From the Speakers: WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS NOW IS LOVE by Dionne Warwick
My favorite Stephen King book is actually his nonfiction piece "On Writing." It was the first of his I ever read--I might have been fourteen, but I knew I was a writer--and it's been a road map for me throughout my early career.
In it, he describes the phenomenon of receiving rejections as part of a writer's course, and often they come in progressive, sequential steps: First, a form rejection. A certain amount of time goes by, and you get better, and the rejections change form. They become "good but not great" comments, occasionally suggesting that you try them again in the future. Next, you get "this is good, but not for us" letters. And finally, after poking your head into some smaller magazines (and continuing to get better), you might get some professional acceptances.
Well, looking back on my career and this year so far, I can see the steps. I did a project in high school that involved collecting my rejection letters and writing journal entries on them, and man were those stories bad! Well, not BAD, but they read like a fourteen-year-old wrote them and submitted them to Fantasy and Science Fiction. It makes me laugh now a bit, with pride, perhaps a bit like a father thinking back to his toddler trying to field a ground ball ten, fifteen years ago.
Those were the form rejections. Then I got better and submitted to smaller venues, and got some "good but not great" rejections. This was the norm for years, and maybe the W1S1 challenge has me getting better at short stories faster. I got a few acceptances (14 to be exact) at some small venues, but I kept submitting to the pros, and I can clearly see a step up in the rejections.
I've gotten "this is good but not for us" rejection letters from Leading Edge (about the story from my last blog post, which also receiving a personal note from F&SF), Penumbra Magazine (twice), Allegory, and Flash Fiction Online.
Next step in the sequence is acceptance!
PS--I had to blog about this to put the positive spin on getting two crushing rejections this week. It's been a disappointing two weeks! All part of the journey, right? Years from now, I'll look back like a dad remembering his clumsy toddler, and I'll laugh.