I recently sold a short story to the 19th market I tried. I first submitted this story to an editor almost exactly three years before it finally found a publisher. Why did selling the story take so long? There were two markets that had it for five months each before turning it down. Another one took four months, So that’s 14 months just for 3 magazines. After the first 4 top markets said no, I took it back and spent a couple of months intermittently revising it. Plus, there was another 2-month period when I didn’t send it out when I was ill. Apart from those times, this story has been steadily making the rounds.
During these three years, my opinion of the story fluctuated. At times, I thought it was one of the better stories I had written. On other days, I was ready to banish it to the bowels of my word processor. Interestingly, now that it has been bought and will see print, I find that I simply don’t know what to think of its merits as a story. I’ve lost all perspective. This isn’t unusual, as my opinion about most of my stories fluctuates radically over time. I’m not the only writer who experiences this.
But here’s the important point: While I might no longer be able to judge the quality of this little story of mine, if I ever could, I never gave up believing in it enough to keep searching for an editor who would like it so well that it would find its way into print in a fiction magazine. And so it’s time will soon be at hand.
The delays, rejections, and rewrites that befell this story are not so very different than what many well-published writers have experienced. If there’s any conclusion to be drawn from all this, it’s that persistence—or more accurately, stubbornness beyond all reason—can pay off. Not always, of course. I do have at least two other stories that have been circulating for longer and have collected more rejections than this one. I’m far from giving up on either of them.
Nevertheless, rather than have you conclude that submitting stories inevitably goes like this, let me tell you about a different work that I sold two days after finally finding a good home for the story that collected 18 rejections in three years. The first editor who read this other piece bought it three weeks after I sent it to him. You just never know.