It's anniversary time! I just received my 200th short story rejection since I started submitting back in June 2004. Surprisingly, I'm feeling great about it. It's an achievement, a milestone, another step on the road to... well, wherever this writing road leads.
If anyone had told me that I would have to go this long without making a sale to a professional venue, I probably would have dropped this whole writing adventure long ago. But if anyone told me now that it could very well take between another decade and infinity to become an established writer, I would nod, grit my teeth, and get back to the keyboard.
What happened in those six years of writing to change that attitude?
First, I've discovered that I have stories to tell. I had something to say before I started submitting short stories -- I wrote a 200.000 word novel while I was in the university. However, short story writing has taught me a lot about the themes and ideas I like to work with. They're manifold, varied, and need casts of very different characters. They highlight both the dark and light aspects of life, and I'm glad to say I've written both humorous and pitch-black stories.
Learning that I had a hidden depository of stories and characters inside me has made me go about the writing business with more tenacity and hope than I'd otherwise have mustered. If one story hasn't worked out, another has always taken over and convinced me it should be written. I guess you could say, I couldn't help myself.
Second, I've had a great deal of encouragement along the way. A lot of that comes from fellow writers (Thank you, f-list, Critters, face-to-face group!) Neither can I leave out the letters I've had from many different editors, who read and commented on their rejections, and sometimes even bought and printed my stories. I've also seen a generally rising degree of enthusiasm in both the critique I've had and the letters from the editors, and that has given me a feeling of flow and progress.
Of course, achieving that sense of flow is tricky stuff. Sometimes you don't seem to move at all. Some of my stories have had suggestions for revisions from five different editors, all of them addressing different areas that didn't work. At other times I've been able to work through a sales draught of thirty or more consecutive rejections because of a single sale or the kudos of being a finalist in the Writers of the Future.
That's why I find 200 rejections is such a great time to look back at the road I've traveled so far. Then it doesn't matter as much that the road up the mountain is still long and steep.
Anyone else care to share why they keep writing? I'd love to hear it :-)