Friday, June 18, 2010

Dejection and rejection

It has been a quiet week. Usually I get at least one rejection for something, but this week, there has been nothing. You'd think that would make me happy, but I'm a writer and as such, terminally insecure. I keep telling myself, no news is good news, but I'm not convincing. So what is wrong with me?

A couple of weeks a ago I checked my in-box first thing and got a rejection from an agent I'd sent an Assignment 9 query to. A little later in the day I snuck back in and found a rejection for a short story. Then when I arrived home after work and opened the mailbox, there was a rejection for Jessie and The Witch, the kids' picture book I wrote to go with David Boyle's illustrations. Rejections in every arena I work. Damn, that hurt.

I'm used to rejections. It's taken a while for the sting to lessen, but after almost a year of submitting work, I'm getting used to it. According to Duotrope, my acceptance rate is sitting on 9.52%. That kind of sucks. But at the same time, if I didn't submit my work, I wouldn't even have that tiny percentage of success. At the end of 2008 when I finished (okay, finished is a subjective word when it comes to writing, but at the time, I felt I'd finished) Assignment 9 and Holding It Together I had no idea what to do next. I'd never really shown anyone my writing. In fact, most people who know me, didn't even know I wrote. But what's the point of writing books if no one reads them? So I gathered up my courage and gave copies to a few people, asked them to read my books and tell me what they thought. At the time, I was aiming to enter both books in the Delacorte Press First Novel Contest (which, foolishly I ended up doing, way before the books were ready to go anywhere) and wanted some feedback.

I got feedback, but most of it wasn't really helpful. It's really nice when people tell you they like your work, but when that's all they say, it's not helpful. And for someone as naive and inexperienced as I was then, it was particularly harmful. I made a few tweaks to the manuscripts and sent them off to the contest, thinking they were the best I could do.

Surprise, surprise. I didn't win.

But with nothing real to work on, I was searching around for something and discovered I cannot begin to tell you what a monumental discovery this website was to me. I found a community of writers who were willing to support me, tell me where my stories worked and where they didn't. My writing has improved immensely as a result of finding this site, and both my novels have been completely re-worked through careful and thoughtful critiques. And I'm talking completely! In Assignment 9 I ended up bringing a dead character back to life and removing an entire story thread. I'm still working on Holding It Together, having decided that writing in third person is definitely not my forte, and deciding to change the POV to first person.

Through working with other writers, I gathered the strength and the knowledge to be able to submit my work. Imagine how thrilled I was when the first story I submitted to a magazine was accepted! I wonder now how quickly I would have sent out another if that first one hadn't been an acceptance... Now I'm a regular submission junkie, trawling through Duotrope like a pro, searching for the ideal venue for each and every one of the stories I have that I feel are good enough for publication. And I get a lot of rejections. I'm up to 6 on Angels, Oddities and Orthodox Habits now, and am beginning to think I need to re-work it as a novel or novella, but I keep sending my stuff out. Because you never know, that next one, well, it might be an acceptance. Right?

So I'm off to check my in-box again. You know, just in case.

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