Last week, I turned in the final rough draft of my thesis and have been diligently logging rejections ever since. Since it’s the end of the year, I seem to getting one or two every couple of days. I know at The Pinch, we try to go through all of our submissions before the holiday break since we are a graduate student-run journal, so I’m not surprised to get so many at once around this time of year.
I’ve gotten a few encouraging ones, but several plain ones too. I even received a personalized rejection in response to work I had sent in response to an encouraging one. In the personalized rejection, the editor didn’t ask me to send more, so I can take that as a two steps back kinda thing.
Getting a bunch of rejections at once has smarted quite a bit. Thankfully, I have a rejection buddy. Both of us stay accountable to each other about the whole submission process. When I’m revising, I let him know. When I think about submitting to certain journals or start submitting, I let him know. When I get a rejection, I text him that I got it. If it smarts, I say so, and he encourages me to keep at it. He does the same with me. Since we’re both poets, we also get a real sense of how long some journals take to respond and what journals might be better suited to his work than mine, etc. I also absolutely love his work, and I want to see him do well. I’m in his corner and it’s good to feel that someone is in mine, because getting rejections is hard and sometimes painful, especially after you’ve been encouraged to send more and the editors didn’t care for the batch you sent.
Over the break, I’ve been writing fiction, something I’m really enjoying. I wrote over 16 full poems (not drafts) this semester, and I’ve been feeling a little burned out when it comes to poetry. As of now, I’ve only written four short stories in my entire life. Three of them because of workshop deadlines, and now one I’ve been hammering on since break started for a sort of reprieve from poetry.
I did send one story out for publication in November, and have just started to receive the rejections for that one. So far, I’ve received two encouraging and three plain ones. The encouraging rejections were from One Story and [Pank], which really pleased me. Both of those journals happen to publish only stellar fiction and it really boosted my confidence about my fiction to see that they saw something in it to encourage me to submit more. Unfortunately, I didn’t have another fiction story to send, so I’ve been diligently working on one ever since. I will say, also, that since I’ve gotten encouraging rejections from such great journals, I’ve been more interested in submitting fiction.
I’ve also taken my rejections for fiction differently. Since I’ve worked for a journal for several years, I know that sometimes a great poem might not blow us away, but it may definitely blow some other journal away. It’s all about timing, how it stands out, etc. If I get a rejection from one journal, I may send out that same work to another one without revising it because I may think it fits this other journal’s aesthetic better. With these rejections for fiction, it makes me really think I have something here, something with some good potential, but that I need to revise it before sending it out again. Poetry seems like a crap shoot. You never know where a poem might end up. Fiction, on the other hand, seems a bit clearer. My fiction didn’t fit into the aesthetic of the journals who sent plain rejections, but these other two might take it after some revision.
Writing in a different genre is, I think, a really good way of polishing and practicing new things. My thesis adviser recently made the comment that I tend to hold the characters I write about in my poetry at a distance. I write about them very intimately, but, in many cases, very coldly. I don’t write in a way that helps my audience connect or feel for my characters. On the other hand, I find myself really pulling in close to my fiction characters, exploring their motivations, getting to know them and their quirks. This is something I should think about applying to my poetry, trying to write with the same level of humility, letting both the good and the bad shine through.
Writing fiction is really forcing me to learn to write in scene. I reflect, focus, or obsess a lot in my own poetry. There is very rarely plot-driven action. Interesting fiction is told with a clear dramatic action cut with carefully chosen flashbacks, so I’m having to learn a lot and I’m enjoying it.
Do you practice writing in other genres? How does it inform your main genre?