Sunday, 8 December 2019

100 Rejections in a Year by Helen Chambers.

Inspired by unexpected writing success in 2018, in 2019 I have aimed for 100 rejections (see LitHub article in August 2018 blogpost) on the basis that if you submit 100 pieces, something might get published. Furthermore, I wanted something positive to record each month. Spurred on by the supportive Sue Dawes, without whose help I would have achieved far less, we both set up money pots to keep a physical record. We agreed on the following rates: a penny for a rejection, and 5p for an acceptance, long-or-short-list, or publication. 

I started the year at a cracking pace, and thought I might meet 100 submissions (an average of 8 or 9 per month). As the year continued, I found the pressure and work involved in organising so many submissions become horribly time-consuming. I was aware of writing fewer new pieces, too. This has been the only downside, however, and has been outweighed by the positives.

The benefits have been huge - see the Writing Achievements page on my personal blog for the acceptances! In addition, I find I now brush off rejections relatively quickly without sinking into depression. Of course, I still feel huge disappointment when a story I love doesn’t make a mark, and I still have plenty of days where I doubt my ability to write - but I look back knowing that some of my writing has made the grade. I’m also far more open to the idea of editing and improving existing stories. If I’ve liked it, or it’s reached a long-list, then it’s good enough to warrant more work. A change of tense, of focus, or of narrative viewpoint can often reinvigorate and improve a piece. I’ve taken stories written in the past and improved them (now I finally believe that nothing I write is ever wasted!). I’ve taken greater risks with my writing. My editing skills have sharpened throughout the year, and I’ve become more proficient at helping others edit their work. I’ve discovered some fantastic literary journals I’d not known about, and read some excellent writing in their pages.

So, as of 8th December 2019 (I still have two pieces ‘out’ for consideration and a couple more December deadlines I may meet), here is my 2019 tally:

Total: £1.39 made up of 63 submissions.
5ps: 95p (19 positive responses)
Pennies: 44p (44 rejections)

I keep a poorly-organised notebook list too, and have most of my stories recorded on index cards, so I can see what I’ve got and where I’ve previously sent things. Sadly, these systems are subject to human error. If I haven't had the right change to hand when I receive the notification, the money may never reach the pot (I’m wary of ‘overpaying’ when I can’t remember!). My notebook, which I sometimes forget to use or can’t find, records 68 submissions. Either way, that still averages at five submissions per month, which is more than ever before - and I know I’ve recorded the positives correctly!

So in 2020 I’m going to continue topping up my money-pot but I plan to work at a less frenetic pace. I haven’t set a target. I want to work on a couple of longer pieces I have in mind, and of course, I still love writing flash. At WriteNight recently, the wonderful Penny Simpson (follow her on twitter @topscribe) talked of choosing one big competition to aim at each year. I plan to steer a relaxed course somewhere between that and my 63 submissions. Happy New Writing Year to you all!