Nobody likes me! Dealing with short story rejection

That’s what I got on Friday night.
After dinner with my in-laws, just before we left I went to the bathroom and checked my email and saw this:

Dear Mr. Hall,

Thank you for your submission. Unfortunately at this time, it does not meet our needs.


Slush Editor

For a moment, I was stunned. And then slowly progressed into feeling crushed.
The story that I had loved, conceptualized, written, cleaned up, edited, had numerous rounds of beta readers look over, and then finally mustered up my courage to send had been declared unfit. And the slush reader had done it with a form letter, no less.
My ego had just been sat upon… no, shat upon, by an elephant. My partner and I started the drive back to our house and halfway home, I broke the news to her.
“Oh no, that’s awful honey, I’m so sorry.”
“I just feel like it was a really good fit for that magazine, you know?”
“Maybe it just didn’t fit in with what they have planned for the next little bit…”
“That’s not something that slush readers usually are informed about. They’re kind of the first line against unsolicited submissions.”
“Yeah. They just decide whether something is ‘go’ or ‘no go’. So apparently to this person, this story was a ‘no go’.”

I tried not to let it get to me, not to erode some of the confidence that I had been feeling about this story. But there’s a lot that I have connected with this. After returning to writing in my 30’s, I feel the pressure of a ticking clock. I have goals and I work hard to achieve them.
But life also gets in the way. On top of that, I’ve had a long-standing battle with chronic depression that has the ability to drain the flavor from anything that I have passion for. This is what lead me to not even touch my first novel this year, to completely stop edits. It also killed my second novel midway through.
In the past couple months, I’ve been feeling a little better though, and I decided to pick through some old short stories that I had written and then set aside.
One was this one. And like a magic spell, I put all of my hopes and all of my intent into it as I put it out into the universe.
So I came home and tweeted this out:

And I got back some encouragement from some friends, which was all I really needed.

Here’s the thing, using the spell metaphor, this is among my first spells. I’m still a novice when it comes to threading my voice into the web of the world and making it change. If one of my threads is just slightly off, the spell won’t happen as intended. So no, while this post may have looked like a boo hoo pity party, it’s not. This is me saying, it’s okay. It’s one story and it was one market. I know every experienced writer out there is going to say, ‘so what? I eat rejections for breakfast!’ And my response is first, that’s a terrible breakfast, but secondly, that’s the attitude that every novice needs to have. And that’s why, early the following morning, I tweeted out this:

And it probably won’t be the last market I submit to for this particular story either. I’m hoping I get more than a form letter but I understand that magazines are overrun with folks like me. Folks who lob our thought-crap at them, and then look in dewy-eyed askance for acceptance.
So what am I doing? Writing another short story while I wait, lining up the next couple of markets (thanks to Duotrope for making it easy). And making plans for my novels, trying to get those behemoths rolling again.

Fyi: taking a little break

Fyi, for the folks who are interested, I’m taking a little rest from the pressure I usually put on myself to write, blog, edit, etc.

iPhone-BatteryIf you’re a writer reading this blog, I think you can sympathize with the amount of stress maintaining a full time job can be while also trying to be a productive writer. If you’re plugged into writer’s groups, or follow authors on twitter or reddit or wherever else, it can feel like you’re constantly falling behind. You start to get the impression that everyone is massively more professional and put together than you are. In the time that it took me to write and do the second draft of my first novel, I’ve watched other writers push through writing, edits, and publish more than one novel.

It’s easy to say you can’t compare yourself to others but putting that thinking into practice can be a difficult thing. After all, if you don’t have a yardstick, how can you measure your own progress? Nevertheless, I’m trying to challenge my own thinking on this. I understand that most of the people who I’m comparing myself to now are published authors who (for the most part) have made a career of their writing. That is their 40 hours+ a week. That I’m comparing myself at all to people in that caliber is a testament to how far I’ve progressed in a couple short years and I try to keep that front of mind.

This week, I put the finishing touches on my second draft and invited anyone who wanted access to be a beta reader for me. On Tuesday, I felt odd when sitting down at my desk in the morning. I didn’t have that story to read, polish, etc. anymore. It was out in the wild. I tried to start writing something else. I’ve plotted out three or four other stories to one degree or another while editing this book. But something didn’t feel right about doing that. I didn’t have the energy and enthusiasm that you really need at the beginning of a project to see it through.

So for that reason, I’m taking a little break. It’s only going to be for couple weeks but I feel like I need it to recharge the batteries and get myself back to full strength again.

