rejections

Rejections and Reactions

If you’re a writer, you should keep this word in the back of your head at all times: Grace.

If you’re a reader, the writers who don’t understand the definition of that word will be very easy to spot.

What am I talking about? I’m talking about how people respond and react to rejections. Because whether you’ve published one story or one hundred stories, there’s never a reason to not be professional. To have grace.

You see, there are those who write, and then there are those who submit. That first group is quite content to scribble volumes for their own eyes and never ever become published. And then there are those of us who are mildly sadistic at best and may actually enjoy torture at worst. We submit our words and then pace, while waiting to hear back from an opinion we purposely asked for.

Are we always happy with that opinion? No. Should we have a tantrum, whine, bitch, piss and moan? No. The golden rule of rejections? You absolutely should not, under any circumstances, ever ever do either of these two things:
1. respond to the rejection
2. whine about it publicly

That first faux pas? Responding? No. Just no. Why would you? You do nothing to change the mind of the editor who sent you the rejection (and keep in mind, on some level you should be thankful for receiving one in the first place, since many publications only contact you if you’re accepted). The editor had to read a lot more than just your story. If you respond, even to say thank you, you are wasting their valuable time. And if you think they won’t remember that, you’re wrong. If you think they won’t tell their editing and publishing friends, you’re wrong. Slowly, for those in the back, do not—do (period) not (period)—respond to a rejection.

And that second one? Seriously? Let me just remind all of you of one tiny, very very important fact: the Internet is forever. Don’t believe me? Waybackmachine.com. But also, and more immediately, screenshots have become the law of the land.

Recently, there was an amazingly bizarre call for submissions. You may have heard about it—they were asking for pizza stories. I saw the guidelines and I giggled, and then a little voice in the back of my head said, “Heyyyyy, don’t you actually have a story about pizza. You put it in the trunk because, well, pizza.” I did indeed. I had written it several years before and never ever thought I would publish it, so I literally trunked it without submitting. (Not something I would necessarily suggest anyone do.)

I hemmed and hawed for all of twelve seconds and then got curious. It had been a while since I’d seen it. What the heck, I thought, and I pulled out the story.

I read it. I read it again, out loud. I even read it to my daughter (you should know, she’ll be the first person to tell me something sucks… well, right after my mom gets done telling me why it sucks). And I thought, huh, this isn’t bad. The language was a little out of date, and you could tell it was an older story by my archaic style and voice, but with a little polishing… who knows, right?

I polished it. Sent it to my prereaders. Edited it a final time. Submitted it. And waited.

And it got rejected.

Why? It was a form rejection, so I’m not sure. Truthfully, I’d be willing to bet the stories they kept leaned toward blood-fest, scary, or more “traditional” horror veins, rather than my normally quiet, chilling or unnerving style. Nothing wrong with that. It just didn’t work for them. It doesn’t mean I can’t write. Remember, a rejection isn’t a statement on you as a person—it just means that one story, at that one point in time, didn’t work. It doesn’t even necessarily mean the story sucked. And it certainly didn’t mean I should do either of the items above: respond or react.

But others out there were either never told, or they outright chose to ignore the golden rules. Suddenly there were people posting online, openly, angrily, about how they were going to make their own pizza anthology out of their rejected submissions from this one.

Re-read that. Slower.

Yeahhhhh… you read that right. And the editor responded beautifully—telling them to feel free to do so, as it will be the worst thing no one’s ever read. I laughed. Oh my god, did I laugh. I mean, I gasped at the balls and willingness to knowingly damage their own careers. But then I laughed, because wow. Then I went to KillerCon and hung out with said editor for a good chunk of the weekend. We laughed and laughed about all those souls having little hissy fits online.

Once more, for those in the back: the Internet is forever.

And what else? Do you remember? Yes, those you annoy with less-than-professional behavior will tell others, sharing your foibles with all their editing and publishing friends. As I write this, there are currently three different threads on my various social medias discussing someone who reacted poorly in public. Three. Today. And that’s just in my little corner.

This world we call a genre is a small little island of misfits. It’s not a family, though parts can feel like it. The circles can be tight, but most are welcoming. And at the end of the day, it’s far too small a community to think you can do anything remotely close to responding or reacting, and not have it become a scary lesson whispered to newbies—to frighten them as they’re tucked in at night.

Grace, people.

Find it. Hold it tight. Never let it go.

If you are rejected, look at why. If they sent a form letter, it may simply be that it didn’t fit the theme or feel or gore factor or whatever other thread there was connecting the accepted stories. If they were kind enough to tell you why and there’s a critique or suggestion, look at it, consider it heavily, and then adjust and/or edit as you need. Either way, with or without comments, your job at this point is not to say thank you, it’s not to whine on your social media, it’s to resubmit the story. Get it out the door. No rejected story should ever spend the night. They are not welcome company, but rather relatives who don’t know when to leave.

Except when they need to be grounded. This particular piece needed to stay home. Not because it was crap, but because it was very specific. Pizza. And I know what happens to the market after an overly specific anthology sends out their rejections—because once upon a time, many of us giggled and some gasped in horror, as every open submission call out there received rejected stories about “pirate cats from outer space.”

No, specific themes need to sit for a bit—maybe forever. Some can be reshaped into something more generic, some cannot. Either way, I had a pizza story and it got rejected. What did I do? I didn’t respond. And I didn’t react.

Dallas (Jack Ketchum) once told me the most important words ever when it comes to a rejection, “Move on. They have.” Wise wise words, from a wise wise man.

For those who need it, maybe put a post-it note on your screen, keyboard, wall, whatever—wherever you’ll see it and remember. You can write his words if you want. Or you can write “don’t respond, don’t react.” Or you could even write “be professional.” Or you can reduce it to just that one really important word. Say it with me… Grace.

 

Rejections, Growth and Suckage

There are rejections and then there are rejections… There are form rejections, there are constructive rejections, and there are those rejections that say something wonderful like, “As is often the case it was not an issue of quality, but more an issue of limited space. Please do not consider this a ‘rejection’.” Of course, that last one will make you smile while you declare “damn” under your breath, but it is still exactly that—a rejection.

But rejection isn’t a bad word. We get “rejected” all the time and don’t slit our wrists over it. Didn’t get that job interview? Oh well, try again. Didn’t get that loan? Oh well, maybe in another six months. Got dumped by that person? Oh well, lots of fish in the sea. Rejection happens, repeatedly, throughout our lives, and we deal with it just fine in every other avenue, so why not with our writing? That’s my philosophy.  That’s part of the make-up in my stubbornness.  Take from it what you can, but suck it up and keep going.

And while it’s all well and good to be able to deal with rejection, sometimes there’s a little something-something that comes with it. Some key thing the editor didn’t say, but maybe your gut did, or that tiny voice that screams out occasionally from the back of your mind. And that’s what I got early last week.

I have a rule: nothing sits over night.  If it was a ‘positive’ rejection, it goes back out immediately.  Constructive may require some tweaking, and that gets done immediately.  But every once in a while, as I look over what’s coming back and needs to go out again, I realize that what I sent out sucked. But it didn’t suck when I sent it… I can only believe that it did indeed suck, but that as we grow as writers we learn the difference between thinking everything we write sucks, and knowing that we’ve changed enough that something really does suck. This wasn’t the lack of confidence suck. This was the slap in the forehead oh-my-god-I-let-someone-read-this-what-the-hell-was-I-thinking type of suck. And for that, I’d rather have a rejection than have something that truly does suck get published.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to de-suckify this short story, apologize to anyone I made read it, and see if I can’t find it an appropriate home…

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