There’s this weird thing about being a selling writer that is obvious in retrospect, but that I totally didn’t see coming. When I write my stories, I feel varying levels of excitement about each one. But on some level, I have some love for each one, some sense that I’ve got something really good here, or I wouldn’t have finished writing it—or at the very least, I wouldn’t shop it. I am really comfortable trunking my own work and just shopping around the stories I think are any good.
So I’ll have this story, and I think it doesn’t totally stink, and maybe I’ll get feedback on it and my first readers—readers I can count on to tell me if something absolutely doesn’t work—will get excited and tell me I’ve got something good here . . . and then I start shopping the story . . .
Now I have had one story sell on its first time out the door (*bounce*bounce*bounce*) and quite a few of them sell on the second trip out, so I’m not talking about those right now. But some stories take a while to find their market. I’m not sure what the longest wait I’ve had between writing a story and selling it, but I’m sure it is measured in years. I think my record before selling a story is seventeen or eighteen rejections, but I think I have at least one still-not-trunked story that’s been rejected more times.
And every rejection carries with it the message, nope, this story isn’t good enough. I don’t need people to reassure me that this isn’t so, to share stories about stories that have been bought after multiple rejections, stories that have won awards after only being bought after multiple rejections . . . the intellect knows all this. Heck, as noted above, I myself have sold stories after multiple rejections. This isn’t an intellect thing, it’s a heart thing. My purpose in posting isn’t to seek reassurance, but to chronicle the things I experience and feel.
So I might spend a year or two being told over and over again that this story isn’t quite good enough, when suddenly it sells. Now the story gets published, and I need to promote it, but I no longer believe in it quite as strongly as I once did. More confusingly, I’ll have people read the story and really like it a lot and tell me it’s terrific, and it’s all cognitive dissonance for me, because I had a quiet year or two of becoming convinced the story wasn’t very good.
This is on my mind because I’ve got a story I’m getting ready to submit in the next few days, a story I care about more than most, but the (merely!) four rejections I’ve already gotten on it have already tarnished my feelings about it. And so there’s a bit of a hesitation I feel before hitting the submit button. Not enough to stop me, because you can’t sell anything if you don’t try. But enough to make me a bit gun-shy.