Post date: December 15, 2014 - SG Blog # 6
year end blues

This year I’m hanging rejections slips from my Christmas tree instead of ornaments. Why? Because I’ve accumulated far more of them than I anticipated. I did have a few acceptances however, and I’m grateful some editors like my work enough to have it grace the pages of their publications. Call me selfish, but it’s not enough. I think any writer worth her salt would feel the same. So this year I’m singing the blues as I count up all those rejections.

I suppose the upside is, if there is one, I’ve submitted more work this year than I have in recent years. That’s a good thing. Perhaps my gripe could be better phrased in an old familiar question we writers often ask and seldom receive a definitive answer to, and that is. . . drum roll please; What do editors really want? I’m talking about magazine editors, not book publishers. It can be tough breaking into any market be it nonfiction or poetry, but taking a stab at the short fiction market is a conundrum at best. There are no easy answers.

For me it’s not so much about breaking in as it is about staying in. Consistency would be good, and I have none. Sometimes I feel more like a yoyo than a writer. There are a lot of ups and downs in this business, but I always believed getting your stories published was a stepping stone to bigger things. I liken it to a rock band starting out. Bands typically play small local clubs before stepping onto the big stage or seeing their name in lights. The point is you have to work really hard at it and there are a lot of disappointments along the way. And, there is no guarantee, no matter how hard you work or how long you’ve worked at your craft, that you will ever see your name in lights.

Believe it or not, I’m okay with that. I only want to get my stories out there and market them professionally. I want them read. It's a writers goal, not a dream. Is it too much to ask? I think not. And yes, one answer might be to self publish. I’ve done that and will continue to explore and learn more about it as the landscape of publishing is constantly changing. If nothing else it gives a writer control. Control over how and when, and where to publish what you want to market. It potentially puts more money in your pocket too. The main thing is it gives writers more options. That said I still want to publish traditionally. I know, at least I think I know what stories are marketable and which ones are not. I am always writing, always revising, always tweaking and polishing the stories I believe in and know I can improve. I appreciate and take editors’ advice when they take the time to comment. I always listen to feedback from my peers and am open to suggestions. The minute you stop listening to your critique group or your readers, you are in trouble. I do everything right, and I know a lot of writers who do and who are damn good at their craft. Yet, they too are getting snared in that rejection trap. And, yes I feel it is a trap, one I am desperately trying to get out of before it squeezes the life out of me.

But it won’t. I won’t let it. I’m too stubborn. So, I’ll trudge on through the muck and mire of picky editors and magazines that claim, if you look at their guidelines, to be particular about the kind of stories they publish. Read between the lines is my advice. Read the magazines and decide for yourself about the quality of work they publish. For the most part I like many of the stories I read in the speculative, horror or dark fantasy genres, but let’s face it, some of the stuff out there is pretty dull or even poor quality. When I read a story that is not well written or is way off the mark according to the guidelines, I shudder. Why impose such “high standards” on writers if the magazines cannot live up to them? The truth is what you glean from the pages in a particular zine or learn from their guidelines is subject to change, maybe even depending on an editor’s mood. Go figure. That’s what I mean by reading between the lines. You can’t predict what they, editors want. All you can do is your best and make an educated guess about what to submit. Sometimes you do hit it right. But only if all the planets align at precisely the right time and you happen to be orbiting in their space. When that happens, you will light up like a Christmas tree.

Speaking of which, I think I will tear up this year’s rejections slips and throw them on the tree and pretend they are snowflakes. Like a mini blizzard, I’ll watch them fall and land where they may on the branches. When the holiday and the year is over, I’ll sweep them up and put them in the trash where they belong, my year end blues gone with them.

January first is quickly approaching and with it, hope. Hope of getting more acceptances instead of rejections. With any luck you won’t be reading this blog next year.   


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