Fear. The knotting of the stomach. Clenching…sickness. Some people do it for fun. But we’re not adrenaline junkies, are we? No. We’re authors.
The fear begins with submission.
Is it good enough? We all ask ourselves that question. More often, when I write short stories these days, I write targeted work for specific calls. Perhaps someone has reached out to me and requested I submit, sometimes I submit work for charity, others I take on because of the publishing house, others, just because. But when the work is finished, I pause for thought. Is it good enough?
The story is written—told—I’ve cut the head from the snake—likely more than once—and fused new parts on, new characters. I have mercilessly cut the fluff. Rebuilt. I have forged the best possible story that I can. But still I hesitate. Why? Why did I get as far as writing the submission email? Why did I get as far as filling out the Submittable form if this piece is not good enough?
Perhaps I should re-write? I can strip it back further. I can make it better.
But I don’t need to. I need to stop trying.
Truly, my work—your work—is likely good enough if you fear that it isn’t. Sure, I’ve read work that that the author thinks is good, and yes, I’m pretty sure it sucks. But take a look at yourself before you judge your work. Do you fear that it’s not good enough? When you receive a rejection do you curl up in pain and wonder if you’ll ever be good enough?
If you do, then likely your work is good enough.
If you know your work has fault, address it.
The only thing we have to fear is fear itself – FDR
And in this case, fear itself is facing Judgement. Judgement by someone you don’t know.
Fear of rejection.
The fear is that we will be judged poorly. Someone will say that our work is not for them, and that is a clear reflection of the quality of the material. But it doesn’t have to be. Rejections are as guaranteed as the sun rising. But there are many reasons for a publishing company to reject work that don’t involve the quality at all.
Rejection comes in many ways and for many different reasons. And many authors have never been behind the scenes of a publishing house. They don’t know the process, or indeed, the numbers. Most open calls receive hundreds, sometimes thousands, of submissions. If that’s a novel call they’ll likely be looking to make ten or less of those successful. An anthology? Twenty? Twenty-five?
The numbers are immediately stacked against the author.
The rejection will either set you straight and leave you nothing to fear or push you further towards the edge. You have to read the rejection. Learn from it. Read between the lines.
Most publishers don’t outright lie to you in the rejection letter. They’re people too. They don’t want to give you false hope. Honestly, if they think your writing is broken they’ll likely tell you. But how often does that happen? Look at your last rejection. What does it say? Doesn’t fit? Doesn’t quite meet the market they are looking at right now? Yes, it’s a rejection. But no, there is no reason to fear it.
And better yet, what of all the good rejections (I hear you scoff)? If the rejection says something like, “but please consider submitting to us again,” you’ve scored. They like you. They like your writing. It may just be…
…that your story didn’t fit.
Embrace the rejection, it’s part of the writing. It will help you learn. You can learn market trends and publisher’s strategies. You can learn to be a stronger author without changing your writing.
Embrace the fear.
Learn from it.Mark Taylor’s debut novel, Shutter Speed, crash landed on planet earth in 2013. Its dark brooding style benchmarked his writing and has led to further releases of novel and short story collection alike.
While most of Mark’s work is macabre, occasion has it that he will write about kittens and daisies. Just not very often.
Some say he is a product of his environment, others, a product of his own imagination.
Whichever it is he works happily, portraying dark existences on this planet and others. He relays his fears and doubts on his characters, so always has a smile. If Mark is real, as some say he is, you might find him in England.
You can learn more about Mark over at authormarktaylor.com.
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- Taking Submissions: A Monster Told Me Bedtime Stories - January 23, 2020
- Taking Submissions: One Story - January 22, 2020
- Ongoing Submissions: Public Domain Fanzine - January 22, 2020
- Taking Submissions: Best Vegan SFF of the year (Reprints Only) - January 21, 2020
- Ongoing Submissions: Infinite Worlds Magazine - January 21, 2020
- Taking Submissions: Guardians of Time - January 20, 2020
- Taking Submissions: Horror USA: Alaska - January 20, 2020
- Taking Submissions: Twenty Twenty - January 17, 2020