One of my fellow-bloggers, Julie of Julie's Quest (http://jlpwritersquest.blogspot.com/), has been brave enough recently to give details of her short story 'tally' for the year so far. Julie's writing output is as admirable as her attitude; she realises that we all have to accept the inevitable rejections and keep on trying, keep on submitting, if we're going to improve our success ratio.
This made me realise that it's quite helpful to hear about other writers' rejections as well as their successes! We all enjoy celebrating with each other when we've had an acceptance, a sale, a publication - but we quite often prefer to keep the bad news quiet, with the result that aspiring writers could fall into the trap of believing that those of us who are already published, don't have rejections or failures at all! And I think it's reassuring to know that - ahem! Yes, we certainly do.
So I had a count-up myself. My situation with short stories is that I was fairly widely published in magazines (under my own name, Sheila Norton) during the 1990s, but after I had my first novel published in 2002 I had to concentrate on the books, because I was still working full-time so the short stories had to take a back seat. Once I left the day job last year, I had more time and a lot less money (!) so I needed to get back into the short story market again. And this time around, after a gap of only 5 or 6 years, it's been even harder as there are less magazines publishing fiction, and different requirements everywhere.
Of course, I had plenty of rejections first time around, too - it was never easy. But it took me most of last year, while I was recovering from my operation, to get myself back into short story writing 'mode'. So now I'm full-on into submitting stories again, (alongside writing a new novel, which by the way also hasn't been accepted yet!) - what's my score?
Strangely enough, like Julie I've sent out exactly THIRTY stories this year. Of those, a mere FIVE were accepted for publication by the first magazine I submitted to. A further FOUR have been accepted following at least one rejection. Two of those were accepted on the third attempt; one was finally accepted this year, following six rejections when I was submitting prior to 2002 - and one further rejection this year! Of course - I'd been changing, updating and improving it each time it bounced back, but I'm telling you this to make the point that it does happen! Just ONE story has been put in the 'given up' section of my card-index system because after four rejections, I decided it just wasn't good enough and I couldn't do any more to improve it.
I now have TWENTY stories still 'out there'. Of these, SEVEN have been rejected by at least one magazine and are awaiting a decision from another one. The remaining THIRTEEN are still waiting for a decision from the first editor I've sent them to.
So you can see from this that, even with a reasonable track record, I'm by no means getting, and certainly not expecting, anywhere near a hit every time! I AM hoping, though, that each success will give me a little more 'credibility' with the editors, and bring my 'score' a little higher. Even if that doesn't happen - I'm working hard, enjoying every minute of it, and am thrilled to bits every time I have a story accepted. That's NINE so far this year, out of thirty submissions. But it's the twenty still out there that hold the promise ... they're the ones I focus on, because they are still possibilities. And I think it's important to have as many stories in that category as we can - to keep us hopeful.
The main points I wanted to get across, from this, are:
Firstly, don't give up too readily - send out those rejected stories again. What one editor hates, another might love. But of course, make sure the story is adapted for each different market. And do be prepared to give up eventually, if you've flogged it to death and realise it's never going to happen.
Secondly, please don't think, if you feel like you're getting more rejections than you were prepared for, that it's just you. It is par for the course - part of a writer's life - and not only beginner writers - we ALL get rejections; we all hate them, they're disappointing, and frustrating, but they are an inevitable part of it.
I hope this helps someone, somewhere, to feel just a little bit reassured! Good luck with those submissions - we need it!