I wrote a story about a standup comedian finding redemption. It is fairly straightforward. The idea ruminated with me for a few weeks. I thought the process of working on a standup set was fascinating. In fact, it made me want to explore standup comedy some day when I'm not in seminary.
I watched a Masterclass on standup sets and listened to a ton of comedy podcasts. I crafted my own mini-set and started writing the story.
One of my first rejections was from an editor who said: "The story is well told and it almost pays off, but I didn't find the standup scene funny. Sorry."
Later on, I wrote a stupid Tweet off the cuff that read: "Thinking of writing a sequel to Seabiscuit called Pondwaffle."
That same editor who followed me on the cursed Bird App replied: "Now THAT'S funny stuff."
Friends. You don't understand. Really.
The standup set I worked for hours on was rejected and the Tweet I came up with while binging Curb Your Enthusiasm at 1 AM was found to be hilarious by the same editor. If that doesn't sum up my experiences with the publishing market, I don't know what does.
Another story of mine was almost unpublishable because of how bleak it was. It is about a recovered drug addict trying to find God in his past by going home for Christmas. Knowing a few addicts personally, I knew that it would be a disservice if I held back what it was like for them from the tone of the stories they shared. Some of the journals I submitted it to required trigger warnings, and I knew instinctively that this wasn't the right piece for them.
I was told that it was too dark by editors who did detail why they didn't accept it.
Imagine my surprise when it suddenly got picked up in The Bangalore Review. I honestly didn't expect it to get picked up at all.
The thing is most of my stories have happy endings, at least the unpublished ones. I generally try to be a positive guy. I believe in redemption and forgiveness, both as spiritual and personal beliefs. There is that undertone of redemption in all of my work though.
Now the replies I get have the vibe of saying, "Your stories are too positive for our times. We're in the middle of a pandemic, my good sir, and there's no time for smiles. I chuckled while reading this. How dare you."
If there's anything to be learned from my 75 rejection letters so far, it's that the literary world is a strange and sensitive place. You don't know what's going to be picked up and the trends are unpredictable. All you can do is throw your work into the void and hope someone catches it.
Put yourself out there, friends, both in life and in your endeavors. Embrace the chaos. You'll find your weirdos and your place eventually.