Still, receiving nothing but rejections from editors is sort of a lousy feeling, and to make things worse, I’ve almost entirely been receiving form rejections. For a while there, I felt like I had reached a point where, even though I still got rejected way more than I got accepted, I received mostly personal rejections, and when the rejections were form, they were usually the higher tier form rejections (the ones that state they thought your piece was good and they want to read more from you).
Ever since I had to start over with a whole new set of stories (because all of my other stories had either been published in journals, published in my book, or both), I feel like I’ve taken a huge step back in terms of rejections. Only one of my stories—one!—has been published since my book came out. Okay, part of this is because for about a year there, I was barely submitting. But for the past few months I’ve been getting back to my regular submission habits, and now the form rejections are starting to pile up.
Of course, the first possible reason for this is that my new stories aren’t any good. This, naturally, is where my mind first takes me every time I open a new email and read the same old words: “Thank you for your submission. Unfortunately . . .” I wonder, have I lost it? Did I use up all my stories, and I just need to accept that I only really ever had a little over a book’s worth of stories inside me? Or is it that the stories in my book—most of them, anyway—were workshopped in grad school. Do I NEED the feedback of a class-full of writers in order to revise my work to completion?
But then I remind myself of the few personal rejections I have received on these very same stories. I’m getting a flow of form rejections right now, but the slow and irregular drip of rejections that were coming in before this included a fair amount of personal rejections, so maybe it’s not time to throw in the towel just yet.
Damien suggested that I consider the time of year it is before I read too much in to these form rejections. Most journals close for submissions during the summer, and this usually means there are some straggler submissions that the editors really want to plow through and respond to in a timely fashion. It’s nice to start the new submission period with an empty submission file, I’m sure. So the sudden flood of form rejections might just mean they were quickly working through their backlog and saying no a bit more readily than usual. No personal response might mean they’re strapped for time, that they don’t want to waste what little time they do have writing individual notes about every story they thought was good but that didn’t make the final cut.
Looking at it this way makes me feel a lot better. It might not actually be what’s going on here. It might be that I’m getting form rejections because these stories suck. It might also be I’m getting them because these stories aren’t as polished as I thought. Maybe I’m getting them because I’m just sending to the wrong places, places for which these stories aren’t a good fit. It’s even possible I’m getting them because the editors just didn’t read my submissions very closely. There’s no way to know. That’s the (often frustrating) nature of form rejections: they tell you very little about your submission. But to look at it in a positive way, it does mean that these form rejections are not necessarily a sign that I’m a failure as a writer. I’m going to keep plowing ahead and keep submitting, and even more important, I’m going to keep working on some new stories that might help me garner some more personal rejections, or better yet, an acceptance.