Good News, Bad News

Posted on 26 April 2013

In the course of one week, I received some rather encouraging news regarding one of my writing projects that was followed, only a few days later, by a surprise rejection from elsewhere for the very same project.

Let it be known I usually don’t consider any rejection a “surprise,” but this rejection was for something perhaps not quite as competitive, and something I thought I might have a shot of getting. So while the good news filled me with hope and gave me the drive to continue soldiering on, the bad news left me wondering what happened.

Maybe I’m confusing you because I’m being intentionally vague, so I’ll sum it up: This writing game can be a complete crapshoot. Just when you think you’ve found your footing in a particular place, the ground shifts yet again.

It serves as a nice reminder that I need to keep my head down and focus on the work because everything else is out of my hands. If you don’t believe me, take it from Claire Vaye Watkins, author of Battleborn and winner of the 2013 Story Prize:

When I was an ambitious young MFA student I sometimes felt frustrated that Ohio State’s MFA program didn’t seem to do much to “professionalize” us, meaning teach us about the publishing world and how to work it so our books got published. We spent just 1 day a year talking with editors or alums about “how to get published.” Now that I have a book out it’s completely clear why our time was structured this way: because all the publishing savvy and insider connections in the world can’t make you a better writer. I know this is easy to say from my vantage point, but trust me: constantly worrying about getting published is wasted energy and a drain on your very soul. I’m now tremendously glad I was educated the way I was, encouraged to obsess only about the writing, the writing, the writing, and not about who would buy it or how. So I’d advise new writers to spend 364 days a year on writing the best damn thing they possibly can, and maybe 1 worrying about how to get it out there.

You can read her full interview on One Story‘s blog here. As for me, it’s back to the writing, the writing, the writing.

What’s the news on your end?


12 responses to Good News, Bad News

  • Paul Lamb says:

    Back when I was guilty of “committing journalism” there was an editor at a particular magazine that I really clicked with. I did seven articles for her, and it seemed like whatever I suggested she would approve. (And I was paid pretty well.) Then a new editor came on board and that sympatico was gone.

    For me, getting a piece of fiction accepted is always a surprise, and a rejection is never a surprise, so I wander in the wilderness on this one.

    • That’s always tough, when an editor you have a rapport with ups and leaves. It’s even worse when it’s an editor who had championed a novel who resigns, leaving the book orphaned.

      And I agree: an acceptance is always a surprise.

  • Sarah W says:

    Works for me, Laura—my old writing group became so focused on publishing that I had to either quit them or quit writing. Not a difficult decision.

    My big news is that I finally figured out a title for my almost-reedited novel. What a relief!

  • Averil says:

    The writing, the writing, the writing. It’s all my pea brain can handle.

    I got some exciting news from my publisher this week, one of those emails you read one hundred forty-two times because you can’t believe it says what you think it said.

  • Catherine says:

    After my book came out I spent way too much time on promotion and sort of lost touch with throwing myself into work. There was a long time where my brain felt too addled by everything, as promotion is NEVER complete and will always leave you thinking you should be doing something else. That has changed now, but I’m convinced that time management is an essential talent. My favourite days are those when I am swept up by a new story and writing hard.

    Where am I? On edits again, but now producing new work. First opinions have been good and I’ve had rejections already, but I ride over them. Yes, acceptances are always a thrill, never really expected.

  • Teri says:

    “… and a drain on your very soul.” Oh dear.

  • Josey says:

    after finally finding my job-footing, i am finally ready to get back to the writing, the writing, the writing. this was the perfect excerpts (yours and claire’s) to read today. thanks you.

    also, congrats on the positive feedback and a big fat MEH to the rejection. what do they know, right?!

  • anna says:

    I hope you’re right, because this writing is all I can do. When I stop to think how many of the things I’ve written have been published, I feel like a complete faker. Congrats on the vaguely good news and forget the vaguely bad, I say. It’s a matter of focus.

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