Every day is another story. Drippy spring morning in Eugene. Wet earth and pine needles. Got a rejection notice from Asimov’s for “Search and Rescue.” No biggie, rejection is part of the game. What I found interesting was the advice that Asimov’s gave me. It’s a form-letter, but they thoughtfully included some insights any writer can use to improve their game. See what you think … maybe you’ll find a gem for yourself:
Thank you very much for letting me see “Search and Rescue.” We regret that we cannot make use of it at this time.
All submissions will be examined as promptly as possible, and if suitable, will be paid for on acceptance.
Many manuscripts are rejected because of fundamental faults. Check these things:
—Since Analog is a science fiction magazine, we consider only science fiction stories—that is, stories in which some aspect of realistic science or technology plays an integral part. We do not publish fantasy or stories in which the science is only peripheral.
—Science fiction readers are problem solvers! Stories with downbeat endings, in which the characters have no hope of solving their problems, are strongly disliked by Analog readers. In a good SF story, the characters strive to solve their problems—and even if they fail in the end, they go down fighting, not whimpering.
—Good fiction demands strong, believable characters who face powerful, intriguing problems. Without these, there is no story, no matter how fascinating the ideas or scientific background may be.
—Some plot ideas have been so overworked that it’s virtually impossible to wring a fresh story from them. These include “scientific” retellings of biblical tales, time travelers who unwittingly change their world when traveling into the past, UFO stories, and stories in which the “alien” world turns out to be Earth.
—Write about what you know. Analog writers should be able to do sufficient research to get their facts straight, and they should be keen enough observers of people to write realistically about them.
—Please don’t ask for individual criticism. With hundreds of submissions per month, it is physically impossible to answer them all personally. Many writing errors are quite subtle, and extremely difficult to define clearly in a sentence or two.
Henry Rollins is famous for saying: “I have always learned more from rejection and failure than from acceptance and success.” That’s what I’m choosing, too. I’m posting this so that you understand how true it is that the path to success is not linear. Keep moving forward. Keep failing upward. Go break things. Make something new.