I had followed Heinlein’s Rules to the letter. A completed story, original voice intact, no pointless revisions or endless drafts. It was going out for submission, and no matter what, I said, I would keep it on the market until it sold.

This was my second short story. My first, also written to the specifications of Robert Heinlein’s business advice for fiction writers, was still in submission limbo. Only after a few days of frantic refreshing of my story’s status in the queue did I key to the average wait time; 2 to 3 months was standard. 90 days of Schrodinger’s Story, neither accepted nor rejected? Ridiculous! Obviously the answer was, sit down and write, finish, fix typos and send off a new story. Keep busy with new short stories to avoid stressing over the ones already submitted.

This new story when to a pro market with a short accept/reject period. See? I did my research. And I started a third story right after clicking Send. 4 days later I heard back, a measure of success. I was in the second round of the editorial process, a step only a handful of stories achieve. My brain celebrated as if it were a foregone conclusion. Worst case, I’d receive a personalized rejection letter, the Golden Ticket of Nopes, where editors lay bare their reasoning and dollop up advice for your next submission.

This is where Rejection hit with a twinned blow; not only was the story rejected, but “due to time constrains we are no longer able to provide detailed feedback on our rejections.”

Son of a bitch.

Work stalled on the third story. Writer’s block? No. I had a clear vision of this tale, the words dancing from my brain to my fingertips. My fingers, though, refused to move. My body ached just passing my writing desk, let alone sitting down and putting my hands at the keyboard. I tasted ash when considering writing.

Just a regular rejection wouldn’t have been this hard. Getting shot out of the saddle in the first round was bearable. But I had let my mind run wild with excitement over this second-round and personalized-letter nonsense. I didn’t make the story important, I made the rejection important.

Importance is the murderer of will.

The story wasn’t right for that particular market. Great! Does it matter why? It was good enough to get through the first round of readers, so take that knowledge, don’t revise it dammit! And send it out again. And now I was the writer of two stories, both on the market, and writing a third.

No time wasted in revision with no feedback. No letter from the Collective of Authors saying “Never write again, Jones! This work sucks!” And no tears over the spilled milk of rejection. But damn if it wasn’t a rough few days processing that.

Now, I’ll admit my writing has stalled. There’s been a number of life-rolls recently that have kept me rocked back and staggering. But even 100 words in a day will become 3000 word story at the end of the month. It’s just simple math.

Keep writing.

Eli Jones avatar
Eli Jones
Eli Jones is a spectulative fiction writer and data analyst living in the Cascadia Bioregion.