This week, we take a brief interlude with the Rangers of Tuskegee National Forest. After fighting a forest fire all week, two rangers stumble into something unexpected on the charred and ashen ground.
It’s been a week, y’all.
I got two short story rejections two days in a row. One of those rejections wasn’t even emailed to me–I had to go to the online submission portal to check on the story, where I found that actually, it had been rejected two and a half months ago, two days after I’d submitted it. If I did get an email, it got eaten by my spam folder. So that was fun.
Rejections suck. I know all the platitudes–not every story is right for every journal, the market is super saturated, part of the trick is finding the right fit, persistence is key, et cetera. These platitudes abound in academia, too, where I spent the last decade of my life.
I could write a lot of words about how the platitudes work in academia, but I won’t, because I don’t want to put myself in too bad of a mood. But one thing that academia has that the short story fiction market doesn’t is built-in peer reviews.
In academia, when you submit an article for publication, the editor may reject it outright. But most often, the article gets sent out to two separate reviewers, who read and critique your work and provide a recommendation to the editor regarding the article’s potential for publication. These recommendations usually comprise four options: reject, revise and resubmit, accept with minor revisions, and accept.
When your work comes back with a revise and resubmit, you receive comments on your work from each reviewer, and in some cases, an additional set of comments from the editor synthesizing the reviewers’ concerns and making specific suggestions for where to focus your revision efforts.
You don’t get that with short story submissions.
If you’re lucky, you might get some feedback on your story, but I haven’t seen any yet. Then again, I haven’t been actively submitting my short fiction for very long.
I’m not saying that the academic peer review process is perfect. There are a number of reasons why it’s not, but I’m not going to go into them here. It’s just that I wish the fiction writing… world… had a better mechanism for giving and receiving constructive criticism of your work.
I know these mechanisms exist. There are sites like Scribophile, which I have used and like, for the most part. And there are people you can pay to provide feedback on your writing. Most of the writing coaches I’ve found, though, focus on critiquing book-length manuscripts and perfecting your query letters and pitches to editors. And they’re expensive.
As they should be. I know first-hand that providing quality, detailed, useful feedback on people’s writing is difficult, time-intensive labor. I’ve done it. I did it for ten years. On academic writing, but still.
However, paying for critique services is an investment I don’t currently have the finances to do. Especially when I’m writing on spec, as much of/most fiction writers do. Every story you put out into the world, every minute you spend writing and revising and submitting and resubmitting is a financial risk. When do you decide to throw in the towel on a particular story and start with something fresh?
So that’s why my current strategy amounts a bit more to receive rejection, immediately resubmit to next venue. Don’t revise, just keep submitting. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. And then get back to writing.
So this week, I received two story rejections, but I submitted three stories.
I resubmitted the two rejected stories at different venues, and then I ended up writing an entirely new piece based on a new journal I’d found that none of my current finished pieces fit. I needed something shorter, so I wrote something shorter. And submitted it.
And now I’m blogging.
Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming.
Just keep writing.
Writing goals is hard. Also, writing goals are hard.
Put another way: The act of writing goals is hard. Also, writing goals–goals related to writing–are hard to write.
I don’t like count-based goals, in writing or in other pursuits. Write 1,000 words per day. Run a half marathon in a year. Lose ten pounds by June. Goals like these, for me, are recipes for disaster. I usually start with a small success streak, but if I break that streak, then the break itself turns into a streak, and suddenly a month goes by, and I’m no closer to achieving my goals.
I prefer habit-based goals–goals designed to help me develop a habit. I’m not great at habits, but I’m always starting and then restarting them, so it’s not a total loss. I’ve learned this about myself the hard way, and I’ve learned (also the hard way) that beating myself up over dropping a habit is not helpful. It’s not that there are no negative feelings associated with dropping a habit (there are); it’s just that I’m learning to experience the negative feelings for what they are (feelings) rather than what they’re not (a definitive confirmation of my total failure).
In writing my new year’s resolutions, I decided to focus on two words: consistency and resiliency. These two concepts may seem mutually exclusive, but I think they’re synergistic. I want to develop consistency in working toward particular goals, but I also want to develop resiliency when I inevitably become inconsistent. Knowing that I can just pick back up where I left off means that I’m more likely to become consistent on a macro level (e.g., over the course of a year), even if I’m not that great on a micro level (e.g., over the course of a week). Resiliency leads to longevity, or so I hope.
To that end, I’d like to set some writing-habit goals. I’d like to write for about an hour a day most days of the week. Maybe two hours on weekends.
“Writing” may include one or more of the following:
- Invention work, including, but not limited to:
Projects may include:
- Fiction writing
- Freelance professional/technical writing & editing
- Literally anything except my academic writing. That’s what my day job is for.
So there you have it. Writing goals is hard, and writing goals are hard. Now it’s time to go forth and meet them.