I got a couple of rejections in, which in and of itself is not big news. I get rejections in all the time. No, what makes these worthy of blogging about is the fact that these were two of my better stories, the ones that have generated strong reactions in workshops and commentary from editors in the past. Both were declined, but what really stung was the editor's comments (and I'm paraphrasing here): "What you write is good enough, but it's not irresistable enough."
This is a categorization I've recognized for quite some time, but kept quiet about except for an occasional whine about it here. For an editor to specifically recognize that in my writing and comment on it is... well, depressing, to be blunt. Am I doomed to be the 13th best story in an anthology that has room for only 12 pieces (a situation that's happened to me more than once)? Am I perpetually locked into rejection letters that read "I enjoyed the story, but not enough to buy it" rather than "Here's a check"?
Those rejections and the accompanying comments (meant to be encouraging, in all sincerity) hit me far harder than they should've. It prompted me to do a quick inventory of my career to date... and what I saw wasn't pretty. In fact, it was pretty damn ugly (avert your eyes if you can't stomach the truth): I haven't made a pro sale in more than five years.
Sheesh. That's kinda like outing oneself, or dropping trou in the middle of a wedding reception. But it's true, and the truth hurts sometimes. Oh, yeah, I've made a bunch of sales over the past five years. Been paid pretty well for some of them. I published a book, and showed a profit to the IRS a few times, even. But I haven't had any professional fiction sales, which is where my true goals lie. I've had a couple of semi-pro sales, and a couple of reprint sales. But as a professional fiction writer, I'm in a major drought. My interviews and articles don't count--not to me, at any rate. Not at a gut level.
It's my own fault, mostly. As it grew easier to produce and sell interviews, that's where I channeled more of my energy. My fiction output suffered. Simple mathematics: If I'm writing fewer short stories, I have fewer opportunities to sell. Nevermind that the few stories I did produce over that span were better than the other stories that sold to pro markets in years past. Better conceived, more professionally executed, more competent and confident writing.
Which is one of--if not the main--reason I'm ditching siren song of the interview. I've mentioned this before, and I've gone a full year without transcribing a single word. There's just one unpublished interview still in the pipeline somewhere, one which I will get a nice check for in six months or so. I have a handful of short stories on the verge of completion, several of which are among the most innovative and creative I've ever produced. I have two novels under way. I am writing more fiction (albeit in fits and starts, as ficiton writing have never come all that easy for me). Will they sell? Who the hell knows. They'll get a lot of nice comments. I know that, at least.
So I'll feel sorry for myself for another couple of days. I'll question whether or not it's worth it for me to continue wasting my time writing these things that nobody wants to buy. I'll grouse and mope and find things to distract myself with so that I actually don't do much writing at all. I'll wonder if there really is a secret handshake that lets me into the "pro writers club" that I missed out on somewhere. But then I'll read something--be it a badly written story in a pro market, or a stupid blog post, or a woefully misguided media article--and I'll get pissed off, big time. And start writing with a vengeance. Can you tell I've been here before?
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