In A Flash: Rejection and True Failure by Shirley Golden

1000wordsToday, once again, I welcome Shirley Golden to my blog. Shirley’s story, Jacob Clears His Head, was one of the five winning flash-fictions in the recent #flashcomp we held at 1000words. As Shirley’s already submitted herself to a 1000words interview, I asked her if she’d like to write a guest post here instead. To my delight, she said yes and has kindly written the following. Thanks, Shirley! Over to you …

Rejection and True Failure

Anyone who’s ever submitted work to be considered for publication has to face rejections. And anyone who’s had to deal with rejections will know it isn’t easy. Of course, there are ways to soften the blows: sending out lots of submissions, and having a list of potential places ready to re-submit helps with focus and motivation; having an appreciation of the odds, if entering competitions, can help sustain self-confidence (even for a competition that receives around 200 entries, a short list of ten offers only a 5% chance of selection). More prestigious competitions attract thousands of entries and can bring the odds down to 1% or less. So, a rejection doesn’t necessarily mean your story isn’t any good.

I find it beneficial to look at my history of submissions for individual stories. For example, I’ve a couple that have been rejected 11-12 times but have also appeared on 3-4 long and/or short lists, and so I’ll keep tweaking and re-sending them because I know it’s about finding the right market, or landing in front of the right judge/editor at the right time. It’s also why long and short lists are so useful. Many stories I’ve had placed in competitions have been rejected several times, and one story was rejected five times before it went on to win a decent first prize. Perseverance really is an asset in this business. It’s true that rejected work often goes through extensive edits, but not always. I’ll stick to my guns if my inner voice tells me the story is working.

Of my submissions for this year (excluding those I’m waiting to hear about), 16 of 41 have achieved long or short listings and/or have been accepted for publication. This is a fairly typical hit rate for me in the last couple of years. However, it still means I have to deal with the fact that around 60% of work I send out fails. So, how do I feel about this? During the times when all goes quiet, I wonder why I keep submitting, and in a rather black period earlier this year, I missed a couple of the bigger competition deadlines – ones I’ve entered (without success) for the past few years. And perhaps that was a wise move; perhaps I saved myself a great deal of work and a few pounds in entry fees.

But actually, it feels like my first true failure, and it’s a salient reminder that it’s far more constructive to just keep on trying.

Shirley GoldenShirley can be found at her website as well as on twitter. Her winning story, Jacob Clears His Head, can be read at 1000words.

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5 thoughts on “In A Flash: Rejection and True Failure by Shirley Golden

  1. Shirley, no wonder your stories find an audience. You refuse to give up and that’s the only way publication happens. It calls for a thick skin and I’ve found it doesn’t even get any easier. Rejection stings and makes us doubt ourselves. We must push on for our characters, though. We owe it to them.

  2. A good post Shirley and pretty timely for me. I’ve noticed entry fees going up though and feel that entering something with long odds for ten pounds has to be thought about. I even think a twelve or twenty pound entry fee puts off some very good writers. What do you think?

    1. Yes, that’s a tough one. I don’t think I’ve ever paid more than £10 for a single entry fee, unless it includes a critique. Personally, I’d like to see a more even distribution of prize money. I know some writers are attracted to those big cash 1st prizes but when judges often comment on how hard it is to select their favourites from the short list, clearly it would be fairer to have a greater number of smaller prizes.

  3. So true, Shirley. Sometimes the inner voice tells me a story works, and then I’ll tweak it to fit the profile of a different target competition where my style of work might fit. My record for the past year or so is not far below your figures percentage-wise, but rate of submission is lower. ‘Failure’ is a given, but I like to call it ‘not this time’. Persistence is also a given! Nice post, nice maths!

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