Seriously, if there are creatures that produce more poop than red-eared sliders, I don't want to know about it.
Anyway, the combination of state tests, whining children, and pooping turtles puts me in a mind to talk about rejection letters, so that's what I'm going to do.
Right before I began my teaching career, I began a project to see if I could acquire fifty (or more!) rejection letters over the course of a year. The logic is that I can't make them buy my story, but I can make them give me a rejection letter, and as long as I'm getting rejections, I'm sending out stories, and as long as I'm sending out stories, I'm working on my craft, putting myself out there, and making a sale more likely. Abruptly developing a career put a serious crimp in this plan, and I've only managed to net one acceptance and ten rejections, but that's eleven brand new steps into writing, so I'm not complaining.
For a while there, I was also posting the rejection letters with the serial numbers filed off. I stopped doing that when I read some horror stories about publishers taking offense. It was harmless, fun post fodder - I wasn't offended by the rejection letters; in fact, I only ever commented about how polite and helpful my rejectors were - but it wasn't worth risking my writing career over.
I recently got an incredibly classy rejection letter - my tenth! - from Abyss & Apex. The jist of it was this: "your story is well written and made it all the way through the slush process to reach my desk, but it isn't to my liking; good luck placing it elsewhere and do try again with something new."
Over the course of my...
[Time to walk around the room and gaze balefully - but also encouragingly? - at students]
Over the course of my writing career so far, I've noticed an overall pattern to my rejection letters. There are fits and starts, leaps forward and leaps back, but the story goes something like this:
- Form rejection, signed by the editor but with no indication that it is from an actual editor, or even an actual human being.
- Rejection with encouragement and commentary, signed by an editor.
- The "good story, but not to my taste" rejection, from an editor.
I wonder, is this progress? I have the feeling that it is.
In step one, I was clearly getting rejected by slush readers. In step two, I was reaching editors, who rejected my stories because of quality issues. Now, in step three, I'm reaching editors who can't find anything "wrong" with my writing - they just didn't like the story.
This means that instead of writing mediocre stories, I'm writing good stories and sending them to the wrong magazines, or the right magazines on the wrong days, or the right magazines at the same day as someone whose stories was even better.
Clearly, even if this means something it doesn't mean a heck of a lot.
I also shouldn't take this to mean that I'm entitled to any particular kind of...
[Stop whispering to each other! This is a state test - do you want to get your butt suspended?]
I also shouldn't take this to mean that I'm entitled to any particular kind of rejection letter. Just because I feel like I'm mostly in step three doesn't mean that I'm not going to get a form rejection once in a while. If I get all discouraged (or worse, grumpy) when I do, then it's going to crimp my style.
What it does mean is that I'm making progress, and that's never a bad thing.
That's a pretty positive conclusion for a post that started with turtle poop, don't you think?