Submitting stories has been my kryptonite for a long time. For years. At first, this was because I didn’t have any short stories to submit and novels just take so damn long to finally have a piece ready to go. Then I started writing short stories and still didn’t submit anything. They weren’t good enough, or they never seemed right for any market, or I didn’t know any markets, or I knew they could be better somehow so I never even tried. And of course, there’s the ubiquitous fear of rejection.
I’m a queen of procrastination, as my grandmother often told me. And excuses. And getting in my own way.
To be fair, those stories weren’t ready. I really am better off not having more stories available in the world that make me want to blush and hide and claim no relation.
A part of me was waiting for some miraculous, serendipitous discovery. For someone to just hand me a successful writing career and all my wildest dreams. I cringe about it now (I cringed about it then, but still never took a more active role), the gross privilege and learned entitlement and the utter joke that was (is) my naïveté.
On the other hand, the general disgust at my own inaction helped birth some healthy coping mechanisms for the inevitable rejections–those writerly rites of passage. Every time I get one, I celebrate it as tangible proof I did the thing. I took ownership of my dreams and (hopeful) career and made steps toward them in the ways I can control. Turning around to send it out again somewhere else is my favorite way to celebrate.
Most years, I’ve counted myself lucky to send out three or four submissions in a year. If there is a mystical number of rejections required before a writing career can take off, I’ll never reach it at that rate.
Then, 2020. I wrote off the hell year of 2020 early on. Or maybe I just pretended to because I kept going; I had to.
I got myself a cheering group in August (more on that in another post), then somehow sent out nine short story submissions and a novel query before the end of the year.
Two flash pieces ended up on The Word Count Podcast (ep 99 & ep 100–the final episodes!). Of the seven other short story submissions, I had four form rejections and two personalized rejections (for the first time ever!). One of those personalized rejections was even that holy grail invitation to revise and resubmit.
Again, I say: what.
If you notice that my math doesn’t quite work out, that’s because I’m still waiting to hear back on one of those subs.
Oh. And that novel query? Also garnered a rejection with feedback and…an invitation to revise and resubmit.
Rejections–even with a revise/resub invitation–are still a long way from publication, but personal rejections are a major level up from where I’ve been. When I’ve actually submitted stories.
So what’s changed? In the case of one story I’ve been sending out for years now, nothing except my name. (Another case where that’s a whole other post.) But my writing has improved. I look at stories four or five years old and feel sorry for anyone I inflicted them on. Still, it seems that the only real reason is that some indefinable, impersonal wave has turned in my direction to give me hope.
Whether it moves beyond hope to actuality, obviously, remains to be seen.
I generally subscribe to the idea that putting intentions out to the universe helps me realize them (it worked for Octavia Butler), even–perhaps especially–when there are elements I can’t control. Like whether or not a market accepts my story for publication.
Actually submitting stories seems like a pretty good place to start putting those intentions out to the universe, doesn’t it?
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