At the start of each year, I set myself some aims for the next year; and this year, I want to publish more short stories. That, in turn, means that I need to write the stories, and then I need to submit them.
The problem with submitting stories on spec is that on the way to acceptance, you are more than likely to face a big stack of rejections. As a writer, one has to come to grips with that, and with not allowing it to bother you (…too much). I’ve been writing and submitting short stories for a few years now, so I’m reasonably good at that part.
Reasonably good. It still kind of sucks, got to admit it; and I have a bad habit of, once I’ve received a rejection email, sitting on the story for a while before I get around to sending it anywhere else. This way, I can avoid the thought of facing another rejection for a bit longer. The downside is that the story takes longer to find its home, and that the rejection email sits there in my inbox (to remind me to resubmit, you see) and stares at me for longer. Neither of these things are particularly useful.
So this year, I am trying a new solution. This year, my first short story related goal is to get 50 rejections. Because you’ve got to send things out to get acceptances, and sending things out means getting rejections, therefore, logically, you’ve got to get rejections to get acceptances. (Slightly worryingly, this is almost exactly what I was told during the three days I once spent doing door-to-door textbook sales in the US, back when I was a student. I was very, very bad at door-to-door sales, and also I really, really hated it, which is why I only lasted three days. But one of the things they told us was that you average ten doors for every sale, so every rejection was one step closer to that tenth door and the sale. My suspicion is that bursting into tears halfway through one’s own sales pitch makes that ratio considerably worse, but I digress.)
In any case, I hoped that this would make me feel better about a rejection, because every rejection means another tick in the box towards that goal of fifty. Turns out, it’s been working surprisingly well. I am not going to claim that I am happy about the rejection, per se, but it definitely takes the edge off the disappointment. It is good to know oneself, and I am definitely the sort of person who is enthused by ticky boxes.
That goal also plays well with my next one, to resubmit within 24 hours. Because if I sit on the story for a week every time, I’m going to get through fewer rejections, right? Much better to get it out there and be waiting for that next email towards my fifty. And again, this has worked surprisingly well in terms of taking the angst out of resubmitting. I spend less time putting it off, because I want to get that 24-hour-turnaround ticky box.
My final short story goal is the most obvious one: to write another ten stories. I need something to get rejections for, after all.
The thing is: all three goals are within my control, rather than anyone else’s. Writing the stories, getting them out there, keeping on getting them out there. I want acceptances; but I can’t control those, beyond writing the best stories I can and hoping for a good editorial fit. Rejections, on the other hand, are far easier to come by.
And, okay, fine, I’m kind of hoping that I get enough acceptances, quickly enough, that I run out of stories before I make it to fifty. But if I do manage fifty this year — and I’m on target so far with fourteen to date! — I’ll damn well celebrate that.
Juliet Kemp lives in London with their partners, child, and dog. Their fantasy novel “The Deep And Shining Dark” (Elsewhen Press) and their YA SF novella “A Glimmer Of Silver” (Book Smugglers) both came out in 2018, and their short fiction has appeared in various places. In their free time, they go bouldering, tend their towering to-be-read pile, and get over-enthusiastic about fountain pens. They can be found at http://julietkemp.com, or as @julietk on Twitter.