Rejection, False Hopes and Imaginary Friends

I got another short story rejected this week. I took this one hard. It is not my first rejection, but until now, my reaction has been action. I take another look at the story to see if there is anything that I missed in my last edit, anything that I can change to make it “more awesome.” I reexamine my choice of venues and try to believe that “not the right fit” is an honest statement rather than a polite way of saying, “Fuck off, you pretender.”

Not this time though. I took this one hard. I ate nachos and chocolate. I told myself to do yoga but played video games instead.

So why the difference? Until now, I’ve experienced two categories of responses: immediate dismissal (e.g. Clarksworld, you rejected my story in three days, I love you) and silent indifference (e.g. Analog, you have had my story for four months. Reject it already. Let me move on.). This time, shortly after submission, I received an email saying, essentially, “Congratulations, you’ve been elevated from the slush pile. Your story now has a 50% chance of rejection, rather than the usual 97% failure rate. It may take several weeks to reach a final decision.”

Fifty percent!?! Them’s good odds! Suddenly I had hope. Apparently, I had not had that before. It was a lovely sensation. A week later, as you may have guessed, I got another, “not the right fit” email. Sigh. GIVE ME CHOCOLATE!

I think I liked it better when submissions were more of an experiment, a scouting mission. “Will this magazine-that-I-love like my story? Is this the sort of thing that they might publish?” For a week there, instead, I was actually thinking “OMG, OMG, I might actually get published!”

I need to learn to keep my cool with these things. I can get excited when (WHEN, not if) I actually see my name on a cover.

I also need to lay off the Twitter.

(no, wait, let me explain)

I have learned to looooove Twitter. I went online and found all these lovely people who read, discuss and write speculative fiction. I found WOMEN who love SciFi – lots of them! I now follow authors who are passionate about their writing and their genre of choice. They talk about the SFWA and Clarion and Readercon and what panels they are on and… And I was so happy to find this community. We’re all writers here, talking about writing (and gardening, and feminism, and dessert). These are my peeps!

Except, of course, they are not. I am following them, but they are not following me. Nor should they. They are authors. I am fan and a beginning writer. Sitting in on these discussions between authors has made me feel like one of their buddies, like I’m an author too. Thus I am suddenly surprised and hurt when my work gets rejected, “But, no, hey, I’m part of the feminist SciFi gang.”

I was not surprised that Twitter gave me imaginary friends, social media does that. But here I was feeling imaginary accomplishments as well. Here I am, having to remind myself that I’m new at all this.

It doesn’t help that my writer’s group is on hiatus for a month. Usually, they give me a space, once a week, when I get to feel like a writer. With them around, I know that my stories will be read by at least five people. With them, my stories will have the opportunity to move, or entertain, or frighten a handful of people, at least. That makes me feel like a writer. I feel a bit adrift without them, reverted back to my previous non-writer self.

Hmmm. There. I’m starting to feel better already. Silly me, I didn’t need chocolate or video games or even yoga. I needed more writing. I should have known that. That’s okay, though, I’m still new at all this.

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