Stephen Parrish tallies up some numbers on rejection over at SF mag Electric Spec‘s blog.

His numbers–200+ rejections spread over four novels and 25 stories–are nothing unusual, or even surprising, for people in this business, and he’s got a nice illustration of how much rejection even someone like Jackie Gleason endured before breaking into entertainment. Even once you’ve made it you still get rejected all the time, for heaven’s sake.

I’m starting to sell with some regularity, but I got and continue to get my share of rejections, too.

When I started learning kung fu, each trip to the dojo would leave bruises up and down my arms. Big purple lumps from blocking incoming strikes with palms, forearms, and elbows. I’d be lucky if the first set faded next week when I returned to absorb two more hours of punishment.

My knuckles used to get raw to the point of bleeding after a handful of punches into the rice bag, or lightly smacking the concrete as I sat on my front porch.

At some point, my arms stopped bruising every week. I punched things and did knuckle-pushups until my knuckles got so tough Mr. T himself wouldn’t say rude things about them in their company. I still get a few bruises and scrapes, but they’re rare, only when I take an odd shot or we’re training especially hard.

4+ years back, I used to trunk short stories (literary fiction, back then) after one or two rejections. Part of this was due to literary fiction markets taking 6-12+ goddamn months to reply (if you’re writing a lot in your early 20s, a story you wrote a year ago is probably going to look like amateurish buffoonery in light of your new experience), but that was all it took for my untrained little ego to bruise up and go home crying.

It’s closing in on two years since I started learning kung fu; it’s been the better part of three since I started writing and submitting sci-fi/fantasy stories. A few of my sales have come on the first or second submission, but others have racked up five or six rejections before an editor (venerable and wise! Or wise beyond the age of their pretty, youthful faces) picked them up.

I still lose faith in some stories; looking at my submission log, I tend to give up on a story after it hits 10-12 rejections. Just as often these days, I’ll reread it, think “Hey, this is genuinely rad, despite all the turning-downs it’s gotten,” give it a little tweaking, and send it back into the world. And sometimes, rejections still hurt, like when I know a market had the story under serious consideration, or an editor replies with the dreaded “We liked this story, there’s nothing wrong with it, it was just edged out by other stuff we like more.”

But for the most part, I wake up the next day unbruised. Getting rejected is like fighting the wooden dummy. It hurts you and the dummy doesn’t notice. Fight for long enough, though, keep returning to the dojo and striking away, and eventually the dummy won’t be able to hurt you, either. Then you can train without fear.

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I am a Science Fiction and Fantasy author, based in LA. Read More.
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