So I’m posting here a photo of my Sir Julius Vogel award. It’s cool, and I guess I’m bragging a bit. But see those three folders underneath? Those are my rejection slips. You know, the letter you get from a publisher who for one reason or another isn’t taking your story. Gathered over more years than I care to admit.
I think there are about two thousand. I have a feeling I’ve lost some over the years.
Most of them are form rejections. Some are very nice personal rejections. One is a disappointingly rude personal rejection (I haven’t submitted to that magazine since).
And there, standing on the shoulders of all those rejections, is an award. To me this is the value of persistence. I mean this to be encouraging. Keep at it. Keep going. Pursue what you love doing. It’s not about the award (though that’s nice), it’s about loving doing it.
Close to the end of the year, close to completing some goals, distant from others.
My word-count goal went well: from 300,000 for the year (completed in August), upped then to 450,000 for the year (completed in November) and upped again to 500,000, and right now sitting at 497,065. Catastrophes aside, it looks like a slam dunk on that one. Yay.
Publishing 300,000 words didn’t go so great. It went pretty good – right now it’s around 203,000. Mostly self-published under my Triple V Publishing banner through Smashwords, Kindle, and CreateSpace/Amazon. It was gratifying to have several acceptances by publishers in there – about 26,000 words of that total were published in online and print magaziens such as MicroHorror, The Colored Lens and Takahe.
What about the other 97,000 words? Well, I sure wrote them. Part of it was procrastination: sitting on a 60,000 word New Zealand Literary novel instead of sending it out to some publishers (and then self-publishing it if it came back as noes). I’ll remedy that in the new year, with my new goals. Part of it was a pig-headed determination to keep things on the market – that is, numerous stories, novelettes and novellas that get rejected and go out again, rather than self-pubbing. I’ll fix that too: with some of the pieces that have been to the seven or eight main markets: the next time they come back I’ll pull them out of circulation and publish them through Triple V.
I felt like I spent much of the year feeling out in the wilderness: I’ve had more than a hundred rejection slips since January. Mostly form rejections, but there have been a few personal notes which has been cheering. The acceptances have helped out too – early in the year my sci-fi novella The Wreck of the Emerald Sky appeared in The Colored Lens. I had a few flash-fiction acceptances through the year, which was nice, but most of the longer works seemed to keep cycling. Then, a late rally. An acceptance for Takahe (a New Zealand literary mag), a third-placing in a regional short story contest, and an acceptance for Aurealis – one of Australia’s leading science fiction magazines. Coming just a couple of weeks before the end of the year, that acceptance has buoyed me no end: I am on the right track, and persistence pays (real money in this case, too).
Next year, I’m aiming at 500,000 words from the git-go. And aiming at publishing 600,000 (whether self- or traditional) – and have a plan in place to make the possible.
Not only did I learn I hadn’t placed in Writers of the Future, I got three other rejection slips in the mail. All form rejections. Still that means that those stories can all go out to other editors who might like them. So that’s what I did. Sent them out. Within an hour or so I had my list back up to twenty live submissions.
Then, as I sent off that last one, some good news. An acceptance. Yay. It is in a no-payment, no-copy anthology so it stokes just my ego, but by then it was in need of a little stoking.
And it got a little better too – with some new music accepted for release on Zenapolae. More on that in another post. Right now I’m getting back to writing the next story.
I got a rejection slip today. That means I’m down to thirteen live submissions.
This slip was one of the nicer ones, I’ve must say, in that it included some feedback – fair and fairly positive – from the first readers, with comments like these below:
“[T]his is a complex idea. You’ve only barely touched the surface. The writing is solid and workmanlike, but because the central concept is so complex, you’ve been unable to offer much of characterisation, or setting, or colour.”
“This should be a novella-length piece, so you can do justice to the main concept. Accepting it in this form would be wrong for both you, and [our publication].”
Fair enough. Decent food for thought. It is a very stripped back story, one that I had worked on for a long time. The first versions were five or six thousand words long and really didn’t work so well. The final version is 1600. That’s barely more than flash fiction.
Perhaps this is a case for writing a longer version (again). I’ve done that before – my novel Rotations originated from a flash story, as did my forthcoming novel The Room (that flash story – “Don’t Sleep Downstairs” – is still available at Flashes In The Dark.
I had planned on writing a couple of short novels this year, amongst all the other stuff, and I am writing longer these days (that rejected story was written and rewritten quite some time ago).
Now that I think about it my latest novel – The Tunnel – was going to be a short novel (it went to over 60,000 words when I was expecting 25,000 – as I was getting into it I realised that it had to be bigger). I’m feeling more confident with longer forms these days (most of my current submissions are from 5000 to 20,000 words), a far cry from my period of focusing on flash fiction.
I guess that’s a project for later in the year – take that “solid and workmanlike” writing and develop the story with some characterisation, setting and colour. 🙂
In the meantime, the story is going back out to find a publisher who might like it in this form (I still think it works as is – a spare and stark piece). Then I’ll be back up to fourteen live submissions.