Rejected Again

I was having a good day.

This isn’t about one story (a really good story) that got rejected for the 4th time. This is about my entire body of work, shunted aside constantly and forever by the world of professional writing.

I’ve spent five years trying to get a novel published — a novel that took me 10 years to write. It’s a really good story, and I’m really happy with the structures and characters and everything. But despite submitting it over and over and over and over to dozens and dozens of agents and publishers, nobody wants anything to do with it.

Obviously I’m biased, but this new story is good. I seriously think the plot is on par with Moon and Primer. I’m so happy with the way it turned out, I bought items in the story to have around because they make me happy. Only now they’re going to make me think about all this rejection and just make me miserable.

I can’t find anyone who can tell me what’s wrong with my writing. I take students to a Creative Writing Festival every year, and always submit pages to the teachers’ workshop. No one has anything substantial to say about how it can be improved. (Obviously it can be, but the general consensus is that it’s solid.) Agents and publishers only send form letters. (The book got one comment, once: “The length is an issue.” Big help.)

At what point do you stop bashing your head against that wall? And if you’re about to tell me to “just keep at it” because Stephen King got a billion rejection letters and JK Rowling got a thousand rejection letters, save it. King sold Carrie after teaching for just a few years. Rowling endured lots of domestic violence and poverty and depression, no doubt. And I’m grateful that I’ve never had to endure anything like that. But if I’m reading this Scotsman article correctly, she got an agent on her second try.

I read an article one time that said getting literary representation is all about who you know. And I don’t know anybody. I might as well not even exist, when it comes to the world of Published Writing.

I write because I love to write, and I doubt I’ll ever stop. But I’m so violently sick of trying and failing and trying and failing and trying and failing for years and years and years and getting nowhere. How is this possible, unless (A) the capitalist world of publishing is a soul-sucking infinity of mediocrity, in which only the most incredibly fortunate decent storytellers make contact with the gatekeepers; or (B) my writing sucks?

I really do believe it’s (A), which is plenty bad. But sometimes I have to wonder if maybe (B) deserves a residence in my file cabinet.

I was having such a good day, too.