Tag Archives: rejections

the process of getting published or why is my head hurting so much?

Mary Ellen Lives
Mary Ellen Lives

It’s an old joke: a man tries to cure his headache by banging his head against the wall. This is the life of a fiction writer trying to get published. I can’t speak for non-fiction as I don’t write it, except for now, but there are hordes of fiction writers out there. Some are like the gentleman who said he creates stories in his mind every day but doesn’t write them down. Some day he will. At that moment he will join the rest of us in the ocean called “sending it out.” We are like a school of fish, friendly little fish, but fish that are all swimming in the same direction. For this gentleman I feel I should give a fair idea of what it’s like to get a piece of fiction published.

Let’s take a hypothetical writer who for this piece I will call, me. I write a short story one day and immediately see it as a hit. It’s raw and needs help, but I know it has the makings of brilliance. I rewrite it a couple times. It’s getting better; I think it’s almost there. I bring it to my writing group. They love it, but have a few suggestions. I take home their copious revisions for review. Some I like, some I don’t agree with, and so begins another round of rewriting. I look for repeated, unnecessary words. I change things around. I let it sit for a week or two and look at it again. Rewrite it again. It’s damn near perfect.

Now I start to look for appropriate venues to send it to, both online and in print. I read, and read, and read, and there it is—the perfect literary magazine. In fact that’s its name, The Perfect Literary Magazine. I follow all the guidelines and send it off. It will take four to six months to hear back from the PLM but they don’t ask for exclusivity so I keep reading and looking for places to send it. Some reject me in no time at all. It takes longer for others. Some kind editors tell me why they are rejecting it, maybe even make suggestions. Most do not.

In the meantime, I begin to rewrite it some more. I rewrite the beginning, change the ending. Now I’m unhappy because I sent it to PLM way too early and it is a much better story now. Sure enough, six months down the road The Perfect Literary Magazine sends me an email: “Dear Me, We read your story with great interest . . . blah, blah, blah.”

I am crestfallen. The last rewrite was so much better. Why did I send it off so soon? I think about moving it from my short story folder to the works in progress folder, otherwise known as the never-to-be-seen-again folder. I think about drinking in the afternoon.

But wait—I have been sending it out all this while. I have forgotten how many places I have sent it due to the fact that I can’t stand to look at my submissions log for fear of day-long depression. One was a magazine that asked for my best work. In fact that’s its name: Send Us Your Best Work.

One day I open my email and see that there is a message from Send Us Your Best Work. I moan. Oh no, another rejection. But this time the first word in the email is “Congratulations!” They love it! They want to publish it in the next issue! They have only a few, minor, suggestions.

I am ecstatic, of course, but I wonder—why does my head hurt so much?


let’s celebrate this writer’s win!

Mary Ellen Lives
Mary Ellen Lives

MooingAround.com contributor Mary Ellen Lives won the Penn Cove Literary Arts Award for her humorous short story, “A Damn Good Funeral.” Here’s an interview she gave us:

What were your feelings when you learned you won?

“I was and am ecstatic! Even though this is not a highfalutin contest it pays, and this is the first time anyone has given me any money. I have to say, though, that I get excited even if they don’t pay. Just publish me!!”

How do you choose what contests to enter?

“I generally don’t enter them if they charge. Some of these contests are way out of line and I can get rejected for free all day long.”

How many things do you send out per month?

“I try to get a couple out a month. Right now for instance I have four out for review. Two of those have to be exclusive so that takes those stories off the market. (These are short stories only. I also have the novel out to one contest and one publisher.) I just had two stories rejected so I will be sending those back out when I figure out where I want them to go. That takes a lot of time.”

What advice do you have for writers submitting to contests and/or to publications?

“Do your research. I know, everyone says that but it’s really true. Spend the time to read what the mags are looking for. And expect a lot of rejections. Even if it is what they are looking for. Get down about it for a day, then get over it and move on.

“Don’t just send to paying magazines or print magazines. Send work to university presses and others who don’t pay in anything and don’t look down at online only sites. They all give encouragement and exposure. The two things every writer needs.”

Congratulations, Mary Ellen. Your win is our encouragement.


memorable rejections

After five years of continual rejections, Agatha Christie lands a publishing deal. Her sales now number $2 billion. Only Shakespeare has sold more.

J.K. Rowling’s literary agent receives 12 publishing rejections before the eight-year-old daughter of a Bloomsbury editor demands to read the rest of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. The editor agrees to publish it but advises the writer to get a day job.

“Too different from other juveniles on the market to warrant its selling”—rejection sent to Dr. Seuss.

“Anthologies don’t sell was the gist of 140 rejections sent to authors of Chicken Soup for the Soul, which sold 125 million copies.

“I recommend that it be buried under a stone for a thousand years,” was advice given to Vladimir Nabokov whose Lolita has sold 50 million copies.

“The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the ‘curiosity’ level,” reads a rejection of The Diary of Anne Frank.

All of these stories and more are found at literaryrejections.com. The site is a fun read.

I like author May Sarton’s advice to writers: “Hold on, trust your talent, and work hard.”

Here’s another quote, this one from 64-year-old Diana Nyad who conquered the 110-mile swim from Cuba to Florida on her fifth attempt: “We should never, ever give up.”

And a Nyad quote for those of us still writing after “all these years,” –”You never are too old to chase your dreams.”

Nyad said that swimming “looks like a solitary sport, but it’s a team.”

You could say the same about writing. Writing buddies are invaluable, especially when the rejections roll in. Believe in yourselves, writing buddies. We believe in you.

How do you handle rejections? Please register on the site so that you can comment below. If you have trouble registering, please contact us. Thanks and happy writing!