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Submission, Rejection, and Success

Letter from Farnsworth Wright, editor of Weird...

Letter from Farnsworth Wright, editor of Weird Tales, to Robert E. Howard, rejecting the first three Conan the Barbarian stories, although suggesting a re-write for one of them. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Writers live and prosper by sending material out to publishers, magazines—print and online—and freelancing. Anyone who’s spent time around a writer picks up that working reality.

After April’s writing challenges wound down on the 30th, May was ushered in with a group challenge to submit at least one poem, story, article, etc. each day for the month of May. Many of us groaned at the thought of such a challenge. Others took the reins in their teeth and charged ahead like their hair was on fire.

I’m one of those on fire. My reasons may be a bit different than some, especially those who submit on a regular basis. I’ve been trying to get one piece out each week for several months.

Suddenly I’ve been dared to find something, create something, modify something and get it out before bedtime each day. Finally, a serious dare that will help me create a habit that’s beneficial to my future.

In the first three days, I sent out one story and two packets of poems. I haven’t worked on today’s material yet, though I’ve decided what it will be. The story is ready and the market selected.

In the past three days, the story was rejected, as was one of the packets of poems. **Some editors are really quick. **

Not to be discouraged, I keep sending things out. Why? Because that’s what writers do; we send out our work until somebody buys it.

I read an article a few weeks back about rejection slips. The author talked about enjoying each one as it arrived; using it as wallpaper around one’s desk; and knowing, each time he glimpsed it, that he’d come that much further in the writing game.

I’ve thought about that philosophy this week as my inbox gathers virtual pink slips, and I’ve decided that he’s right. Without sending my work to publishers and magazines, I can’t count myself as a writer. Each time I receive that little rejection, it’s a signal that I’ve gained more confidence in my abilities.

It’s a flag of honor, knowing that someone read what I sent. The editor may or may not have sent a personal note with the rejection—I had that personal note on the story, and a form rejection on the poetry, so I’m batting 500, which is great. I can see each rejection as a success in its own right.

I’d submitted something to someone. It had been read and understood. It may not have fit the editor’s needs at that moment, but I’d succeeded in taking the risk.

In the case of the story, the editor told me how much he enjoyed my writing and would like to see more of it. Guess who’s getting my next effort. That editor’s note was definitely a successful rejection.

When using that philosophy each day, I’ve had one success so far that first day, albeit a small one for some, but a big one for me.

I wrote. I submitted each day. And I went back for more.

I’ve now established a minor relationship with an editor who likes how I write. I know what he wants now and that I can fill that need. If I hadn’t sent a piece that was rejected, I wouldn’t have that connection now. It doesn’t mean that I can slide or coast. It means I get a good shot at acceptance in a paying market.

This habit of daily marketing will take the month to establish. I don’t mind the wait. The time allows me to rework my editorial calendar, polish old pieces that need airing, and generally learn and practice more of my craft. That is the best success of all.



  1. May 4, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    Claudette: Really good article here. I love your spirit of being positive with the rejections. You are 100% correct – – can not call yourself a writer unless you send stuff out. It’s part of the business. Good luck with your May challenge. If you have the fire, may it burn you ever so pleasantly as deliciously as pico de gallo.

    • claudsy
      May 4, 2012 at 8:59 pm

      Ah, thanks, Amanda. I’ve been fortunate to have plenty in backlog so that I can concentrate on so many other daily issues. Then again, perhaps I have so much in backlog because I’ve not been tending enough to business. What do you think?

      Personally, I don’t think this challenge could have come at a better time for me. I needed the shove to get me more motivated about sharing.

      Glad you stopped by, Amanda. See you again soon.

  2. May 4, 2012 at 10:05 pm

    Loved when you said, “I succeeded in taking the risk.” That truly is the point, isn’t it?

    • claudsy
      May 4, 2012 at 10:27 pm

      Thanks, Sheila. Yes, it really is the point of what we do. We risk everything–or think we do–each time we punch that “SEND” button. Succeeding is really only completing the circle you began with the first word on the page.

  3. May 5, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    It’s nice to connect to another writer familiar with writer rejection. Keep on writing!

    • claudsy
      May 5, 2012 at 4:23 pm

      Thanks. I’m trying each day now, which is more than I’d managed up to now. I’m hoping to get a wall papered before long. As soon as I do, I’ll post about it; maybe even take a pic of it.

      All we can do is write, otherwise where will our thoughts congregate?

  4. May 6, 2012 at 12:51 am

    I’m not even *thinking* about sending something out until I actually have a completed novel to send.

    • claudsy
      May 6, 2012 at 1:18 am

      Each of us must do what’s right for us. If you only work in novels, then you’d be foolish to do otherwise, Liz. For those of us who write poetry, short stories, essays, and the lot, submission is a weekly endeavor.

      I wish you speed on your novel.

      • May 6, 2012 at 9:18 am

        I’ve written some short stories before, too, and constantly wonder if what I write is just a series of short stories.

        Regardless, I don’t think any of it is ready for official publication, but we’ll see how it goes. 🙂 (The idea of actually publishing is fairly terrifying to me, for some reason.)