In the meantime, if you would like a beta copy of my book and would be interested in giving me some feedback, please fill out the contact form here and tell me if you’d like a pdf, word, kindle or nook formatted file.

See you all soon!

Report back on 30 days of journaling

This morning was my 30th consecutive day of journaling. Every day, whether I wanted to or not, I got up and usually right after feeding the cat, sat down at my desk and got to work. I filled two moleskine journals and started a third, so I was much more prolific than when I used to write daily.

So, what did I get out of it? Was it worth it? And will I continue?journal

I’m actually surprised by how much came out of doing this. I’ve been editing my book for so long and I guess my creative side was just dying to get some work done. I created:

  • at least four story ideas (maybe more), one that could go into book-length
  • one comic book script idea
  • one and a half poems

So yeah, I’d say that it’s worth it. It’s worth waking up at 5:30 every weekday morning if I can be this productive. It’s worth giving my creativity an outlet, especially when I’m going through something more mechanical, like line edits. If I had managed to come up with even one story this would have been a worthwhile use of my time. That so much came from it was a pleasant surprise.

So yeah, I’m definitely going to keep this going.

The biggest challenge to the writing life: time

This past week, my stress level around writing has amped up quite a bit. It’s not even the writing that’s causing the problem per se, it’s the amount of energy I have for writing after I’ve gone to work for 8+ hours. Also, being able to get some work in shape to be considered for publishing would be nice. It’s just a slow going road with a full time job.

I know this is a constant problem with authors… even ones that are published and have book deals. When I see twitter posts like this one from Seanan McGuire, it makes me wonder if I’m cut out for the constant demands of simultaneously providing for family and satisfying the desire to write. I can’t imagine not writing, but I also wonder how long I can keep this pace up before I burn out and can’t write.

And holy cow, don’t even get me started on reading. Right now, sadly, I’m reading about one book every two weeks.

The solutions as I see it are as follows from best to worst ideas:

  1. Wake up earlier (and go to bed earlier) – I get a lot done in the mornings, so this is a desirable thing. Right now I go to bed around 11:30/12 and wake up around 6:15. Maybe if I went to bed around 10 or 10:30 then I could get up around 5?
  2. Sleep less – I average about 6.5 hours a night and it’s already not enough.
  3. Have less relaxing time – hard for me to stomach. I’m on a schedule now where I sit at a desk for 10 to 12 hours a day. Not taking an hour after dinner to just do nothing feels very challenging.
  4. Have a pillow to scream into every 27 minutes.
  5. Quit my job – screw all responsibility!

What do you do to make more time in your life for writing? I’m especially interested in responses from  folks who have to work full time or have children that they care for full time.


Paring down – attempting to build a new life

My partner Juliette’s computer is coming to the end of its life. It’s never had a very good fan but now it’s wheezing worse than an octogenarian walking the wrong way on an escalator. Which is fine, we got a solid 5 years of use out of it, about what I expect when I go in buying a new computer.

It makes me excited because I’ve been trying to get her on a Mac for ages now, so that we can finally transition to an all-Mac household. Yeah, I hear some of your ocular organs rolling wildly in their sockets out there. To you dear, sirs and ma’ams I say good day. I used PCs for years and even intentionally chose to have a mixed menu of different devices for a long time. Now, I like the convenience that having a one OS ecosystem provides. I’m not saying it will last forever but I do like the benefits right now.

All of this is to say that lately, my partner has been warming up to the idea of switching from her Dell Studio to a MacBook Pro. Specifically my MacBook Pro that I just got last year. What would I be using? Well, I’m toying with the idea of switching from the Pro to an Air. My day job requires me to do a lot of web design, coding and project managing. It’s fine work and hey, it pays my bills, bonus. However, when I get home, I’m writing. I’m rarely, if ever, using any of the processor heavy programs that I used to use for freelance work. If I do need to edit photos, I’m just as likely to use something basic (and free) like Pixlr. I’ve already made the switch to using TextWrangler for editing web pages, rather than the super-bloated Dreamweaver. My podcast sort of fizzled out a couple months ago, so no audio editing needed. Aside from a web browser, my most frequently used program is Scrivener. And if that’s all I’m really using, then I’ve got a severely overpowered laptop for the work I need it to do. Juliette would benefit from that power, though. She’s got a strong need in her line of work for a CAD program, which can be among the most processor intensive programs around (other than online gaming, which thankfully for our budget, neither of us are into).

So it’s time to pare down, let some of the excess processor power go to someone who can use it. I’m writing. And I’m doing it with an eye towards building a life where I am a writer.