Do you remember that scene in Alice in Wonderland where Alice eats the cake and puts her hand on top of her head to measure her growth? Naturally, she ends up exclaiming she hasn't grown at all.
Sometimes I feel like that. I feel like I haven't improved in my writing, or that I'm no closer to pro-sale level than I was before. That's when my wife points out exactly how much I've achieved in the past couple of years.
OK, so I've made a few sales. But how close am I to the big ones? Does that personal rejection I received from a pro-market mean I will soon be selling there? And if I do, will it be regularly? (or at least more than once?) Am I like Topanga Canyon, or simply living in hope?
I think I'm improving. People I trust tell me I am. I can look back at my earlier pieces and see the flaws more obviously. And I try not to make those same mistakes again.
Sometimes I read stories in magazines and anthologies, and have trouble seeing why they were accepted in the first place. Then I wonder why my pieces were rejected from those same markets. Surely my piece was better than the ones they published.
Oh well, my day will come. We write, we submit, we write more.
(Gitte Christensen wrote a response to my Topanga Canyon post. This post started out as a comment to her.)
Heh, do not be discouraged, Steve (and Gitte)!
You sound exacly like acceptance-starved me of a few short months ago. Recall my incessant whining and despair! And now look how cheerful I am! Why, you ask? Because I have gotten a recent acceptance! This will happen to you, too! Ah, writers and their pathetically predictable ups and downs. Thank God for spouses.
About reading published stories and the sinking feeling that yours was better. Remember that "better" is not the issue. The real question is: Is your story highly similar to other stories that have been published by this magazine over the course of its (say, 30-odd year) history? Because such a magazine probably no longer appears on newsagent stands; it goes straight from press to subscribers and subscribers don't subscribe because they dislike what the mag has published in the past and feel like a bit of a change.
No! They subscribed because they like it exactly like before!
So the issue is not always making your stories better. IMNSHO, stories like "Lighthouse Keeper" and "Fireflies" can't be better; they can only be screwed over in an attempt to make them more like other people's stories, so resist the urge to do that. You know which ones are good and which ones suck harder than a black hole. Trust in that. And keep reading the magazines that you love and want your stories to appear in, and you'll soon have absorbed their flavour by osmosis and stories like them will appear at the end of your pen eventually :)
Not so much despair - after all I've had a few stories sold recently - more a self-reflection on whether my writing is improving or not. (And, of course, those self- doubts that continue to creep in)
Congratulations on your acceptance.
And congrats on your despair-banishing acceptance.
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