Rebecca Fletcher shares her progress on her plan to garner 100 rejections in 2021.
I wrote this blog at the end of April, figuring it was time to check in on how the 100 rejection project is going.
The most important thing to report is that I’m miles behind. There are a few reasons for this, which I’ll discuss here, but also, I’ve had two failed rejections (that is, two stories have been accepted, yay!).
1. Rejections take a while to come back.
The joke when I started this project was that you could just get one piece of writing rejected 100 times. But honestly, I think you’d struggle to find 100 publications that could get back to you within a week.
When you submit a piece of writing for consideration, you usually only submit it to one place at a time. If you’ve ever looked at submission criteria, you may have seen ‘no simultaneous submissions’ on the page — that means that they want you to submit to them and no one else.
The problem is that, if you’re following the rules, that piece is then tied up awaiting assessment. And it could be months before they get back to you (I’ve waited seven months for a rejection before). So even if you have three or four pieces that you’re submitting, and you send them all off in one day, it might be a month before you can do anything with them again.
You could scout for publications with nicer submission criteria (i.e. quick responses or that allow simultaneous submissions), but you’re probably compromising on the publication. Consider this: if you’re waiting four months for a rejection, wouldn’t you rather be rejected by Overland than the Online Potato Enthusiast?
My advice? Swing big upfront and practise patience (but read the rest of this blog first).
2. You need to know what you’re really writing
Don’t panic – I mean in terms of your writing! Let me contextualise: I’ve just come out of six years of tertiary study in writing. Both of my universities had a heavy focus on Australian literature, which I don’t write. The problem is that when you go looking for publications in Australia, most of them are literary, and even the ones that don’t look like they’d be quite as literary (Scum Mag comes to mind) still are.
I’ve had to learn to stop attempting to justify the literary elements in my writing and instead ask myself what the story is and how it works. Looking critically at the work that I was happiest with, I’ve decided to stop trying to write anything too serious and just stick to humour/satire. This changes the publications I’m looking at completely. You also get better results from googling ‘humour publications’ rather than ‘kind of literary but with a few jokes and a dumb take on something important’, which helps.
If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, go and do some searching on different genres of writing, then search for some publications that print only that kind of work. You’ll get an idea of what kinds of places are printing the kinds of things that you’re writing, which brings me to my next point.
3. Finding the right publication is hard.
Finding publications to submit to was probably the biggest problem I had. I knew the big ones in Australia, and I knew some of the more interesting smaller publications (and I’d seen plenty on the comps and opps page on the BWI website).
But realising that those publications weren’t right for me, I needed new options. Enter Submission Grinder. What’s that, you ask? Submission Grinder is a free website that has a searchable database of publications and websites that are taking submissions. You can filter by genre and submission type (poetry, fiction, non-fiction) of various lengths and use it to keep track of your submissions. It counts up how long it has been since you submitted and compares it to the average rejection/acceptance time for that publication. I’ve found some great new opportunities through Submission Grinder, including both of the places that are publishing my stories. If you follow the link above you’ll be able to sign up for an account for free and see if it works for you.
In the next few months I’ll probably look more closely at Submittable, which is a platform that makes it easier for publications to manage submissions. It also makes it easier for you to manage your submissions to these publications. After that, I’ll have a closer look at Duotrope (another platform) and report back.
4. On finding inspiration in rejection
This project was meant to encourage me to write more, and so far I’ve been feeling a little lost. I had a slow start, and rejections were slow to come back.
In March I hit some kind of stride though, and in the process of looking for places to submit, I found some really great online publications that I now follow. Not only do I now have a stream of the kinds of things I like to read coming to me, but I feel inspired reading the different things that people are doing. Sometimes you get so caught up in details and making things bigger that you forget how simple a piece of writing can be. It makes me think about writing different things than I would have written in isolation.
I’ve said before that I believe the best thing for a writer is a community of like-minded, sympathetic people, and sometimes that means going out and looking for it in the places where you need it. These new publications have reinvigorated me, and in the last few weeks I’ve dug through my ‘works in progress’ folder and uncovered some writing that I’m finally happy to go back to. I expect May to be a busy month!
Stats as of 30 April
If you’re just scrolling down and looking for numbers, here they are:
16 submissions total, made up of:
2 failed rejections (i.e. accepted (+1 pending revisions))
So that’s where it’s at. I’ll write again at the end of June (March was a bit of a mess), and say if I managed to catch up to where I need to be (at least 50 submissions) and see if I’ve managed to get any more failed rejections. I’m posting monthly updates at my website saltyturnip.com if you want to keep up, and I’ll link my published work when it goes up.
Until then, keep writing, and keep submitting!
Rebecca Fletchers is chair of BWI