If you submit stories for publication, you’re going to get rejected. It’s a fact of life, a law of nature as immutable as gravity or entropy. Stories get rejected for all sorts of reasons. Some are very logical and objective–format errors, proofreading oversights, problems with the plotting, pacing, characterization, or setting. Others are very subjective–the story wasn’t a “good fit” for the publication, it didn’t “grab” the reader’s imagination, the editorial staff has a pet peeve about the voice you chose, or maybe they just didn’t like it and can’t explain why.
Whatever the reason, you’re left with an unsold story and a nice little letter encouraging you to keep your chin up and submit again another time or to simply get lost. This happened to me three times this week, a nice capper to a week so full of misadventures that I’m calling it The Week From Heck, the benchmark for all future lousy weeks.
Honestly, the story rejections aren’t such a bad thing. As I said at the beginning, you can’t submit without getting rejected–a lot. My standard response is to put a couple more band-aids on my ego and send the stories elsewhere. Sometimes I’ll tweak them a little based on any feedback offered in the rejection.
I’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t from rejections, and I spend a lot of time perusing the various fiction markets looking for the best “fit” possible for the story. Some places like quirky humor, some go for deep emotional resonance, others like fast-paced stories that hit hard and leave you dizzy. Some have great literary pretentions, and some want to obliterate the rules and reach jaded readers with writing that uses language in astonishing and revolutionary ways. There’s a bit of gamesmanship involved in submitting stories, and that’s all part of the fun.
So, I think I’ll put the Week From Heck behind me by having a little fun this morning.