Note: This is a special blog post for the “My Best Advice to New Writers” blogfest organized by Peevish Penman.
If you want to be a prolific short story writer like Ray Bradbury, who wrote 400+ short stories during his long career, you need to write, revise, and submit your short story. And then write the next short story and submit that. You need to keep on writing and submitting your short stories until you have so many manuscripts floating around in the slush piles that a handful of rejection slips in one day won’t faze you. If you’re going to be a short story writer, rejections will always be waiting for you like a dear old friend waiting for you to buy him a drink on payday.
Most new writers stop writing after the first submission and wait to be discouraged by the inevitable rejection slip that arrives six weeks later in the snail mail—or the next morning, if submitting by email. Discouragement will make writing the next short story more difficult. Unless you’re one of those literary writers who must take ten years to write that next prize-winning masterpiece, you can outrun discouragement by writing and submitting as often as you can.
I wrote a dozen short stories each year for the last five years. Sometimes the stories came one at a time, with a month or two going by before the next one demanded to be written. Other times I have short stories raining down like fish from out of the sky, which can be quite overwhelming if you’re not ready for the deluge. No matter how fast or slow a short story arrives, I get it written and submitted ASAP. If a short story returns home with constructive criticism on the manuscript page or rejection slip, I make the revisions and kick it out the door.
My first short story wasn’t accepted until two years after I started writing. By then I had a dozen short stories in circulation and a hundred rejection slips. My second short story wasn’t accepted until a year-and-a-half later. By then I had a four-dozen short stories in circulation and another hundred rejection slips. And then something happened. My writing and editing got better. The floodgates were open. I had a dozen short stories accepted for publication in magazines and anthologies in the last nine months.
Even now I still have 35+ short story manuscripts in circulation. I’m still too busy with writing—and sometimes trying to keep track of everything—to be discouraged by rejection slips. That doesn’t mean I don’t take the rejection of some submissions more personally than others. Whenever I’m disappointed that The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction or Weird Tales haven’t accepted my wonderful short story, I allow myself a fifteen-minute hissy fit. But only for fifteen minutes. I’m too busy with writing, revising and submitting my short stories to do anything else.