Not Shootin’ Blanks

I’ve been sending short stories out to the pro-markets of late. For those of you who don’t know, “pro-markets” are simply magazines, anthologies, and websites that pay five cents a word or more for stories.

I may be overreaching, aiming a little high, but, to paraphrase Wayne Gretzky, the only shots you’re guaranteed to miss are those you don’t take. So I’m taking those shots and, yes, thus far, they’ve all gone wide.

That said, though every one of those stories I’ve sent out with pro markets as their goals have come back hauling a rejection letter, in every case thus far, those rejections have included specific reasons why my story was not chosen for publication.

Now, these are rejections, which still kinda sucks, but knowing exactly why a story was rejected can be extremely helpful and, in this way, those editors from whom I’ve received feedback have done me a great service. See, if you get feedback along the lines of “this just isn’t ready” or “it feels incomplete” or, worst of all, a form rejection, that’s one thing. Getting one of those would tell me I’m not only aiming far too high but that I’ve brought a bow to the gun range. Know what I mean?

What I’ve gotten thus far, though, amounts to this: It’s good, but others were better. How many others? Dunno. How much better? Not sure. But what I choose to take away from these comments is that, though I may not quite be ready for the Big Leagues, nor am I making a fool of myself by joining their game.

Of course, maybe I’m being naive and “this is well done but” is editor code for “nice frockin’ try, chump.” I don’t know, but, for the time being, I’ll keep sending out those stories and, as they come back trailing rejection letters, I’ll send them right back out again. Maybe to another pro market, maybe to a semi-pro market (usually between one and four cents a word), but I rework them and send them back out.

I’ve got three stories out there right now. Another will be ready to send out in a day, maybe two. The first draft of yet another is about 1500 words away from completion. Then I start in on the next one. And the next one. And the next . . .

My goal for this year is to get payment for one of my stories, regardless of the amount. If someone is willing to pay me for a story, that’ll give me another hint that I’m headed in the right direction. Just three months left in the year, of course, but a lot of stories can be sent out in three months so . . .

For now, all I can do is write, rewrite, and send the damn things out until one of them comes back, not with a rejection slip, but a bit of cash clutched in it claws and a smile on its lipless mouth. My stories look weird.