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Thursday, April 03, 2014

THE ABC'S OF HOW 'NOT' to WRITE SPECULATIVE FICTION: R is for REJECTION

I'M JUMPING BRIEFLY TO THE LETTER 'R' BECAUSE I just finished my first pass at the On Spec slush pile, and ended up rejecting nearly three quarters of the stories I read. My fellow editors have done (or are doing) the same. We're about to read all those stories that each of us has recommended for the others to read, and when we're done, we'll be rejecting more, and buying only a few.

I know this is a depressing thought, especially if you're one of the writers we've rejected. So why am I penning this post? Because I've also been rejected in the past, and I know how much it sucks. I hate rejection so much that I want to give you my take on it. Hopefully, what I say may help you, too.

Until you've mastered the basics of writing - character, plot, dramatic tension, and all of those pertinent elements that I've been talking about in the ABC's and in my Letters to the Slush Pile, you're going to keep getting rejection letters because in some way, your story is flawed. However, if you keep honing your craft, there will come a time when your technique is no longer the issue. The depressing thing is, even then, your work may still be rejected.

Instead of tearing your hair out by the roots, let's step back for a moment and save your scalp. One of the things I adore about this universe of ours, is its diversity. Unfortunately, at the 'you and me' level, diversity is also something many of us don't like. It translates into differences, and differences make us uncomfortable. When our writing reflects who we are, what we like, and what we believe, we're going to run into others who don't agree or appreciate the same things.

Which is a long-winded way of talking about editorial bias. And since editors are people, too (yes, really) they also have ideas about what works and what doesn't - for them.

So the next time your work is rejected, take a deep breath and realize it's as much about the editor as it is about you. Pat yourself on the back, because it takes strength to put a rejection into perspective and to keep up the faith. Not everyone may appreciate your efforts, but hopefully, you'll find more than a few who do.

- Susan.

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