All right, so it’s happened. I’ve hit that important milestone, and received the first ever rejection letter of my writing career, this one for a short work I put forward for an anthology a couple of months back. Moreover, in the hours since the publisher’s email arrived in my inbox, I’ve reached a better understanding as to the challenges associated with submitting to collections.
I don’t mean I found out that having your story turned down feels rather like entrusting your beloved puppy to the care of someone else, only to have that someone cruelly turf poor, defenseless Fido onto the street. Nor am I referring to the discovery that reading a rejection is akin to sending your ego into a boxing ring to endure several rounds with Mike Tyson, from which it will inevitably emerge battered and bruised and in dire need of chocolate and bolstering words.
I’m not even talking about the fact that being rejected seems to me to be fate’s idea of a test, designed to ascertain whether authors has the determination and mental grit to pick themselves up off the floor and carry on. No, the main thing my first rejection has taught me is that having a story accepted for an anthology is perhaps even tougher than when submitting a novel.
This isn’t to say that having a novel accepted is a walk in the park. Still, presuming you have a great plot, which you’ve edited and polished until the prose shines, and it happens to be a good fit for the publisher you’re propositioning, you’re in with a fighting chance of receiving a contract. Until last night, I thought the same principle applied to shorts for anthologies. However, what I didn’t stop to consider were all the other factors an editor has to take into account.
Obviously the quality of the story is still paramount. Yet, with regards to anthologies, an editor has so many other elements to weigh up—the length of the stories and of the overall collection; choosing a range of styles and genres; how the individual pieces slot together to form a whole. So, even if you have a story that you feel to be both engaging and well-written, this is far from a guarantee that it will be selected. For whatever reason, it just might not belong with the anthology in its entirety. The key, I suppose, is not to view it as a reflection on your writing. Just take it on the chin and move forward.
With this in mind, it’s time to put the experience of my first rejection behind me and continue the search to find the perfect home for my story.
Onwards and upwards!