Short stories are my first love. As much as I enjoy writing novels and novellas, I keep coming back to short stories. That’s why my first collection, The Voices of Martyrs, means so much to me. But as I’ve reflected on the long journey in getting here, I keep coming back to one thought: rejections are a part of a writer’s life.
Number of short stories I have written: 87
Number of times I’ve sent stories out: 594
Number of acceptances: 67
Number of rejections: 527
By my rudimentary calculations, I have about a 13% acceptance rate over the history of my career. I have no idea where this ranks in terms of being typical. I’m no Jim C. Hines or Tobias Buckell or else I’d crunch these numbers to death. I know that if I were to grant my acceptance rate over time, you’d see an ascending curve as the acceptance rate in my first five years is quite different from my most recent five years. When I was first starting, I was sending stories out to every market I could think of. It took a while to get a feel for what kinds of stories particular markets were looking for. So being better at matching stories to potential markets helps.
The other thing that has helped is that I get invitations to submit to projects. While no guarantee of an acceptance, it helps the odds (like an editor already familiar with my work wanting me to write something tailored to them). All that said, that’s still 527 times I’ve received a rejection. Five hundred twenty seven times I’ve had to read “no” and feel that sting that you never get used to.
There can be a difficult learning curve to rejections. It takes a while to emotionally realize that the rejection was of the story, not of you. Different kinds of rejections tell you different things. A lot of quick arriving form rejections may be telling you that the story’s not ready (or tat the market is brutally efficient). I have sold every story that I wrote in college. The last one sold five years ago (well over a decade since I first wrote it). They’ve gone through maybe ten drafts each. I stuck with them because I believed in them and because the rejections went from forms to personal comments. Those stories which never moved past the form rejection stage, after a dozen send outs, I took a hard look at. They simply weren’t good and have been trunked (there are ten short stories that will never see the light of day).
Over the last couple weeks I’ve sent three stories off into the wild. One I’ve already heard back on with a “maybe … if you’re willing to edit.” The other two I’m simply waiting to hear back on (read: I’m working on new stories to distract myself). I’ve also sent out rejections to all but a dozen or so authors for the April issue of Apex Magazine which I’m guest editing. I’ve had to reject some great writers and close friends whose stories simply didn’t work with what I was looking for.
You will be rejected. It’s part of the writing life. It feels personal (especially when you’ve poured your soul into it, bleeding over each page), but it’s not personal. It’s about the work. Not every rejection means the same thing. Before you reach to drown the grief of your baby being rejected, parse it for what it means to you and where you are. Rejection can refine us, letting us know when a story is not ready. But that rejection could just mean “not for us.” Or “we ran out of room.” Or “we just brought a story similar to this.” Rejection can teach us things, but sometimes the biggest lesson is about perseverance. About getting up, dusting yourself off, and sending your story out again. Because, like much of life, a successful writing career is about determination. Those eventual acceptances are how collections get made.
About The Voices of Martyrs:
“An outcast in the distant past struggling to survive. A religious captain rationalizing away the evil of the slave ship he commands. A future biomech warrior in a literal culture war. The stories in The Voices of Martyrs again prove why Maurice Broaddus is one of the most exciting writers of today’s genre fiction. His vision spans space and time while staying grounded in the stories–in the very voices–which make us fully and tragically and hopefully human.”
–Nebula Award-nominated author, Jason Sanford
We are a collection of voices, the assembled history of the many voices that have spoken into our lives and shaped us. Voices of the past, voices of the present, and voices of the future. There is an African proverb, “Se wo were fi na wosankofa a yenkyi,” which translates as “It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten.” This is why we continue to remember the tales of struggle and tales of perseverance, even as we look to tales of hope. What a people choose to remember about its past, the stories they pass down, informs who they are and sets the boundaries of their identity. We remember the pain of our past to mourn, to heal, and to learn. Only in that way can we ensure the same mistakes are not repeated. The voices make up our stories. The stories make up who we are. A collected voice.
About Maurice Broaddus:
With sixty seven stories published, Maurice Broaddus’ work has appeared in Lightspeed Magazine, Weird Tales, Apex Magazine, Asimov’s, Cemetery Dance,Black Static, and many more. Some of his stories have been collected in The Voices of Martyrs. He is the author of the urban fantasy trilogy, The Knights of Breton Court trilogy. He co-authored the play Finding Home: Indiana at 200. His novellas include Buffalo Soldier, I Can Transform You, Orgy of Souls, Bleed with Me, andDevil’s Marionette. He is the co-editor of Dark Faith, Dark Faith: Invocations, Streets of Shadows, and People of Colo(u)r Destroy Horror. Learn more about him at MauriceBroaddus.com.