What to do with Rejection Notices

Those of you who have been submitting work to publishers for many years have probably collected more rejection slips than you’d care to admit. It was more fun in the old days when the slips came in the mail and were quite colorful despite their depressing message. Back in the day we would share creative alternatives to trashing them. Some people made them into piñatas, and some papered their powder rooms or depending on quantity) family rooms with them . I took a bookbinding workshop so I could compiled my first set of rejections into a book.

Just because rejections are now delivered online doesn’t mean you can’t get creative with them. Regardless of how they’re delivered, rejection notices are depressing. Instead of taking anti-depressants, you might consider getting crafty and transforming them into objects d’art. Though we all know that the best way to handle rejection is to sit back down and write.

Submission Guideline Hell

Submitting a story to multiple publications can make your head spin. Each has its own VERY SPECIFIC guidelines regarding formatting, word count, when you can and can’t submit, etc. etc. Submitters are urged to read the overview and philosophy of each publication to get an idea of what they are looking for. After doing this for at least 50 publications over the last few years, I have come to the conclusion that the degree of a publication’s self-importance is inversely proportional to the age of its editors.

I was inspired to write the following satirical piece after going through the submission process for my latest story.

Submission Guidelines
We at Snootenanny welcome submissions from people of all ages, ethnicities, creeds, colors, gender preferences, and regions (except Hoboken. We hate people from Hoboken). We accept all literary forms: short fiction, long fiction, poetry, tweets, texts, proclamations, orations, declarations, declamations, indentations, perforations, you name it.

We are looking for stories and poems that surprise, amaze, sing, gyrate, tap dance, and smack you upside the head. We want work that grabs us by the neck, shakes us senseless, and leaves us sprawled on the floor in astonishment and excruciating pain.

1. Submissions are only accepted from January 1 to January 31. Manuscripts submitted outside of those dates will be trashed. We are way too busy and important to bother with people who are too stupid to follow simple instructions.

2. You must number every page except the first in Roman numerals. The first page must use Arabic numerals and include at least one emoji. Any manuscript deviating from this guideline will be set on fire.

3. You must use Times New Roman 12 point for all pages except the last, which must be Comic Sans 18. Any manuscript not adhering to this guideline will be cursed and spat upon personally by the editor-in-chief.

4. Do not include any personal information in the text. If we see even the tiniest hint of who you are, your manuscript will be composted.

5. Double-space all text. The top half of the first page must be blank. The title must be in 18-point Copperplate Gothic Bold followed by 7 hard carriage returns and one soft one. The authors of manuscripts not adhering to this standard will be drawn and quartered.

Write, Rewrite, Rinse, Repeat

You’re feeling good. You’ve completed your first novel, gotten good feedback from your peers, and you’re ready to pitch it. Then you hand it over to the editor. “You have an intriguing concept,” she tells you  “BUT…” She says you have to change the POV, slim down the cast of characters, and perform a radical personality transplant on the protagonist. You know she’s right, but the changes touch virtually every page of the novel, so you’ll have to restructure and rewrite the everything. Aarg!

Now you have to make a decision to make. Do you want to revisit the characters you thought you knew so well, the ones that consumed so much of your waking hours, and start over? Do you think you’re up to the task? After all, you were so sure you had it right before, and look what happened. What if you spend another year spinning your wheels and come up empty handed? The clock is ticking and you’re not getting any younger. Wouldn’t it be easier to just work on the smaller projects you enjoy, the short stories that stand a chance of being published in your lifetime?

Now’s the time to remember what motivated you to write a first draft, take stock of all that was right about your first draft, clean your desk, and commit to the messy job of rewriting your work.

I wrote this post because I’m about to embark on the second draft of my novel and I can’t procrastinate any longer. So I’ve pulled out my trusty mug, cleared my desk, reread the editor’s feedback, and have planned a lot of long walks to get the creative juices flowing.

Wish me luck.