Thursday, February 07, 2013

Getting Through the Lulls

The fun times of writing are seeing acceptance letters or seeing stories appear in magazines or book form (I can imagine this last one anyway).  But what about the lulls?  By that, I mean the times between acceptances or publications - those long spans of time when it seems like rejection letters are the only responses you're seeing.

It's easy to get discouraged as rejections mount up.  I recall after making my first few sales, I then faced over a year of rejection letters.  Where did the magic go, I thought.  I know I can sell stories; I sold some last year.  Yet this is a new year with no sales.  I can't even sell a story to the magazine that published my other pieces.

First (and most important), keep writing.  You can't change whether a story is accepted or rejected, whether you worry about it or not.  I think this is especially tempting after completing a novel and trying to query agents, especially if you start getting some hits requesting more material.  I've read comments from people that make it seem like their world has come to a stand-still until they find out what that agent thinks.  But it doesn't really matter.  You're a writer, so go write.  If the novel is picked up by an agent, great.  In the meantime, you've been getting another one ready, so maybe that will lead to a quicker sale to a publisher.  Or maybe the first novel won't get picked up at all, but by the time you've exhausted your resources, you have a brand new novel to peddle.

Second, don't rewrite a story unless you feel like it must be done based on your own thoughts.  It becomes very tempting to change stories based on an editor's feedback when you get personal rejections.  But unless that editor is specifically asking for a rewrite in order to be considered for publication, you should leave the story alone.  I recall a story I had written where an editor for Magazine A said something he/she didn't like, so I changed it.  Then I submitted it to Magazine B, only to have that editor say he/she didn't like the piece that I had just changed.  Only change something if you get feedback that resonates with you and you feel that it absolutely must change in order to give yourself peace about that story.  But this should be rare.

Third, don't beat yourself up.  Celebrate the victories you had, but don't beat yourself up for any gaps.  Remember, you don't have control over publications.  All you can do is write and submit, trying to improve your writing with each story.  If your current batch of stories isn't selling, it doesn't help to doubt your skills and enter a dark period of self-loathing (though that may itself lead to new story ideas). 

Again, if you take nothing else away from this article, just remember to write no matter what - whether you're selling everything or selling nothing.

The Whitman Inn

Earlier this week, my science fiction story "The Whitman Inn" was published in Plasma Frequency.  Here's the link to the free PDF (click the Read Now link on the image of the magazine cover):