Home > Goals, Short Story, Writing > On writing: The inevitable rejection

On writing: The inevitable rejection

So, back in January, I accomplished one of my goals for 2013: I submitted a short story to Cemetery Dance magazine. With high hopes I’d pressed that submit button, sending off my short story of which I was so proud. And then I’d waited … and waited … and waited. After a while, I’d waited so long I didn’t really even feel like I was waiting for anything anymore. But to be fair, they did warn that due to the deluge of stories it would likely take several months before I’d hear back from them. Well, they were wrong. It took over five months! But, on the positive side, I did hear back.

While I’d like to tell you I received a personal note from the managing editor of the magazine/publisher, Brian Freeman — you know, something telling me all about how it was a wonderful story but they just couldn’t quite fit it into this quarter’s magazine but they’d sure like me to submit again — the truth of the matter is that I received a “form” rejection from some unknown underling in charge of reading through the slush pile (at least I assume it was the slush pile … who knows, maybe I made it further along). I suppose I can understand why it happened, though. With the sheer volume of material that’s submitted to some of these magazines, especially one of the caliber of Cemetery Dance, it’s nearly impossible to personalize rejections. Otherwise, nothing would ever get published. But still, it would have been nice …

To put a positive spin on things, though, you could say that I accomplished something else in 2013: I got my first rejection πŸ™‚ At least that means I wrote something, and that I overcame inertia and fear and actually submitted it, knowing full well that in all probability it would get rejected. But I consider it a part of my growth as a writer. After all, if you can’t handle rejection, there’s no reason to be a writer, unless, of course, all you want to do is keep your stories to yourself, hidden somewhere on your computer. But that’s not me. I’d like at least one other person besides my lovely wife to read something I’ve written.

I’d like to thank all those who left encouraging comments on my original post. I appreciated each of them. One in particular, though, had some advice that I plan to follow. I’d like to thank Michael over at Parlor of Horror for taking the time to give me some good suggestions on what to do with my stories. So thanks, Michael πŸ™‚

I’ll post the rejected story soon, then some of my other work. Eventually, I’ll even post some of my W(s)IP. I’d also like to find a writing buddy at some point, or an alpha reader, preferably someone serious about their writing and their interest in reading over works in progress. I’ve also heard about some folks having great success with online writer’s groups, so I’d like to pursue that as well. I’ve already got an account on scribophile.com; now all I need to do is become active within the community.

Should make the remainder of the year interesting, and hopefully productive.


  1. July 17, 2013 at 7:23 am

    Sorry about your rejection, but I really appreciate your attitude about it. It hurts a bit at first, especially when there’s no feedback or personalized message attached. But being rejected puts you in very good company πŸ˜‰ It also leaves you free to find another home for your story. Your experience also reminds me of why I eventually stopped submitting stories: the waiting period. While more publications are allowing for simultaneous submissions, many of them still are not. It’s very frustrating having a story held up for months just to hear that it’s been rejected.

    • July 18, 2013 at 10:08 pm

      Thanks, Marie. Yeah, it was frustrating, and of course, the longer you wait for a rejection the more you tend to raise your hopes that your story just might make it in. I was disappointed, because Cemetery Dance is a top-notch publication, but as a fellow blogger noted, I might have set might sights a bit too high. But hey, I figured, why not? Great publisher and magazine, so why not? Worst that can happen is that I don’t get chosen. And that’s what happened. To be honest, that Brian Freeman, the main guy behind all that goes on at Cemetery Dance, responded to my post pretty much made my day … or maybe my month … ok, maybe the rest of the year πŸ™‚ That he let me know I made it further through the process than most other authors meant a lot to me, and as a writer, any encouragement that you find is priceless. So, was I disappointed and frustrated? Yep. Am I glad I submitted the story? Yep. Will I submit to them again should they open up again to unpublished authors? You bet! In the meantime, I’ll keep writing and trying to get better. I might even submit this story to other publications, too.

      Thanks for responding, Marie. Always great to hear from you.

      • July 19, 2013 at 5:01 am

        Oh, definitely, the exchange between you and Brian is priceless πŸ™‚ I agree with you about setting your sights high. As long as you know that it can be a long wait, ending with a form letter, why not try? And now you know you got far along in the process, so it was definitely worth the effort and wait.

