Rejection sucks. A lot. And hard. It’s discouraging and disgruntling to the point that just the thought of the r-word alone will prevent people from writing, and if we want to expand this to include all aspects of life, swap the word writing for the word trying.
And if you are a submitting writer, you deserve a self high five because you’ve come a lot farther than most people (who usually don’t even have a first line let alone the skin for rejection) that think they have a story to tell.
Sometimes I wonder if I’d still be chasing this slippery writing dream after nearly a year, if everything I got back was a rejection. Thankfully, there have been a few acceptances among the heaps of rejections.
The concept of rejection is so powerful that it prevents people from even trying. Not even talking writing here, just life in general.
Writer’s volunteer for this shit.
Jesus. That’s rough.
Though rejection has its place in everyday life, I’m going to try and apply it solely to writing for the next 1,000 words or so. However, I think that if you can handle getting your writing rejected, you can do just fine with all of the other rejections life will throw at you. And it will throw a lot, and they will never stop. Get used to it.
Enough with the depression, this is supposed to be fun, so I’m going to tell you a story and hopefully rearrange you’re mind when it comes to rejection.
When I first started taking writing seriously, I had no idea what I was doing. I probably still don’t, but I’m learning.
I submitted and submitted and submitted for about 6 months before I finally got that first acceptance. And let me tell you, reading that email from Kevin Bufton at Cruentus Libri Press was one of the best moments of my life. I don’t know if this is true or not, because I like to think that I wouldn’t have quit so soon, but this acceptance kept me going. Kept me from quitting. Six months of pure rejection takes a serious toll on your mental state and makes you really question what you are doing and whether or not it is worth it. But once I got that first acceptance, they started to fall like dominos. THANK YOU KEVIN!
I got my second acceptance, after 10 or so more rejections, about a month later. I know this is supposed to be about rejection, and we are heading back there right now.
My first acceptance was amazing, but my second one melted my fucking mind.
I wrote a story for a contest in April. It adhered to the guidelines. I thought it was a good story. It was 5,000 words, on the nose. Looking back I realized that between drafts, revision, proofreading, and polishing, I had close to 50 hours invested on that story.
That’s one hour for each 100 words. That is insanity. Talk about putting your all, your heart and soul and blood and sweat and tears into a work. When I submitted it to that contest, I waited and waited, checking my email every day. I never even got a response. I was patient, and a few weeks later I checked the website and realized that they’d already announced the winners and despite sending me a confirmation email that they were looking at my story, they never sent me an acceptance/rejection.
That cut me pretty deep.
I wasn’t sure why. I thought the story followed the guidelines and though the content was probably pushing xxx instead of R, (which they were open to) I couldn’t understand why they didn’t even send me a form rejection.
Maybe it was too graphic, maybe I got lost in the slush pile, maybe something I didn’t realize disqualified me, or maybe they were just dicks. I don’t know. Don’t care.
Writers. Don’t get discouraged. This shit does happen. Not often, but sometimes.
I’m not going to lie, I was confused and devastated.
BUT I DIDN’T GIVE UP ON THE STORY. ONE REJECTION DOESN’T MEAN SHIT.
I still thought I had something, and actually, this led to my stumbling onto HorrorTree. I can’t remember what I Googled, probably “bloody, violent, tasteless erotic horror submissions” or something like that. I told you it was pushing xxx. Regardless, HorrorTree popped up with the submission call for the anthology DOA2 from Blood Bound Books.
I think the date was July 31, but I might have that wrong. I do remember that the submission window closed the day I found it and I beat the deadline by minutes.
I read the description. BBB wanted extreme horror, no taboos. Perfect. I thought about my story, “A Scalene Love Triangle,” and even after those 50 hours and that discouraging lack of response, I had my doubts.
But I believe in moving before you are ready.
I sent the story in, and expected it to get its head taken off. I was getting used to form rejections, but every now and then publishers would give me a few comments. They usually aren’t wrong. Take their advice. (I’ll comment on this in part 2.)
I followed Blood Bound Books on Facebook and they occasionally posted gigantic names that they were including in DOA2. Jack Ketchum, J.F. Gonzalez, Wrath James White, Robert Devereaux and more. Every time I read a new announcement, my heart sank.
No fucking way I had a shot.
I was wrong.
September 1, 2012 around 11:30pm I got my email from BBB. They wanted my story. (I’m currently working on a non-fiction essay that captures the explosion of emotions that rocked me that night. It’s a cool story with several elements. Maybe I’ll post it here, or maybe somewhere else, but I don’t want to get too far off track.)
This story, that had been rejected without a word a few months ago, and with either no or minimal revision, I can’t remember, would now find itself at home with my favorite writer, Jack Ketchum, and several others that I’d been reading for years.
It was either Katie Holmes marrying Tom Cruise or a garage band opening up for Slipknot. Choose your own simile. I prefer Slipknot.
DOA2 will be out later in 2013 from Blood Bound Books with a stellar line up, including yours truly. Had I sold the story to the original contest, it would’ve been published for two months on a webzine, with few, if any recognizable names. It would also only be allowed to be published thereafter as a reprint, something a lot of publishers don’t want or pay much less for. Now, I’m getting paid, and sharing the stage with some of my favorites. If this Cinderella story carries on, maybe my story will even come just before or just after Mr. Ketchum’s story. Damn, that would be something.
And I’m guessing it will be cemented, available on Amazon until Lovecraft’s violent fish people reclaim the earth. A little more value there than two months online for free!
Outside of my first acceptance, that initial rejection is BY FAR the greatest thing that has happened in my writing career. Rejection sucks, but it’s not always a bad thing.
This is not a press release for that book. This blog is about rejection. This story should illustrate that one rejection is never enough.
This whole blog was setup by guess what?
After about 4 months in limbo, even surviving the first of a two round selection process, one of my favorite stories, and one of my “best” according to a few friends that I allow to read my work, got rejected last week. It hurt. I cried at least 3 tears, not a joke. That shit stung.
One reader friend, who is also a professional editor, told me that she couldn’t believe that it got rejected. I’m not arrogant, not even a little bit, but honestly, neither could I. I wasn’t expecting that.
But as I learned with “A Scalene Love Triangle,” when life throws you a curve ball, you find a way to mash that fucking thing out of the park.
I’ve strongly considered self-publishing my own collection for the last month or so, and with this rejection, my collection might have just found its backbone.
Remember my first blog? Shit into sugar? “A Scalene Love Triangle” is evidence. Hopefully this more recent rejection will be too.
I’ve got a lot more to say about rejection and if you’re a writer like me, you’re probably interested in hearing about how others deal with it. I realize that I talked about myself a lot here, but I think that everything I presented is relevant and beneficial most importantly, hopefully motivating to any aspiring writer. And last week I admitted I was kind of a whore…
I’d like to make this a two parter and talk a little more about general rejection in the second half.
If you’ve got experiences, ideas, or stories to share, I’d be happy to hear them and use them in part two. Rejection sucks and it’s something that all writers deal with all the time. Send whatever you’ve got to Kerry.firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll do my best not to reject you.
Keep reading, keep writing, and keep it real,
About the Author (Author Profile)
Kerry G.S. Lipp is a wannabe writer working hard to drop the wanna be part. He teaches English at a community college by evening and works as a civilian on a military base by night, and usually sleeps during the day. He’s not a big fan of the sun. His stories are currently available in the anthologies Lucha Gore and Under The Knife and several more will follow in 2013. His parents have started reading his stories and it appears that he is now out of the will. Follow him on Twitter @kerrylipp. You can read his short ‘Smoke’ at SNM Magazine.