March 01, 2018
Today I’d like to talk a little about the subjectivity of the writing world. And not simply about our individual tastes in what we enjoy reading, fiction, and non fiction alike, and what we consider to be “good writing.”
It’s impossible to deny that subjectivity exists. Just go read a 1 star review of your favourite book and a 5 star review of one you detested. It’s this personal taste that accounts for the wide variety of styles and genres out in the world. And variety is what makes the world an interesting place.
The subjectivity I’m talking about here is far more personal, and something each writer who is brave enough to send their words out into the world experiences. I’m talking about the subjectivity of the person, editor, agent, publisher who receives those words.
A few years back I attended a panel at the Surrey International Writer’s Conference. Five brave authors discussed the number of rejections they’d received before they finally found their agent/publisher. The first few described their thirty-five, forty, and even sixty rejections. Then the last author spoke and told us she would win this competition hands down. (Yes, author’s actually do that, have competitions to see who gets the most rejections. We’re odd like that. lol) She received ninety-nine rejections before her novel was picked up on the one hundredth submission. On a side note, that book has since gone on to win multiple awards.
What strikes me the most about these stories, is that not one of those authors GAVE UP! Not even after dozens and dozens of rejections. You could ask pretty much any author/writer out there and I’m sure they would be happy to share stories of countless rejections.
I’m very blessed to be running at 45% acceptances for my short fiction and narrative non-fiction. This includes some having made it through several cuts before finally being rejected. I’ve had 23 acceptances and 51 rejections, I’m not exactly a prolific submitter. Too busy revising. lol
Sadly, I’m at 100% rejections for my first novel. (I only sent out 20 submissions before pulling it for revision.) I presently have one agent waiting for my revisions, and four more reading my full manuscript. Although my fingers crossed that at least one of them loves it enough to offer representation, it’s more likely I will encounter many more rejections before this project finds a home.
The very first narrative non-fiction piece I wrote was rejected six times before it was finally published. And they paid me. Which, considering that all of the other publications which rejected me didn’t offer payment, is pretty darned sweet.
This past summer a short story I’d submitted a few times and which was rejected each time, won first place in a respected national contest. This morning I received yet another rejection, this one for a flash piece I’d written. This afternoon, that same story made the long list in a contest I’d entered last month.
Subjectivity at its finest, and one more reason I won’t be giving up anytime soon.
When I reach 100 rejections, (I’m getting close to 60 if you count all my short pieces,) I’m having a party to celebrate. Because even though it sucks to be rejected, it also means I’m putting my words out there, and in the end, that’s the only way to succeed.
I have to admit, being successful on occasional is rather nice, and helps numb the pain of all those rejections. Thank you to Chicken Soup for the Soul for picking up my narrative non-fiction piece, Maddie and the Invisible Raccoons this past summer, and for paying me handsomely for those words.
Rejections or not, I’m so incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to pursue this passion of mine.
To all my writing friends out there working their way through the slush piles. Have faith, keep submitting, please. Your words will find a home, but only if you don’t give up.