After a long drought, I’m so pleased to finally have a story published.
Breathing Space’s history is a good illustration of the slow, frustrating process fiction writers experience when plying their craft. I completed the first draft over a year ago, and, after some polishing, my good friends at Taipei Writers’ Group provided helpful feedback. The final draft was first submitted on 25th October 2013, according to my submissions data at Duotrope. Twelve rejections later, Breathing Space was finally accepted at Perihelion magazine.
One reason for the long delay between finishing the story and having it published is that some publications take a long time to come to a decision. Analog, for example, held on to the story for 124 days before rejecting it. I’m pretty sure this wasn’t because the story made it through to even a second round of consideration. Analog tends to take that long to respond to most submissions, and in fact their current turnaround period is close to six months. Other publications are very fast, such as Clarkesworld, which took less than 24 hours to reject. (The story really isn’t that bad, honestly. One to three or four days is standard at Clarkesworld.)
Consideration times at other publications vary according to how many submissions they’re dealing with and how many submissions readers they have. Some top magazines regularly close their doors to submissions because they’ve been swamped. Others have defined reading periods and don’t accept work outside those times.
Submitting stories can be an emotional rollercoaster. In some ways it’s preferable to wait for months than receive a rejection within a day. No news feels like good news even when in actuality the time spent considering your story may be the same. I’ve grown more used to rejections over time, though receiving several at once is still disheartening.
Sometimes the temptation to rewrite is strong, but I tend to follow Robert A. Heinlein’s five rules of writing, and rule three is never to rewrite except at an editor’s request. I believe the reason for this is stories are often rejected not because they have fundamental flaws, but because they don’t fit a publication’s style or don’t offer something new to its readers. Also, assessing stories is a highly subjective process, and one editor may love something another editor hates. Rewriting is pointless when there may be nothing to fix, and you risk overwriting and destroying the story.
So, was it worth stomaching 12 rejections, endlessly searching for fresh, suitable publications and re-submitting over and over again, just to receive 1 cent a word and see my story published? You betcha.