        Sometimes rejections can be a kind of encouragement. A very long time ago, I submitted a literary essay to a journal. It was rejected but the rejection came from the editor in the form of a postcard where he actually wrote that he was sorry to reject it. That made me happy … at least he liked my essay even if he couldn’t use it πŸ™‚

        Keep writing and submitting, Dave! You are inspiring me to do the same πŸ˜‰

  2. July 17, 2013 at 8:10 am

    Fun Fact: Every submission receiving a response in June, July, or August has been read by all of the editors.

    You are correct, though. With more than 1,000 submissions to read for essentially 15 or 20 slots next year, there unfortunately isn’t time to give personalized rejections. It also means some very good stories just don’t make the cut because of the limited amount of space we have to work with. But you made it deeper into the process than most authors did.

    • July 17, 2013 at 8:23 am

      Hey, thanks, Brian. I appreciate your response. I’m a big fan of Cemetery Dance and have been for a long time. Means a lot to me that you took time to respond to my post. I hope to get another chance someday, as in, I hope you open it up for new writers again. And thanks for letting me know I actually got further along in the process than I thought I did. I’ll take that as success!

      Keep up the great work at Cemetery Dance, Brian! Looking forward to the next issue of the magazine.

      • July 17, 2013 at 9:06 am

        Yep, trust me, we can tell which submissions came from someone who reads the magazine and which ones were just shot off into the dark because the author saw we were open to submissions. I hope to write a post about that at some point, in case it might be helpful.

      • July 18, 2013 at 10:16 pm

        I can imagine you must see all sorts of stuff come through. You’d think just your name, Cemetery Dance, would make it pretty clear what you guys are all about.

        Please do, when you have the opportunity, write a blog post about this subject. I think many folks would find it interesting and helpful.

  3. July 17, 2013 at 8:17 am

    This is definitely the right attitude to have! Rejections can be really hard and if you don’t grow a thick skin quickly, they’ll be painful every time. So glad you’ve chosen to learn and grow from the experience πŸ™‚ And I’m excited to read the story!

    • July 18, 2013 at 10:12 pm

      Thanks for the support, Hannah. I don’t think it was the rejection itself that bothered me at the moment as much as it was the amount of time that passed. But, like I said, with the volume of stories they received, it’s got be darn near impossible to get through them any faster. It didn’t hurt as much as my very first rejection, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t really disappointed.

      Hope you’re excited after you read the story. I think it’s a pretty good πŸ™‚

      • July 31, 2013 at 7:59 am

        Well, that makes perfect sense. I’ve definitely experienced the same thing. But you’re right, it’s probably difficult to really be timely with those things.

        I can’t wait to read it!

  4. July 17, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    Sorry about your rejection, but it’s a good thing because it means you’re brave enough to put yourself out there πŸ™‚ You’re not considering submitting your short to another magazine?

    Keep smiling,

    • July 18, 2013 at 10:18 pm

      Hi Yawatta – well, I’m not sure. I will probably try submitting it to a few other publications to see if they like it. As a fellow blogger put it, I might have set my sights a little high on this one. Cemetery Dance publications is one of the, if not the, best publisher of horror/dark fiction. So in getting rejected, at least it was by one of the best πŸ™‚

  5. July 17, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    Well, Dave, I didn’t know i was so accomplished compared to you! I’ve been rejected enough times that I no longer have an emotional reaction to it. it’s just a shrug and a “next.” Truth be told, I haven’t submitted anything for almost a year while I work on my micro-novel collection.

    • July 18, 2013 at 10:23 pm

      Ha ha – well, Eric, I suppose I’m on my way to reaching your level of detachment πŸ™‚ Years ago (I hate to admit how many) I submitted many stories, as well as a novel, and made my way through the rejection process. My skin became pretty thick, but then I stopped writing for a while (more years than I’m willing to admit) and it thinned a bit. I still plan on submitting more of my work … hey, what’s life without a little rejection?

      A fellow blogger suggested some other anthologies/magazines that would be good to try, so I think I’ll follow his advice. Worse thing that can happen is I thicken up the skin a little more πŸ™‚

      Looking forward to reading some of your work, Eric. Already enjoying your music!

  6. July 21, 2013 at 12:51 pm

    Great attitude, Dave – but sorry to hear about the rejection, of course. Keep submitting it, though — sounds like it made it far in Cemetery Dance, so that can only mean good things! In other words, don’t post it here — keep submitting it! There’s more than one market out there, and it probably deserves to be published (and earn you a little money, too).

