Years ago I wrote a short story that was completely removed from my preferred genres. It is called The Altruists, and is a dark dystopian tale about an innocent man who is imprisoned in a futuristic world where prisoners are used as automatic organ donors. I can’t remember if I wrote it for a particular submission call, it was that long ago. But it didn’t make the cut. And whenever I have tried to submit it since my efforts have been met with multiple short, stark, stock-rejection emails!
When I first started taking the plunge and submitting my writing, I was terribly embarrassed to receive a rejection. I can remember feeling a sensation of shame, and saying to myself, ‘Who do you think you are, of course it’s rubbish! Why did you even send it in the first place? Just delete it, it must be crap.’ I gave up on my stories at the first sign of a struggle. It was a reaction that was born of insecurity, and I am happy to report that over the years I have built better resilience to the process! If I hadn’t, I don’t believe I would still be writing now. Or perhaps I’d still be writing, but only for myself. A private little collection of lonely stories desperate to be shared.
A couple of weeks ago I saw a submission call for Apparition Literary Magazine, asking for stories on the theme of ‘Retribution’. I didn’t have the time to write something from scratch as the deadline was nearing, so I dug out The Altruists, tweaked a few of the clunkier sounding sentences, and sent it to them. Needless to say, I didn’t expect it to get anywhere. A few days later I received a lovely email from the team, asking if they could place my story on hold for the final publication. The rush of elation I felt was indescribable. It always feels amazing when a story is shown some interest, but for The Altruists, a story that has always been biting at the heels of its flashy horror-themed friends in my writing folder, I felt like a proud mum. Finally, here was proof that the story wasn’t completely dreadful!
Yesterday, I heard back from the editors, who explained that they only had four open slots and that The Altruists hadn’t quite made it to the final cut, but that it was one of the ten stories that were scrutinised by the editors for publication. Well, I will take that! Considering the fact that a few years ago I almost hit the delete key and erased it from the map completely, I take that as a solid victory.
I’ve talked before about how numerous factors can determine whether your story is picked. Even if it is rejected twenty times, it doesn’t mean that it is terrible. It just needs to be the right fit. There are so many boxes that a story must check in order to make the selection. Being a good story is just the tip of the iceberg! So, when stories are rejected, don’t ever think they are terrible and that you shouldn’t try again. The next place you send it to could very well become its ‘forever home’. And that really is the greatest feeling in the world.