Friday, 24 July 2009

this writers life has its up and downs

and while I'm not 'down' as such, I felt a little 'downer' this morning when Flash Fiction Online decided not to go with my story after all (I wrote a few posts ago that 'How much breath?' had got to the second round of their selection process).

The rejection smarted like all rejections do at first. Any writers out there who have been subbing for years and don't feel that smart at all? Just curious.

I've been thinking lately about the difference between entering writing competitions and submitting your work to a publication, and the rejections that often follow.

Competitions don't formally reject you, they just don't contact you. You usually have an idea from the website or rules when they'll be contacting the winners, so at some point between sending your entry and not hearing anything back, you peacefully accept that you haven't won/been shortlisted.

But when you send a thing to a publication, you (usually) get a direct 'yes' or a 'no'. The time it takes varies, but most places will contact you to let you know the outcome of your submission. This is useful as far as getting a 'NO' goes, because you know for sure, and can dust yourself off and get the story sent elsewhere.

I've been sending work out to competitions and publications for quite some time, but this difference in the way you're rejected only recently came to mind.

It's part of the process of writing, of putting yourself out there to be judged in some way, and it's necessary if you want to be published. (Unless you're one of those people whose best friend's cousin is going out with the brother of an editor of a massive publishing house and somehow he stumbled upon your MS and he just bloody well loves it. Not you? Me neither. But that's ok. I like that saying about how you can wait for your ship to come in, or you can go out and meet it.)

The Guardian have contacted the winners of their short story comp, so knowing I'm not in that number I have sent that story to Tonto Books. I did this very quickly. Without editing, or refining (much). Tonto Books are running a competition, but they are also a publication. Will this result in a direct reject/accept email? Only time will tell (did I actually just type that?)

I have also sent another thing to Six Sentences, because I love that place. They published my story 'Velcro' a few weeks ago, and I felt like trying my luck with them again.

Tell me your acceptance/rejection stories and feelings. Not that we should dwell, but I'm interested.


Paul McIntyre said...

Commiserations - onwards and upwards though...

The recent CBBC new writers scheme competition only notified the winners and those who'd got a second reading - so many people, me included, were left to just dwell on a failure (and a little bit of hope too - "maybe they haven't decided yet?... maybe?")

At least if you get a no, you get a little closure, and you can move on.

Good luck with the other avenues for your work. Good blog, also, enjoying reading it.

JR's Thumbprints said...

What I really really hate is when no one wants your story, so you go through a dry spell knowing that what you've written is done. After what seems like eternity, you get two or three acceptances for the same damn story. I hate that.

Teresa Stenson said...

Hi Paul,

I entered a BBC comp about 4 years ago (it was the first writing competition I ever entered actually) and I had that same sort of waiting experience. I think my hopes were very high, and the idea of getting somewhere in a comp run by the BBC was very appealing, and I remember obsessively checking their website for news or updates (which never came).

I find rejection easier to take when my hopes are not pinned to one thing, so try to sub as much finished work as possible. But there are still the 'big ones' that you hold out for, the prizes you know could change your writing life if you won.

Thanks for commenting and liking, btw. Incidentally - I can't seem to comment on your blog, I'm not sure if there's an error but something similar happened to a friend's blog and he changed his settings to 'open comments box in seperate window'. But other people have managed to leave you comments, obviously, so I'm not sure.


Ah - so 'simultaneous submissions' then? I haven't actually done that yet, so have never got two acceptances for the same story.

But I have a batch of 3 or 4 pieces that have ended up doing the rounds this year in all the major writing competitions, but with a few months between each one.

Even though I've had several rejections lately, they've all been fairly quick ones - from 4 days to 2 weeks which is really useful of the editors.

Being rejected 'usefully' - see it's not all bad :)

Paul McIntyre said...

There should be a name for that obsessive email checking after the competition deadline has passed. It turns you into a crazy person. There have been some where I must have checked me email about 50 times a day. It's not healthy.

I've changed to pop out comments on my blog - see if that works. Otherwise, answers on a postcard....

Miles said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Miles said...

It's just one of those things you have to take as a lesson whenever it happens. Yes it hurts to get rejected but even if your work is good, someone has decided to pass on it.

I always remember that JK Rowling and George Lucas took their literary babies round over 10 publishers/film studios and not only got rejected, but got laughed at and derided. And look who got the last laugh there.

Believe in yourself through all the rejections, because nobody knows anything. Plus, you're really, really good, and that's just a factamundo.

claires inner world said...

Hi Teresa,
Sorry to hear about the Flash Fiction Online rejection.
'Keep buggering on.' (as Winston Churchill said)
One question - when rejections come in with comments about what's wrong with the story, do you make the changes they suggest, or just send it out again and move on to the next thing? Sometimes it feels really confusing when you get seemingly contradictory comments about a piece from different editors. I just wondered how you dealt with it....

bryn said...

Keep on keeping on. Let it steel you. These things involve subjectivity and luck too. it's part of the artist's life, bread and butter x

Teresa Stenson said...

Paul - yes - a name for that crazy obsessive email thing, hmmm, it would have to include the word 'refresh' I think, or 'F5' (the shortcut for refresh). Let's see if we can come up with something.

Miles, you sweet heart, saying I'm good. But you also said nobody knows anything... except you? Yes? Yes. Just kidding, thanks for the pep.

Claire - I've actually never had that happen to me, so far my stories have either been rejected or published, with no inbetweens. I'd welcome and consider suggestions from an editor, but I wouldn't agree to alterations just to get a story published. Though if there were plot holes or inaccuracies they'd need to be addressed. I'd feel confident about saying no to a change which would compromise the story, the voice or the energy of a piece. It's an interesting question though - how have you dealt with that?

Bryn, hello and thank you for the encouragement. Can I ask - are you Bryn Bryn? Like ventura-now-then-Mr-Customer-he-looks-like-gollum-pick-it-up-it's-yours-in-Turkish-Bryn?

That will only make sense to one Bryn on this Earth and I'm sorry if that's not this Bryn :)

claires inner world said...

The honest truth is that I don't know, really. I had a story rejected recently where the editor said the dialogue was 'unconvincing'. Other comments from readers mentioned the dialogue as a strong point.
I think I agree with you though really. My instinct is to not mess around with things too much on one person's say-so, unless they're blatantly right, that is! I think I try to just chalk it up to experience and move on to the next thing, but it's not always easy....