To celebrate our Fear & Failure series, let’s all make a great big commitment to REJECTION and make story submission a weekly habit…
What’s this? What’s this? YOU WANT US TO SUBMIT ONE HUNDRED STORIES THIS YEAR? Not another unattainable new year’s resolution, surely?
Nope. This one’s different, because it’s based on the premise of embracing Fear & Failure and setting yourself up for a boatload of rejections (as well as a few acceptances, hopefully).
100 REJECTIONS: THE ORIGIN STORY
Back in 2011, writer Kim Liao was suffering from a case of the well-jels when comparing herself to a prolific and successful friend:
You probably have one of those friends, too—you know the one I’m talking about, that friend who is a beautiful writer, but who also seems to win everything? I could barely believe that she had the balls to apply to—let alone, get accepted to—several residencies, a prestigious fellowship, and publications in journals I had actually heard of.
I asked her what her secret was, and she said something that would change my professional life as a writer: “Collect rejections. Set rejection goals. I know someone who shoots for one hundred rejections in a year, because if you work that hard to get so many rejections, you’re sure to get a few acceptances, too.”
So, inspired by Kim’s brilliant aim to get 100 rejections per year we’re jumping on the bandwagon and not only challenging you to make 100 submissions in 2018 but we’re also doing half the legwork by providing you with a handy list of competitions and opportunities each month.
We know. We spoil you. We really do.
You might think 100 is a balls-crazy number. It probably is. But it’s actually only 8.3 submissions per month, or 2ish per week. And if you have a cache of unpublished, unfinished stories languishing away on your hard drive then it’s the PERFECT impetus to unearth them, edit them, polish them up and send them on their way. Or, if you’re just starting out in the short fiction game, then lo and behold, this challenge is the PERFECT impetus to get writing and build up a little store of potential submissions. In the immortal words of Ray Bradbury:
“Write a short story every week. It’s impossible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.”
(FYI: If you’re a noob, a good place to start would be our FREE Introduction to Short Fiction masterclass series which is full of prompts, tips and tricks to get you writing…)
Oh, and not all these listings are for short fiction – there are plenty of competitions for poets, screenwriters, playwrights and novelists out there, too. To check the latest listings, CLICK HERE. (PLUS: if you come across something we’ve missed, let us know on Twitter, Facebook or email and we’ll add it to the list!)
WOOHOO! I’M IN – WHAT DO I DO NOW?
*Fistbump* Bravo, brave writer. Let’s get started.
First off, check out our LATEST MAMMOTH SUBMISSIONS LIST, and pick a couple of potential listings to start off with.
Next, have a browse through your existing stories and see if you have anything appropriate to submit straight away. Obviously give any submission a proper going over before you click ‘send’, and DEFINITELY read our guide to submitting to competitions and lit mags to make sure you’re not committing any cardinal literary sins.
Then… get submitting! Keep a note of where you’ve submitted and drop us a tweet so we can virtually high five you (tagged with #100Submissions2018).
And if nothing on the submissions list catches your eye (seriously, it’s huge) then have a gander at Duotrope or The (Submission) Grinder or Paul McVeigh’s blog or Short Stops or any of the many many listings sites out there. There are literally hundreds-if-not-thousands of potential publication opportunities to be had – so you really don’t have any excuse not to submit your work…
Finally, make a note of what you’ve sent where and when, and start making it a regular weekly/monthly habit: write a story, edit a story, submit a story, repeat. If you get a rejection, chalk it up, find a new potential home for your story, and send it out again. If you get an acceptance, do a happy dance and let us know so we can shout it from the rooftops!
And if you’re still not sure if you’re up for the challenge, read on, dear writer, read on:
MEH… TELL ME AGAIN WHY I SHOULD DO THIS?
Look. What are you scared of? Rejection? Fear of failure? Bahhh that shit doesn’t deserve a minute of your time. Rejection can be the most valuable experience for an artist, and – let’s face it – it’s something we’ll all have to deal with at some point, so you might as well tackle it head on and set your target on 100 rejections, just like Kim. The more you expose yourself to the potential for rejection, the better you’ll be able to deal with it (for example: check out this TED talk on actively seeking out rejection).
Accepting that you WILL DEFINITELY sometimes get rejected is a far better approach than pinning all your hopes on every single submission you make. Yes, rejection is inevitable. But it won’t happen every single time. Plus, there are all sorts of different types of rejection, and not all of them rip your heart out. A positive personal rejection can totally make your day. And understanding that it’s really not necessarily a reflection on your writing but all part of an intricate submissions spiderweb that relies on an unpredictable algorithm of right-time-right-story-right-place-right-editor/judge etc etc can help you to be a bit more objective about it all. Here’s how it changed Kim’s perspective:
Now, I see rejection as a conversation: for every piece that is rejected, at least one other person read it, thought about it, and really considered whether it would be a good fit for publication.
Since I’ve started aiming for rejections, not acceptances, I no longer dread submitting. I don’t flinch (much) when I receive inevitable form rejection emails. Instead of tucking my story or essay apologetically into a bottle and desperately casting it out to sea, I launch determined air raids of submission grenades, five or ten at a time. I wait for the rejections, line up my next tier of journals, and submit again.
The fact is: the more stories you send out, the more likely you’re gonna get published. If you only send out one story, get rejected, feel shitty, and never try again, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. If you send out 100 submissions you may well get 10 acceptances this year. That might not seem like a huge percentage but it’s pretty farkin’ good considering how subjective the literary world can be. That means 10 publication credits you didn’t have before. That means 10 stories with your name on, IN PRINT. That means 10 fresh points on your writing CV. Just look at the success of our WHQ alumni who gave no fucks, sent out their writing, and gleefully set themselves up for rejection – you too could be on our Wall of Fame if you just take a chance…
Finally, getting rejected can help you improve as a writer. Rejection forces you to look at your work in the cold light of day. It might prompt another edit, or it might convince you to shelve that idea completely. A few choice suggestions from a lit mag editor who may not have published your story but liked it enough to send you a personal message might just help you elevate that story into something amazing.
Rejection is only a monster if you let it be. It’s up to YOU how you take it. If you let it beat you down and destroy your ambition then, dude, we can’t help you. But if you prepare to fail, give no fucks, and carry on submitting, you just might get yourself published.
Look, we’ve collected MORE THAN THIRTY DARN OPPORTUNITIES EACH MONTH for you. And if you submit to 10 this month you’ll already be ahead of the game for 2018. So go on. We dare ya.