The 100 rejections hashtag has been floating around twitter for the last couple of years and I thought ‘100 rejections – that’s nothing’, however, to actually get 100 rejections in a year requires concerted effort. When authors say they’ve received eighty-odd rejections, it’s over their career to date, so usually several years. This scheme encourages subbing to places you wouldn’t usually try, or wouldn’t usually think of purely to get the numbers up.
It stems from a desire to shift focus away from the negative connotations of receiving a rejection to something more uplifting. Rejection is so intrinsically tied up with being a writer that in order to survive the long term, you have to find a way to deal with the rejections when they come and making them into a collection game is definitely one way.
So let’s talk numbers (I’m a mathematician, so numbers appeal). My agent will be submitting my work to editors. If I work hard, and if the submission dates and stars align, I might get two submissions in a calendar year. You can get more if you are querying agents, but a dozen or so editors twice isn’t really cutting the mustard, it’s barely a quarter so what can you do to improve your score?
This is where you get creative. Two years ago I wrote a short piece in a teen voice for the first time. I didn’t get the gig, but was told my teen voice was strong. Who knew? I certainly didn’t. And now I’m crazy-happy when I’m writing teen fiction. But the thing is – what else might I be good at writing but just haven’t discovered yet. Non-fiction? Maybe, I haven’t tried, so I don’t know for sure. Adult horror? I guess not as I’m quite squeamish, but I haven’t tried. Poetry? Once again, I have no idea. So this is where the possibilities explode. Competitions, small presses, woman’s weekly type magazines are all fodder for the chaser of 100 rejections. Flash fiction, short stories, mini plays, articles all become options.
A critic might say that your work will be rushed, that it might not be up to the required standard. I’m not an advocate for sending out shoddy work, far from it, but there is something to be said for practising, experimenting, and getting closer to that million words before you can claim to be an expert. And also: back catalogue – make sure when a piece comes back you check it, tweak it and send it back out again. I’ve repeatedly had it proved to me that writing is subjective – hang it above your desk, tattoo it on your eyeballs. Just because one person doesn’t love it, doesn’t mean that the next person won’t.
Remember that publishing notoriously works to a long deadline. I’ve figured that most of my submissions have to happen in the first six months of the year. Also, I’m claiming any rejections that I receive this year, even if I subbed it last year, will count.
So while I’m looking into competition small print, or dreaming up short plays, or checking the syntax in my poetry, it distracts me from email-checking. If I have forty submissions, proportionally the rejections should sting a little less. Or that’s the theory. Irons in the fire and all that. So now to put it into practice. I’ve had one rejection already so I’m a bit behind. I’d best get writing.