The Key to Getting Through Rejections

Image from Flickr by Brenda Clarke

Image from Flickr by Brenda Clarke

This morning after dropping the kids off at school, I headed to Xtreme Bean Coffee Co., determined to catch up on the one class I’ve fallen behind in (one out of five—not bad, right?). I ducked into the dimly-lit vault (the building was formerly a bank) and planted myself in a corner, vowing that after I checked my email—just this once!—I’d focus only on reading my assigned short stories and scribbling annotations on a legal pad.

Good thing I checked my email. The instructor had sent out a notice postponing the due date for the assignment by one week. And I needed that, because what I really wanted to do today was write a blog post.

Most of you who follow me here are writers, and writers never get tired of talking about one thing—rejection. I’ve written about it before, and how rejections usually don’t bother me. But yesterday I received one that bothered me a lot, and I want to tell you why so you don’t make the same mistakes I made.

The first mistake was letting my number of pending submissions dwindle down to one. Don’t do this. It’s important to keep multiple submissions going so that you don’t pin all your hopes on one single response. There have been times when I’ve received acceptances for stories that I’d nearly forgotten were out there because I had so many circulating, and that’s a nice feeling.

My other mistake was believing that a long response time meant something. Twice I’ve had stories take longer than usual to come back, and when they did it was with personalized notes from editors encouraging me to send more, and admitting that it had taken so long because the work had been carefully considered (although ultimately turned down).

In the case of yesterday’s rejection, it took nine months to arrive, and having previously submitted to this magazine I knew they were pretty good about sticking to their ideal turn-around time of three months. So at about the half-year mark I started envisioning my little story being passed up the chain of editors, all the way to the top, and my hopes climbed too.

But sometimes the reason for a longer than usual response time is simply this: the editors are buried beneath their slush piles. When that happens it’s very likely that all you’re going to get after nine months or even a year of waiting is a form rejection. Which is what I got yesterday.

Which is okay. The key is not to wait.

In case you missed it, my short YA piece “We Never Get to Talk Anymore” was published last month in YARN, a fantastic magazine publishing literature about young adults, and also by young adults. Check it out and let me know what you think!