Saturday, February 22, 2014

100 Rejections

A few days ago, I reached my personal goal of 100 rejections. I set this goal a while back as a way to embrace the fear inherent in submitting my work and take the sting out of rejections. I made a rule that all the submissions had to be in good faith, of course, to count towards my total. The 100 rejections represents a number of different pieces of writing, from novels to short stories to poems to picture books, so it's really still a drop in the bucket of what I know I must reach when you play the numbers game. However, I see it as an important milestone. And I plan on celebrating, though I'm not sure how just yet.

As writers, we need to set goals, goals we can control. I can't control what an editor or agent ultimately decides to do with my work, so I don't want to set a goal like "sell this many short stories" or "get an agent by such-and-such date." I CAN control how good the work is, how I decide which pieces to send where, how often I submit, how much I write. I can set a goal like "finish the revisions on this novel by such-and-such date" or "submit this many queries by the end of the year." I figured the only way to reach 100 rejections was to keep submitting, so really my goal was to keep submitting my work. And I did.

I wish I could say that along with these rejections I had some huge and monumental successes. Not yet. On the other hand, I did have some small but notable successes. I sold three short stories. I had a few pieces shortlisted. I had one agent and one publisher  who were incredibly complimentary of my novel. I had several pieces win recognition in contests of one sort or another. All of these kept me going.

Reaching any goal, no matter how silly or small, is a good time to stop and take stock. So, having reached my 100 rejections, I am taking stock. Where do I want to go from here? How do I want to push myself? What is a realistic goal? I know I want to finish the first draft of my dreamscape novel and finish the rewrites on what I'm calling my problem novel. I know I want to continue to create NEW short stories, to improve my "inventory" for submissions. I know I need to get better at the all-important and hated query letter. But what about a goal to push me to keep on submitting and not give up?

If I try for 200 rejections, maybe I'm giving myself too much permission to fail. Perhaps this time, I will set a goal for number of submissions. My 100 rejections represent 127 submissions. Those that weren't rejections and didn't result in an award (honorable mention, 2nd place, semifinalist) or a sale, are ones with no response yet, and perhaps no response ever. So, maybe my new goal will be 250 submissions. That seems like a nice round number. 123 to go.

What are your goals?  How would you celebrate 100 rejections and the determination, tough skin and hard work they represent?

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