      • claudsy
        May 6, 2012 at 10:23 am

        Liz, there are many writers who do just what you’re talking about. They take short stories written in series, using the same characters and create collections. This is especially true for younger readers or those who are constantly on the go and don’t have hours to spend with a book.

        I think you may have the beginnings of a book, if that’s how you write short stories. Why not? No one says every story must be 200 pages long. Besides, I’d think that’s how novel series began back in the old pulp fiction days.

        I say, go for it as it works for you. We don’t all have to be grinding away at the keyboard on the same stuff all the time. That would make for very bored readers and writers.

        You’re doing just fine as you are. I think that’s great. Keep it up.

  5. May 6, 2012 at 9:20 am

    Also, I disagree with the idea that one -must- at least publish to be a “writer”. I write all the time…on my blog, on stories, on whatever. To me, that’s what it means to be a writer: To express yourself creatively through the written word. 🙂

    Perhaps I’ll publish one day, perhaps not. But either way, I’m still a writer. ^_^

    • claudsy
      May 6, 2012 at 10:35 am

      But Liz, you publish each time you click that little button on the “new post” page of your blog. I can’t fault you for your personal definition of “writer.” Far from it.

      Each of us who takes the time to put words on paper to express how we experience the world or how we’d like to see the world evolve or be experienced, is a writer to one degree or another.

      For me, personally, writing is something that is shared with others. Whether I’m talking about the latest in writer software or how I broke an ankle while feeding the chickens, it’s all done with the same purpose.

      You are no less a writer than I am. I haven’t sold a novel yet. That doesn’t mean I won’t or that readers won’t like it. It doesn’t mean that the essays I write or the travel articles are less important or worthy than the novel I haven’t gotten finished yet, either. It simply means that for me, I like variety.

      You’re doing short stories and a blog, and writing a novel. All of that helps define you as a writer. I can’t argue with that. A long time ago I read that “Writer” is the label we place on ourselves when we can’t stop ourselves from putting words on paper. I think we both qualify under that definition, don’t you?

      • May 6, 2012 at 4:55 pm

        I guess I was just confused by your statement of how you don’t feel like a “real” writer until you’ve published yet. Ah well. lol

        I’ve been working on the same story for over ten years. It started when I was in college. It grew and expanded in some rather off-beat ways. It’s just a really weird world, and I’m just not sure how well-received it would be by the general public. Or editors. But, we’ll see what happens. 🙂 (The characters feel like literal off-shoots of my personality. I’m relatively sure that if I was schizophrenic, these would be the other personalities that would emerge. lol )

      • claudsy
        May 6, 2012 at 6:16 pm

        I believe that all of our characters are mere aspects of our inner selves. You’re not alone. I have some pretty wigged-out characters myself.

        For me, I must submit and publish. I do define myself as much by what I write as to how many read it. It’s a personal quirk. We’re writers. We’re entitled to quirky.

        Glad your WIP is progressing. The only way to know how off the wall it is is by having someone else read it. Then you can proceed much faster. At least, that’s how it works for me.

  6. K.L. Gore
    May 6, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    Thanks for the wordpress pingback, Claudsy. I’m always interested in what others have to say about rejection. I’ve never enjoyed rejection slips, and I don’t think I ever will. Sure, it means I’m sending out my work–a badge of honor in a way–but it is always a reminder that it didn’t appeal to an editor. I do always appreciate when an editor (or agent) responds back with a personal note. That person has taken the time to let you know they see you on a personal level. And that means a lot to a writer. Great post!

    • claudsy
      May 6, 2012 at 5:38 pm

      Thanks, K.L. It’s taken me quite a while to get to appreciate those little slips as something other than a flag of failure. It does take time, and it takes a change in one’s perception of success, as well. Hope you have a great week coming with lots of acceptances. I hope to see you around here again.

      • K.L. Gore
        May 6, 2012 at 8:01 pm

        Thanks, Claudsy. I’ll check back time to time. Thanks!

  7. May 6, 2012 at 8:47 pm

    This is a great post as usual, Claudsy. My problem is producing a piece every day to submit to a publisher. This is where I need more confidence.Nonfiction takes research, interviews, and involvement with the world. Fiction takes an imagination to be left over after substitute teaching all day, observation, and sometimes a little research. The summer is coming and there will be no substitute teaching. Last summer I used finances as an excuse to stay penned up in my appartment as well as working on submissions for ICL and LWRG, as well as two free classes from Universal Class through the library on freelancing, copyediting, and proofreading. This summer I need to develop a plan.

    • claudsy
      May 6, 2012 at 8:54 pm

      Val, I totally understand. I’ve been scratching my head all day as to where I’m going to sub today and what. I’ll find something about ten o’clock tonight and throw it out there. I’ve been too busy to get anything else done today, and still have a guest post to do.

      So long as the effort is there, If figure I’ve still won the game for another day. If you’re like me, the days all blur together until someone mentions that I have to get ready for whatever event is on the calendar. SURPRISE! That’s when I begin to panic. Where did that week go?

      Good luck with your endeavors this coming week.

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