    Keep fighting the good fight, and keep that positive attitude, too — it’s invaluable.

  7. July 21, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    Brian James Freeman :
    Yep, trust me, we can tell which submissions came from someone who reads the magazine and which ones were just shot off into the dark because the author saw we were open to submissions. I hope to write a post about that at some point, in case it might be helpful.

    And I would LOVE to read such a post! I hope you do write it, Brian; it would be a real treat to read any comments you felt like sharing.

  8. July 22, 2013 at 11:10 am

    “After all, if you can’t handle rejection, there’s no reason to be a writer”—This is a great point, because rejection will always be a part of the process. Rejections from agents. Rejections from publishers. Rejections from readers in the form of poor reviews. Thick skin is a necessity. As is the joy of writing.

    Good luck with the next submission!

    • July 27, 2013 at 9:04 pm

      Thanks, Carrie … appreciate commend *and* the follow!

  9. July 24, 2013 at 9:37 am

    Thanks Dave, for the mention in this post. I agree with 1WriteWay, I wouldn’t be so quick to post the story on your blog. I would submit it to another publication. Most of my stories are rejected several times before they find the right place to be published. And most of the time, I have to submit 3 or 4 stories to a particular publication before they like one enough to accept it. I know waiting times can be frustrating but I think it is so much more important that an editor reads and accepts your work, rather than you just putting it up on Amazon or another site yourself. Just because it is free doesn’t mean people will read it, but if it is published in a magazine or on a good horror website and accepted by an editor, they will πŸ™‚

  10. July 25, 2013 at 8:50 am

    Look at you and all these comments! Wow, Dave, good for you!
    I’m sorry to hear about your rejection, but glad you’re taking it so well. Wouldn’t it be easier if we knew right away and not 3 months later? That’s the part that gets me – wasting time wondering, hoping, wishing… ah well, at least now you know. We writers need to have thick skin and a whole lotta luck. I wish you well and no matter what happens – KEEP WRITING.

    • July 28, 2013 at 4:58 pm

      Hi Sue – great to hear from you. Yeah, I’ve got to admit that I was a bit surprised at how popular this post turned out to be. Lots of great comments and advice along the way, too. Sounds like life has been somewhat difficult for you these days, but you seem to be making your way through it. And still writing to boot! Great job, Sue! Thanks for the encouragement. I plan to keep on writing until someone pulls this keyboard out of my hands πŸ™‚

  11. July 28, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    Hi Michael – you’re quite welcome. I admit that I am beginning to wonder about what I should do with my writing. I’ve always assumed it would be fun to post some stories and excerpts on my blog, to share them with friends out in the blog and get some feedback. But perhaps that’s not the best thing to do right now. I’ll to think about that some more … thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  12. July 29, 2013 at 6:54 am

    Oh man, that’s tough to read, but I love your attitude. It reminds me of Stephen King’s memoir, On Writing. He put a large nail in the wall and pushed every rejection letter through it. King wrote, “By the time I was fourteen … the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and kept on writing.” It must be a sign that this is what you’re meant to do if rejection only makes you want it more! Good luck next time.

    On a side note, I’m amazed by your exchange with Brian James Freeman. I love that blogging allowed you to speak directly with him, and receive extra encouragement πŸ™‚ I’ve never read Cemetery Dance, but now I want to check it out – especially when you’re featured in a future quarter!

  13. December 7, 2013 at 6:43 am

    Terrific post and great attitude, Dave! Thanks for linking this on my blog, since it was written before I was fortunate enough to have discovered your blog. Great comments here and it’s so cool that Brian took the time to explain the process. I need to make the time to read your previous posts. Have a great weekend!

    • December 8, 2013 at 9:49 am

      Thanks, Jill! You are so kind …

      I’ve got to tell you I was floored when I saw him respond. But then I thought, how cool is that? He bothered to take the time to respond. And, at least to me, it was quite encouraging. Hope you’re having a wonderful weekend.

  14. January 22, 2014 at 6:49 am

    I’ve had a hundred of them, and I’m being conservative. I quit sending one at a time years ago. I play the numbers. It’s a numbers and luck game for the most part, imo. Yes, the story must be good also.

    If something gets rejected in numbers, i revise, and send it 10 more places.

    Keep at it!

    • January 22, 2014 at 7:58 pm

      Great attitude, Donald. I like it. Thanks for the encouragement!

  1. March 11, 2014 at 11:03 am

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