Pursued by Failure?

Proverbs 28:1 - The wicked flee when no one pursues, But the righteous are bold as a lion.

Fear of failure often stops people from chasing their dreams. We run away from that failure before it even occurs. As authors, if we are afraid that no one will like our work, we'll be afraid to submit it. When you don't submit, you'll never deal with rejection. But by never submitting, you have already failed to be published, right?

Often our writing is like our cooking - we like it, and our spouse likes it, but does it mean that the general population will? Share your dish at a potluck, and you'll worry that no one will try it, people who try it might throw it away, or even tell others how much they hate it or what an awful cook you are. But who knows? You may have the cooking talent to create the dish everyone raves about and returns for seconds. Which will it be? If you never put a dish out there, you'll never know!

And those who self publish are not immune - the judges of your books then become the reviewers who can often be more cruel than an editor.

The average BESTSELLING author was rejected half the time before making a big break. That means half the places where they submitted work didn't take it. This is mostly referring to short stories and non-fiction articles. Novels get rejected MORE than half the time.

So what do we do? As authors, our job is to make our writing the best it can possibly be. As Christians, this is MORE true, not less. Even if we then put forth our best foot, we must realize that it still could use improvement.

Last week, I received a rejection letter (I'm in good company with about half the work I send out accepted, half rejected) for a piece that I really like. Here's the letter I received:

I was actually quite surprised by the ending, but I think that was mostly because I thought the narrator was a man. It's important to classify the gender of your first person narrator early on to avoid confusion. I liked the setup with the pictures, but I did wonder what they were for. I had the impression that the man she refers to was a serial killer who killed unremarkable women, but it never really gets brought up and I'm left to speculate. Also, why is she here in the apartment? What is she cleaning up? Is she police, FBI, forensic scientist? Why is no one else with her? I needed more explanation to assist with the images you've given us. 
-- Editor #1

I enjoyed this! You made the black and white images come alive, I felt as if I was looking at the pictures myself. I also liked the opening sentence, it hooked me in. I thought it was interesting how you closed with the last word as "me." I would have liked to known more about you in connection to the photos. I vote yes, overall a strong story with room to expand. 
-- Editor #2 

Really beautiful imagery and sensory detail in this. All of the little things--the tack biting her, the smell of the chemicals, the sound of the window--really put me in the story. I can see what Tara is saying about the confusion over the gender of the MC, and of the details of what she was doing there. But I actually wasn't bothered by it. In fact, the mystery of these things is partly what held my interest. And I actually like that the end is open-ended enough to allow for a few different interpretations. I entertained a few of my own and enjoyed each one equally. 
-- Editor #3

Some solid writing here, and I think the author does a nice job of building suspense. My fundamental concern is, who is this person, and why is she looking through all these photos? Is she the new tenant? At first I thought we were at a crime scene. Also, for some reason I believed I was looking through the eyes of a male MC, only to learn at the end it was a woman. Finally, I believe the prose at the end is a bit overwritten: "A picture tore from its dance and fluttered like a black and white butterfly to the floor." 
-- Editor #4

Very nice prose and some lovely imagery. Unfortunately, I have to agree with Tara and Carol that without some idea of who the protagonist is, I found it hard to connect with the story. I also had a bit of trouble seeing any resolution to the story -- we find out that there's a photo of the protagonist among the others, which is obviously creepy, but then the story cuts off without even a hint of what might happen to resolve the situation. 
-- Editor #5

Unfortunately due to the insanely massive amounts of submissions in our slush pile, we cannot reconsider your piece at this time. 
We wish you good luck in placing the story elsewhere. 

So as you can see from the editors' comments on the flash fiction, there were some who loved it, some who were so-so on it, and some who couldn't get past the flaws. BUT I admit there were flaws. So what am I to do? Should I flee from failure by not re-submitting, or should I fix the issues and try again, like a brave little lion?


  1. This is always the rub, isn't it... some will like our work and others won't. It's why I don't mind a few negative reviews. this is realistic and reflects individual taste. Of course, your first advise is still the best: make sure your writing is GOOD in the first place.

  2. Roar. Try, try again! :)