At the beginning of 2017, I set a goal for the year of actively seeking rejection. What this meant was that I would send out my short fiction to contests and magazines, apply for fellowships and residencies, and otherwise just get my work out into the world so that other people might possibly read it. Because let’s face it, all those stories aren’t going to get published just sitting on my hard drive and taking up space.
Now that the year’s almost over, how did I do?
I keep track of my submissions in an Excel spreadsheet.
There’s not a lot of activity to show for this year.
So-so, I’d have to say. But throughout the process, I’ve learned two things:
I need to send out more stories more often.
I keep track of all my story submissions in an Excel spreadsheet. Every time I send one out, I note the date, where I sent it (obviously), and whether it was for a contest (and if so, how much the entry fee was). I also track when I receive the rejection notice and any details, such as whether it was a form rejection or included any personalized comments. (The ones with personalized comments, regardless of what they say, are the best.)
As you can see above, according to this spreadsheet, I made seven short story submissions between January and November. This is below my goal of at least one submission per month. So, between now and the end of the year, I hope to make up that ground. Still, this is way below my 21 submissions in 2016.
Now, the good news: one of those seven submissions was accepted. (That was my story “Multiverse,” which Phoebe published on their website.) However, compare that with 2016, when I successfully placed three of my stories. I know correlation does not equal causation, but more submissions does seem to coincide with more publications. (Though not always: in 2015 I made 23 submissions and only published one story.)
Not tracked in the spreadsheet are submissions for residencies, fellowships, and the like. I made three applications for those this year. So far, I’ve gotten rejection notices for two. I’ll be honest, I don’t hold out much hope for the third—it’s kind of a big deal—but it’s free to apply, and you don’t get accepted if you don’t submit in the first place.
I need to finish more stories.
At the moment, I have 10 stories in my “done” folder. If I’m honest, I should move a couple of those back to my “working” folder, where I keep the stories that aren’t finished.
Speaking of that “working” folder, it tells another story. (Ha, see what I did there?) That folder contains 19 stories that are in varying stages of completion. Some of them are only a few sentences. Others are finished drafts that need to be revised. Some of them might get moved over to the “abandoned” folder, where I put stories that just don’t work.
All of them, though, are opportunities. More stories to send out. More chances to collect rejections. More chances to publish. Until I finish them, though, they’re just potential.
I also have a novel to finish revising, and another one to start. Those take priority, but after that? More stories.
PS: Hey! I just remembered a story I started in Google docs that isn’t in my “working” folder. So I have 20 stories that I could send out once they’re finished… and that feels pretty awesome.