My writing goal for 2019 was to get one hundred rejections. Because what writer wouldn’t want to get rejected that many time, amirite? A few writers recommended this to me as a means of putting my work out there. To get that many rejections,  you have to submit a lot of stories, and along the way, some of them are going to find homes. The goal also gets you studying markets more closely and watching for more opportunities. No market is too small or too strange.

I pulled in 106 rejections with 10 acceptances over 122 submissions. In the unseen shadows of those numbers, I had four stories held for consideration at a handful of my dream markets. This was a major boost for me, even if they ultimately wound up in the rejection pile. In the end, 2019 was my best year, acceptance-wise, yet so I’ve decided to make this an annual goal.

Now, I do recommend trying this if you’re making a move to take yourself seriously as a short fiction (or novel writer, for that matter), but… you should be prepared. There are approximately 365 days in a year, so you can reasonable expect to receive a rejection every 3.65 days. That’s a lot rejections, but hey, that’s doable, right?

WRONG.

Because it doesn’t go like this at all. All those editors and slush readers get together, probably with some sort of booze or I don’t know, psychedelics made from writer’s tears, and pick a single day to just reject the heck out of you. And you can bet they’re giggling while they do it. There are long stretches of nothing, which always get your hopes up because a late response could mean that they’re thinking about your story. At this point you’re probably clicking stats on The Grinder every hour, deep in the pit of rejectomancy. Then…

BOOM.

grayscale photo of explosion on the beach
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You get four rejections in a single day.

I have no advice for those days. I wish I did. Practise self-care, yes, whatever that means to you. Two rejections? Pfft. No big deal, I am a writer, dang it. Rejections are my life. Three rejections? Hey now, that stings a little. FOUR? Oh sweet baby Yoda, nothing has hurt like this since Whatstheirface dumped me in grade 11.

adult alone anxious black and white
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Big, deep breath.

I’m sure there’s a callus that grows over your soul at some point and in the year 2030 it will take forty rejections per day to turn me into such a sniffling mess (the climate apocalypse plans on making me jaded AF). There was a point when one rejection felt as discouraging as four did in 2019-which brings me to another thing that this whole one hundred rejection goal did for me-it made me more resistant to rejection. Four? Before 2019 I’d never received more than one a week, max, and if we want to be writers, we do need to get used to rejection. Gosh, we’re in a masochistic profession.

I’m still not where I’d like to be in terms of faith in my own writing, but I am learning to need that faith less, and to trust my voice more. Which is probably what I needed to learn more than anything, TBH.

What about you? Did you make any goals for last year this year? Want to hash them out?

12 thoughts on “one hundred rejections

  1. As a voice actor, I’ve been in the rejection business for about ten years already. That wasn’t painful enough, so now I’m an indie publisher too! Last year my goal was to write a book, and this year my goal is to share that new book (one chapter per week + audio) on my blog. So far so good… and good luck to us all this year!

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  2. Congratulations on all your rejections, I guess???

    But seriously, I like that as a goal. If you have a one in a hundred chance of doing something, then just try to do it one hundred times, and you should succeed once. And it sounds like your success rate was quite a bit better than that.

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  3. Oi. I aspired to this goal, too, but that meant submitting at something at least twice a week, and, as a poet, I have the creative metabolism of a pop star: about twelve new pieces a year.

    That being said, as I counsel my younger writer friends, to go this road, to grind away at even a “normal” rate demands the stubborn patience and thick shell of a wise old tortoise. Some of our senior poets here in Canada totally eschew this part of the job, publishing _only_ books.

    How to handle those heavy rejection days? I wish I knew. You know, Jack London wall papered his apartment with rejection slips: there’s a clue there, I think.

    _Courage_! and one more time into the breach!

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    1. Twelve new pieces a year is no small feat, either. I’m the sort of person who works well under deadline and in the short fiction world, there’s no shortage of those, so my one hundred rejection goal did make me write more in the past year than other years.

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  4. I didn’t make many simultaneous submissions, only three, as there’s so many spec fic markets that don’t accept them. At the beginning of the year I had seven stories to send out, and I wrote more, via inspiration or prompts based on the call I submitted to, throughout. By the end of the year I had submitted thirty-two individual stories (some of these were flash fiction, mind). This is more than I’ve written in previous years, which was another positive side-affect of setting the hundred rejection goal.

    As for patterns, someone once mentioned they noticed a mathematical trend that one in ten submissions were accepted, which seems right BUT, like the rejections, the acceptances came in clusters with long gaps between so expecting such a pattern would have only been discouraging. It also seems to me that one in ten must depend on the markets you submit to, as some places simply accept a higher percentage of stories submitted to them than others. The only thing I can say for a real certainty is that I would never have had those ten acceptances if I didn’t also get 106 rejections.

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  5. Howdy,
    Who are you trying to please?
    I ask this question of you because I asked it of myself years ago.
    Yes, I spend money on all of those sites to track agents, and yes, I spend four hours at a minimum on query letters, which I detest but, I spend most of my writing time on writing.

    Since I started this new chapter in my life, I have published over thirty novels and counting. I stopped wasting my time trying to get past some interns. I can just see them with a smartphone in one hand playing some game, while their mother is yelling at her or him from her office (spare bedroom) to get through the slush pile before they go to the party or sleepover.

    If you are an astute reader, which by your writing style I think you might be, you will find the silver bullet. I self-publish everything. I toss it at the wall and see what sticks. When something does not perform with the alacrity that it should, I go revisit it, tweak it with what I have learned, and toss it back on the wall with more marketing.

    The answer to the original question for me is, ‘I write to please me.’ No matter what the outcome, if I sell a thousand or one, I read it and enjoyed the story.

    The odds of all of those rejections are that you cannot possibly write that many bad things so, maybe there is something else that is not working for you.

    Learning the process of creating the story, the structure, characters, voice, pov, and so on was only a small part of the battle for me. Cover design and marketing are a full-time job, and I already have one of those. This must be a labor of love. Yes…passion. If you are passionate about what you are doing screw the rest of the world, you are doing what you enjoy, and that makes it worth it.

    I go to so many writers’ conventions and workshops and so on, to network. Yes, one day, some agents will trip over my novels on Amazon and elsewhere and ask, why is this person not with an agent? The answer will be because my ‘stuff’ is in some slush pile under the Pokemon creature.

    No, don’t make a hundred rejections your goal, make a hundred stories your goal. Put them on KU and see who reads them. What did they read, and what did they not read? Why did they read or not read them? Feedback, as you know, is critical! That is what I did and still do. What sells and what does not. (WHY?)

    I wish you the best and feel free to visit, talk, or trade stuff for feedback, happy to assist other authors. Some see us as in competition. I do not. A rising tide lifts all boats, and I am one to pay it forward. My blog is mostly stuff about writing.
    Best -TW

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    1. Congratulations on your success! KU is a wonderful tool and as an avid reader, I’ve read wonderful indie books on kindle and many of my writer friends have recounted positive experiences publishing there. My current goal sounds like it may be different from yours. I have dreamed for years of having my short stories published in the short story magazines I regularly read and love, and that is what I’m working toward. The hundred rejections short story method has worked very well for me in achieving that goal and keeping me on track with submissions. Thank you for sharing your writing journey, it sounds like you’re doing wonderfully and enjoying your craft. Happy writing!

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