A Man With a Plan

Zombies Need Brains LLC wants to thank you for your submission to the THE DEATH OF ALL THINGS anthology. While we enjoyed reading the story, we have decided to pass on including it in the anthology.
Thank you for your interest in this project. We hope to see submissions from you in our future anthologies and wish you luck in finding a home for this story elsewhere.

I received this letter on Saturday, February 25th, 2017 in regards to the submission of a story to this anthology. Obviously, this is a letter of rejection. For those of you reading that are just starting out, take a good look. You’re going to see a lot of these. Trust me.

I shared this letter with you because of one simple fact. This rejection didn’t hurt. Don’t get me wrong, it definitely stung. A lot. After all, the story I submitted was the absolute best thing I’ve written to date, and I really believed it would be the one to finally get accepted. But, despite all of that, it was much easier to shake this rejection off. And there are a couple of reasons why.

First, I’m happier now than I’ve been in years. Like many artists across the spectrum, I’ve battled with depression my entire life. At the beginning of last year, I was in the depths of one of the worst depressions I’d ever been in, and a rejection had a lot to do with it. I was also stuck in a dead end job that I really didn’t like, and I was completely overwhelmed by the responsibility of being my elderly father’s sole caretaker. I felt isolated, trapped, and like I was going nowhere in my career.

Then in June, I met the most amazing woman on the planet. She has since helped me to get my life under control. I’ve left my dead end job for a much better opportunity that leaves me room to actually schedule writing time. I’ve gotten a handle on my Dad’s health, and now I’ve got someone to support me when I get overwhelmed. Best of all, she kicks my ass when I don’t write. I probably would have picked myself up from the dirt eventually but she did it with an ease that I could never match myself. Honestly, I don’t know how I made it this far without her.

Second, I can see that I am making real progress. I’ve had occasion to read through some of my older works and compare it to the most recent, and the difference is astonishing. If you didn’t know better, you couldn’t even tell that they were by the same writer. With that kind of tangible evidence of how much I’ve grown as a writer I don’t feel like I’m just spinning my wheels anymore. Instead, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Sure, I’m not quite there yet, but I have the confidence to keep on keeping on, because I know I can make it.

Lastly, and most importantly, I have a plan. As 2016 was in the throes of its long awaited death, I sat down and worked out a stratagem for my writing this year. And let me tell you, it’s prolifically bold.

First things first, I’m finishing my first book. Finally. The tentative deadline is June 2nd, or the Friday of ConCarolinas. I have roughly 60,000 to 80,000 words left to go, and three months until that deadline. It’ll be rough, but with my new ability to actually schedule writing time during the week, doable. Calculating in beta reading and rewrites, I should have something presentable to shop to agents by the end of the year.

On top of finishing the book, I am working on literally all of the back logged short stories I have, which is about 19. Many of these are stories that I’ve written for past anthology submissions that are still without a home. I’m starting with these, and in my spare time I’ve been editing these already completed stories to be rewritten after the book is done. I’ve found that this is an excellent use of my break times at work.

The other stories are either half-written, planned, or just an idea. These I’ll be working on towards the end of the year while I wait for beta to come back for the book, and while I’m shopping the other rewritten stories. All in all, I’ve planned to write about 200,000 words by the end of 2017. Like I said. Prolifically bold.

This stratagem is the main reason that I could shake off this most recent rejection. Because I already had a plan for the story if it was rejected. It’s now on the stack to be edited and rewritten. And I will find a home for it and all the rest, or die trying.

This crazy plan came about because I’m a habitual multitasker. I generally have at least two WIPs at a time. It works well for me since when I’m really not feeling working on the main project, I have a backup to make sure that work is getting done on something. I run into problems a lot, though. See, being a multitasker, sometimes I take on way too much, get overwhelmed, and grind to halt. I feel like I’m drowning in all the different stories, and I get no work done at all. This plan is definitely hefty, but it’s organized, I know exactly what I need to be working on and when so I can focus on just one or two things at a time.

So if you feel like you’re going nowhere, and the mountain of rejections is just too tall, take a breath, and make a plan. A useful strategy to help you make that plan is to sit down and make a list of all the works that you’ve got and their various stages of completion. I mean everything, even if it’s literally just an idea. Once you’ve got it, it’s pretty simple to make a timeline for finishing and finding homes for all of them. It sounds simple, but it’s something that very few of us actually do. Trust me, when you can look at your entire career in hard copy and see the path you’ve walked so far, it’ll be easy to see where you should be going. That knowledge brings confidence, and those rejections will start to feel a lot less like disasters, and a lot more like just little bumps in the road.

So what about you guys? Has anyone else done this? If you did, did it help? And if you try my suggestions out, let me know in the comments if it works for you as well as it does for me.

Also, I would like to thank all the personnel of Zombies Need Brains LLC for graciously allowing me to include a portion of their rejection letter in this post. I’m getting in next time. Just you wait!

Comments 5

  • Brilliant. And yes, your writing has improved vastly since I first read your work. It has sophistication, organization, and depth it didn’t before. I can tell just from this piece. (applauds)

    • Thank you, Faith! You had a major part in that growth, and I can’t thank you enough. There’s no way I could let a little rejection get me down after all you and everyone else has done for me!

  • Great post, Alex! I’m so glad you’re happy!

  • Fantastic post, Alex. And thank you for the nudge. I had planned to make a plan, and got sidetracked (story of my life, sigh). Lately I’ve found it helpful, at least, to start by jotting notes to myself on a notepad by my bedside about what I’d like to do the next day. That’s been incredibly helpful and productive. But now I’m going to sit down and see what I can plot out for longer-term.

  • I’m happy to hear you plan on submitting your story elsewhere. ZNB gets hundreds of submissions, with only a few slots available in each anthology, so the competition is tough. We end up rejecting tons of good stories. I hope you find a home for yours!

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