I was recently complimented as “having thick skin”, or at least I greedily slurped it up as a compliment.
I still might have some work to do to earn it.
Monday was my first multi-rejection day. If a career writer reads this they’ll no doubt shake their head in shame on my behalf and mutter “What a noob.” But it’s still new to me. Someday soon, the armor will be thick enough and multi-rejection days will just be called Tuesday.
I handled the first one well. Masking all true feeling I sent a clinical, cyborgish acknowledgement to the rejecting editor a la Writer’s Market. (Understood. Thanks again for your time.)
The second one was worse, and what’s gnawing at me is I made sure my short story collection wouldn’t even be read with one bone-headed sentence.
This publisher wanted a blurb about who I thought my audience was. My blurb got it right, I thought, until I decided to get all cute and throw in something like this (imaginary throat-clearing) “My audience is sophisticated enough to know that fuck is just a word”.
Cringe. Get the douche chills. I’m right there with you.
Part of my problem was speed. Having read my first rejection, I was seven flavors of determined to just up and throw another manuscript out into the big bad rejecty world, just to show how thick my epidermis was. So I hurled. I do wish I could have that pitch back.
My second would-be publisher took the time to point out that she “did not think fuck was just a word.” Ugh. I’d insinuated that cool folks think like me and, when it turned out she didn’t, I wound up insulting the person I needed to impress. I’ve no doubt she never read a word of my manuscript. And it’s my fault.
See, I fancy myself enlightened because I have bumper stickers in my head. “Censorship is the only obscenity” and “Fuck is just a word” etc. Sometimes I just shouldn’t share.
I actually have no doubt I was getting rejected anyway. There’s two fucks sitting on page 6 of the first story in my collection, but here’s the thing, those fucks help to characterize the speaker, a fourteen-year-old boy. I’ll argue all day with any editor who can’t see the purpose of those two fucks. Those fucks are a hill worth dying for.
But they weren’t even read, due to my cerebral flatulence. I should’ve given myself those 6 pages to try (probably in vain) to change her mind based on the strength of the story.
Well, I’m done kicking my own ass and I’m moving on with a hat full of realizations I’m happy to share:
My audience is educated men, GLBT folk and GLBT-sympathetic folk, lapsed Catholics, and ladies who enjoy Dave Sedaris and Chuck Pahalniuk. That’s my declarative sentence. No value judgments in there. No preaching, just an answer to the fucking “who’s your audience” question.
My master plan is to continue collecting rejections for both my novel and short story collection. If I hit a certain number I’ll have my query and pitch combo re-examined before going back on the attack.
I’m going to remember that this a dream to me but it’s just business to the rest of the literary world. My skin shall thicken accordingly.
So if you’re also a struggling newbie writer, please learn from my mistakes.
As always, here are links to my published works:
My story is “Divine Hand”, about an expose reporter who goes undercover at a religious conversion camp for gay teens.
And here are my freebies:
“The Camp Seminole Weiner Wall” (A friendship is tested by a sexually cruel camp ritual.)
“Friends and Pyromaniacs” (A young man’s awakening requires a Molotov cocktail.)
“The Gay Bomb” (A C.I.A. agent unleashes the ultimate weapon in the war against Islam – a pheromone bomb that causes gay arousal.)