The joy of rejection

As promised, to balance my heady post on success, here’s the flip side – the heady joy of rejection…

It can be hard to stay motivated as a writer when you’re getting a lot of rejections. My Duotrope account tells me that I’ve got an 8.8% acceptance rate for the last twelve months. That might not sound too bad – heck, I’m happy with it – but it still means that for every acceptance I’ve had ten rejections. That’s a lot of people saying no. And yet, one of the things that most motivates me as a writer is a good rejection.

Good rejections are hard to come by. Most of the rejections I’ve received are form emails. I don’t mean this as a criticism – the editors at most short story markets don’t have the time to make it personal. They’re receiving hundreds of submissions, and mine is just one more in a mountain of things they don’t want.

But just occasionally I get a really good rejection. One that tells me what I did right, and more importantly what I did wrong. Just a couple of brief sentences, but ones that really lift me up. Seeing that someone took the time to have a well developed opinion on my story is great in itself. What’s writing for if not to provoke a response? But the content is important too. Knowing that someone else sees a fragment of value in my story, even as they’re rejecting my work. And, less moral-boosting but far more useful, identifying something that I can improve, both in that story and in my wider writing.

Receiving just a few rejections like that helps me face the rest with a smile, and to keep going. So, to the writers of those rejection notes – in particular the people at Beneath Ceaseless Skies, who have never published a single one of my stories but have given me many pieces of constructive feedback – thank you very much.