In 1990, my life changed. I was at the end of my wild teenage years, and one crazy night, I had a vicious car wreck. I wrote about it in my third unpublished Rebel’s Edge story, Over the Edge. Back then, I shattered some of the bones in my upper arm and had to have surgery to put it all back together with a titanium plate and screws. The scar is faded but large and visible with the little dotted tracks from the staples that once held the flesh together. My arm works fine, but the memory is forever there. Life leaves other scars on the inside, too.
In the writing industry, it is good to have a tough skin and not drown in the sea of rejection. The feeling of never getting anything published again (unless I sacrifice it for self-publishing) is real. I try not to dwell on it and leave it to fate to some extent. It seems better to let a rejection bounce off and move on to the next prospect.
A practice that has become more common with submissions is being ghosted and never hearing from a publisher or agent again. One of the most frustrating ones for me was a publisher who randomly emailed me six months after my initial submission of Lane Bowden 1973. They said that my submission was overlooked, but it sounded interesting, and they would check it out and get back to me soon—in another couple of months. Time went on. I wrote back a couple of times, and nothing but deafening silence followed. I checked their site and social media, and all activity had stopped shortly after they had contacted me. I have no idea what became of them or their company. There is nothing like having your hopes dashed. It reminded me of another time when an agent was interested in reading more of Rebel’s Edge, and I heard nothing back after sending the manuscript, only to later find out that they had died. Out of respect, I will leave them both unnamed.
Lately, I have had a different feeling about how to track my submissions. I used to keep a little black book to log the time and date of each one and note an acceptance or a rejection when I received the news. For others, I would wait the prerequisite time (usually three months) and then follow up and log the details. Over time, the book felt like the little black book of a single guy with lots of scratched off names of potential dates, an ode to rejection, so I ditched it.
Sometimes with submissions, there will be a nice note in a rejection or an empty-feeling form letter. Either one is better than nothing. With A.I. making headway, it would seem easy enough in the future to automate replies and write form letters, but A.I. will probably take over more than that.
I mention the car wreck at the beginning as it is a physical manifestation of the past, a past I have used to write about in truth and fiction. My scars have informed me as a writer—the ones inside and out. The minor rejections that bounce off are disappointing, but there are other factors at play—the state of the market or an agent’s or publisher’s personal taste. I know my work is different, and that is fine. Every original or unique voice that has been discovered has swum in the sea of rejection. The only question is: will it happen in my lifetime or beyond?