You’ve been working on a short story on and off for a few weeks. You wrote the first draft, then revised it a couple times. You send it to some writer friends for feedback, then revise it again.
You proofread your story one last time. You feel good about your story. You love your story!
You finally submit it to ten different magazines and wait to hear back. Weeks past. Probably months.
At a certain point, you hear back from eight of the ten magazines. They’ve all rejected your story.
Eight magazines rejected it? Well, I guess it’s time to give up on that story, right? Time to put it in the drawer and start writing another one, right?
Yes, feel free to always start writing another story. But just because you might start working on something new does not mean you abandon the last one.
Rejection is hard. Rejection is frustrating.
Rejection is also a huge part of being a writer. And when you’re starting out, you might not fully understand that. You might think because your story got rejected eight times, it’s not only worth putting in a drawer but worth burning and destroying for the rest of time.
Such is not the case. You know why?
Because when it comes to your short stories, all it takes… is one yes. All it takes… is that one editor looking for a story like yours.
Don’t stop at eight or ten rejections for your story. Keep going. Revise the story one more time (you should always look at your story at least once every six months while it’s on submission), and then send it out to ten more magazines.
Because maybe round two will bring you good news. Or round three, or round four.
You just never know.
In 2011 I wrote a creative non-fiction piece about my love of movie theaters. I sent it out to literary magazines on and off for five years. FIVE YEARS. I probably sent it to 70 or 80 magazines, maybe more. By the end of 2015, I had basically given up on it.
But then in January 2016 I decided to give it one last shot… and I sent the piece to five more magazines. One of the editors said yes.
In 2015 I wrote a short story about an aging couple. I sent it out to literary magazines on and off for four years. By the beginning of this year, I had, again, basically given up on it. But in February I decided to try one more time and sent it to 10 more places.
In late March, it was accepted to a literary magazine. And just this week I received a beautiful printed copy of the magazine that ends with my story. Out of twelve accepted stories, they decided to end with mine. How cool is that?
So don’t give up after ten rejections of your story, or poem, or non-fiction piece, whatever it may be. Don’t stop at twenty, or thirty. Don’t even stop at fifty.
You are not allowed to give up on your story until you’ve sent it to 100 places, okay?
I mean it. 100.
If you send it to 100 over the course of many years, and all you end up getting is rejections, then yes, maybe it’s time to put that one away for good.
But before you get to 100, you’re not allowed to give up yet. Because you just never know.
That perfect editor of that perfect magazine might be around the corner ready as ever to tell you that one beautiful, magical word we writers love to hear as often as humanly possible.