Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Perseverance, part one

There are many forms of perseverance needed in the writing game.  And one of them is to keep submitting our work to new editors.

I, apparently, have an unusually thick skin when it comes to submissions and rejections.  But here's what I know: C.L. Moore submitted her first short story, "Shambleau" -- the first short story she had ever written -- to Weird Tales in 1933.  It was her favorite magazine.  They accepted it, and subsequently published almost all of her early fiction.  Moore, in a candid essay in the back of a 1960s edition of her collected early stories, said that if the Weird Tales editor hadn't accepted her story on the first try, she probably would have stopped writing.

I'm not C.L. Moore.  You're not C.L. Moore.

And I don't say that meanly -- Moore's work is intriguing but there's a reason she occupies an important space in the history of science fiction and not in the literary importance of the genre.

I say I am no C.L. Moore because I have sent out one story.  And it was rejected.  And I did not stop there.  I sent it out again.  And again.  And again.  And, on at least two occasions, I'd given up on a story or poem and then had an editor contract the work.  I am no C.L. Moore because if the editor doesn't accept the story on the first try, I don't stop trying.

And that is why I encourage everyone reading this and hoping to make it as a writer to not be C.L. Moore.

Last summer, I was encouraged to make 100 submissions.  Be they short fiction or novel queries, I was to complete 100 of them.  It was suggested that 100 was a reasonable goal; that if you set your sights for 100 it was a high enough number that you would be in the mental game for the long haul while also likely to achieve some sort of publication before reaching the 100th submission.

The next day I was asked to give a goal for the upcoming year, so I said 100 submissions in a year! Meaning: I want to be published by this time next year!

That's when I made this little chart on the outside of a file folder and tacked it to the wall over my desk.  100 Submissions by July 15, 2011 it says.  The white area is a 10 x 10 grid to which I affix a star (or a hello kitty sticker) every time I send a story out on submission.

Below is a manila envelope for the rejection slips.  Seems practical.  Don't be depressed by rejection slips.  It's like being depressed by dog poop.  You own the dog.  You enjoy the dog.  You have this bond, this friendship.  It will, at some point, poop.  You can't be a practical person and a dog owner if you are depressed by poop.  Likewise, you can't be a practical person and a writer if you are depressed by rejection slips.

If you haven't already noticed, it's June and my chart has a lot of white spaces on it yet.  There are only 15 stars (save you the trouble of counting).  But I'm proud of those 15.  And there will be more before July 15.  Progress is progress -- progress is perseverance -- and I love my chart.  I also love the square that I colored in yellow in the top row.  Yellow background means the submission got published.

This chart hits several motivating factors for me: it's prominently placed so that I see it every day, it's colorful, fun, and it is interactive.  If not sparkly star stickers, what motivates you to keep going?

Highly Recommended