/18 to 1/6/19

My weekly writing update.

Goals

With Late Risers as done as I can get it, I’ll move on to finishing the first draft of another novel. I also need to write/edit some short stories to get my submission rate up.

Story Spotlight

The story spotlight is “The Sitting Room,” a reprint published by Mystery Tribune last week. It’s definitely one of my darker pieces of flash, and it originally appeared in The Molotov Cocktail’s FlashFelon contest. You can read it by clicking the link below.

Read “The Sitting Room


How was your writing week?