Been there, done that

New writers agonise about rejections. I’ve been doing this long enough to know that I average about one sale per ten submissions, so I try not to get too hopeful about any one story. I send them out, and they get rejected I tell myself that’s 10% of a sale and I send them out again somewhere else. I keep doing that until either they sell or I run out of possible markets. Plus I usually have at least five stories out at any one time (at the moment it’s nine), so when one story comes back I have plenty of others to feel optimistic about.

That’s the theory. Most of the time it’s the reality too. But lately I had one particular story I was hopeful about. I thought it was one of the best stories I’ve ever written, and perfect for this market that I’ve been trying to gatecrash for twelve years. And last week they rejected it. And I got another rejection the same day.

Been there before, done that, got a wardrobe full of T shirts. As per usual, I blasphemed, took a deep breath, and started thinking of alternative markets.

I already have a story at alternative market #1. So after some head-scratching I came up with alternative market #2. Now I haven’t bought that magazine for some time, and magazines do change format. Maybe they used to print 1,000-word stories but now they want 1,200 or 700 words. Chat went from buying 800-word stories to using several tiny stories of exactly 60 words. (And they bought one of mine. See ) So I bought a copy of alternative market #2 and looked at the story.

The story’s heroine was the same age as mine. Great. Her basic problem was similar to mine. Even better. Most magazines like stories with heroines that the readers can identify with, you see. So they tend to be superficially similar.

The story’s heroine dealt with the problem in a similar way.


Although the endings are completely different, and I think my story’s better (well I would, wouldn’t I?) there is now no chance that alternative market #2 will buy my story. It’s just too similar to the one they just published.

Oh well. Been there before, done that. Blaspheme, take a deep breath, and start thinking of somewhere else. Better yet, go and write something else. It’s the best way to improves, after all.

Posted by sheila

Sheila came to La Palma with a six month contract and has stayed 24 years so far. She used to work as a software engineer at the observatory, but now she's a writer and Starlight guide.

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