Posts Tagged ‘editors’

I wrote in an earlier post that Michael Graeme had decided to break with his long-standing resolve, and try to get something published in the printed press this year.  His reasons were obscure. His free online offerings had received positive reviews from his readers, and the download rates were beyond his expectations, which is as much as any writer can hope for, but a residual part of him still wanted the approval of that most mythical of creatures: an editor,… so he thought, why not?

He sent a couple of stories out, one of them back in April, which he’s still waiting to hear from – the other back in October. The latter was rejected by e-mail this morning, while the former seems to have been sucked into a black hole, which has happened before and is a sort of implied rejection, a bit like the regular variety, but without the punchline.

Rejection is a funny business. As a writer, I think you tell yourself to expect it, but as time passes following the moment the post box swallows your submission, you eventually allow yourself to harbour vague hopes, warm feelings, spurious intuitions. You watch the mail, though you tell yourself you’re not watching, or waiting, while at the back of your mind you are.  You’ve enjoyed writing a story, creating characters, watching them develop a relationship over successive drafts, and then you send it off, expecting others to be equally warmed, enthused or whatever.

And they reject it.

Editors never go into detail. Why should they? They have to read hundreds of stories every week. So, the writer never knows what it was they didn’t like about the story. Was it completely unintelligible? Were you so caught up in the story you forgot about the basics of grammar? Was your punctuation alarmingly eccentric? Or was the story basically okay, but not quite the right sort of story for the type of magazine they’re running? To be honest you will never know. Take my word for it, you can read the publication guidelines all you like, but  you’ll need to be psychic as well to really know what it is they want.

So,… even though you’re half expecting your story to be rejected, you’re also half expecting it to be accepted, and the result, when it comes – no matter how hardened, how achingly old, or embittered a scribbler you are – is a kick in the balls. Michael Graeme actually felt a bit glum this morning, and that’s something his writing hasn’t done to him for a long time – it was also childish and pathetic and trust me, he chastised himself for it.

So. You’re a writer. It’s happened to you. What do you do about it?

Well, I stripped the beds, put the covers in the washing machine, then swept the kitchen floor and mopped the counters after number two son had made his porridge. I washed up, dried the pots and put them all away. Then I emptied and cleaned out the fridge after number two son had somehow managed to spill milk all over it. And between chores, I sat a bit and thought a bit – had a jug full of very strong Java coffee, did a bit Qigong,… then, on a whim, tried to decipher the Chinese writing on my practise sword,… read some poetry,… the usual things really.

Then, by mid-afternoon, my thoughts were turning to the novel I’m currently writing – the one I’ll never submit to an editor in a hundred years, and know damned well that even at this early stage in its genesis it will be going straight up on Lulu.com. Why? Well, I have a choice now – I can either spend the next twelve months finishing it, then the next three or four years hawking it round the print publishers, before giving up on it and feeling bad about it, or I can let people read it straight away, feel good about it, and move swiftly on to the next project. My last novel, “Push Hands” is achieving about three hundred downloads a month.  It’s being read. And really that’s the whole point!

It’s just that it’s taken me since April, and that first submission to remember this very old lesson.

So, the editor didn’t like my story, but what would it have changed if the editor had liked it? A cheque for fifty quid? What ‘s that? The price of a week’s petrol? Forgive me Michael, but that’s not enough reason to be feel miserable over anything! Is there a touch of ego there, I wonder? A touch of attachment?

Let it go.

Writer’s write. That’s all there is to it.

As for you, dear reader – you must forgive this temporary aberration. Also, check out the Rivendale Review and  Feedbooks for updates – there’ll be a couple of new short stories appearing soon – well three actually if I can resolve the ending on the last one!

So, how do you deal with rejection? It depends on you, the writer, and what sort of writer you are, but I’d say you should allow yourself the luxury of no more than ten minutes disappointment.

Then get over it.

And get on with it.

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