You’ve finished that short story. You’re sure it’s ready. You send it off into the world. It comes back void.
You let it sit. You read, you write. You question your life choices. You pull the story down and edit with new eyes. You start to submit. You are developing thick skin.
You wash and rinse. Repeat.
I don’t know of any shortcuts. I asked the #WritingCommunity folks on Twitter how many rejections they have in their Submittable accounts. The answer was almost always hundreds. You have to keep going. You have to edit. You have to re-see your own work. You have to keep submitting.
We all know the folk definition of insanity, but we keep going.
Well, for one thing, it’s not like we can stop. You know what I mean.
But we can, as people say, fail better.
We can read more. We can do a better job reading what’s already out there. Not to copy, not to steal, but to be better writers. To be more patient, empathetic. To cut ourselves some slack.
Most journals say to read an issue or two before submitting to get a feeling for who they are and what they publish. The idea isn’t for you to reverse engineer your work. It’s to help you see if you’re a fit, which, among other things, can damper disappointment. Of course, if you really don’t like the things a given journal tends to publish, you’ll have to decide if it makes sense for you to submit there. Editors change, tastes change, and maybe you’re doing something novel. But go into the submissions process knowing what to expect (hundred, maybe thousands, of rejections) and realizing that there are many brilliant, brilliant writers working just as hard as you are.
With that said, The Summerset Review offers a recommended reading list that not only helps writers know if their work might be a fit, but also curates the craft in general. Reading deeply and widely always helps.
In the time it took me to write this, I got a new rejection. It won’t be the last. And that’s okay.
We could do easier things, but that’s not really who we are.