Happiness, Writing Discussion

If Short Stories Were Kittens…

…would every story find a home?

If you follow Heinlein’s Rules, you should keep every story in the market until it’s sold. Robert J. Sawyer adds some practical advice to the rule: if you get a form rejection, re-print the story, and send it off immediately. If you get feedback with your rejection, fix the story, and send it off immediately.


What if you’re just starting out? What if you’re really trying to sell a three legged, one eared, hairless, kitten? Is there a point when you decide it’s time to put down the story? After 10 rejections? After 100? Can ugly, pathetic, stories still find homes? Is ugly simply subjective?

Rejection is not always the fault of the writer, and that makes it harder to judge a story’s value.

Reasons for rejection (nothing to do with you):

  • The story doesn’t fit the flavor of the magazine/anthology.
    I’m looking for a Siamese not a tabby!
  • The editor just bought a similar story.
    I already have a female cat, I don’t want another.
  • The slush reader was having a bad day.
    Kittens just destroyed my drapes. Bad kittens!
  • The story is good, but all the story slots have been filled for the issue.
    I already have cats, thanks. I don’t need any more.
  • Personal taste.
    Blue eyed cats freak me out!

Reasons for rejection (your fault):

  • The story has problems and needs further revision.
    Are you blind? That kitten is hairless, has three legs, and one ear!

If stories were kittens I’d cry every time I gave one away. Actually, I probably wouldn’t want to give them away at all. Maybe it’s a good thing stories aren’t kittens.

7 Comments to “If Short Stories Were Kittens…”

  1. This is hysterical! And so true. As a just starting out writer as well, I feel your pain. The hard fact of our business is that most rejections are not our fault, as you point out. It’s all up to fate.

    1. Sometimes I wish I had a little bit more control, but then life would be a lot more boring 🙂 As far as I see it, I’m just going to keep throwing things out there and seeing what happens. Good luck to you too!

  2. Well, yeah, there’s only the one thing in our control: whether the kittens… er… I mean stories we create are perfect bundles of furry joy or… 3-legged, one-eyed, one-eared orphans. But that’s a pretty important thing to control. The hard part is, we’re so in love with our kittens that we don’t notice their missing appendages or other parts. Usually, if we’re dilligent, we can find someone else who can point this out to us. Once they do, it’s pretty much our responsibility to make sure the kitten has all appendages, necessary parts, and appropriate cuteness.

    It’s hard to make teh purrfikt kitteh, but the closer we get, the more likely those other things that aren’t in our control will become less of an obstacle to getting the kitteh a home.

    The other great things about stories: they’re like kittens that you get to keep when you give it away. I mean, they’re kittens that you can clone perfectly.

    1. “They’re kittens that you can clone perfectly.”

      Oh yes 🙂 No matter if you give them away they’re still yours.

      Any tips on where you can find good critique partners? I’m still looking, not for someone who will always say “this is the cutest kitten ever” but for someone who understands genre writing, and is willing to look over those stories with a critical eye.

  3. I replied to your comment on my blog as well, but one place I’ve heard of that you might like to check out is Critters.org. It’s basically an on-line writer’s group/workshop. You read and review some number of stories from members of the group to be considered an active member, and in turn you get lots of critiques for your own story. I haven’t tried it yet (as I explain in the comments on my blog) but it’s not inconceivable that I will in the future.

  4. LOL awesome analogy. I have to admit, I’m more of a dog person than a cat person, so I could probably bear to part with the kitties. Once they had grown into cats, anyway.

    My take on this is that I have a list of about 25 publications I want to be published in someday. I submit my stories to every publication on the list that will accept it (like, based on genre, word count, etc.). If it’s rejected by all of them, I throw the story up on my website and move on.

    Occasionally, if a special opportunity arises — like a contest, for example — I will add that to the submissions list for a particular story.

    I like this system b/c it gives me clear goals but also clear cutoff points. And since the “reject” stories go up on my website, they still get read!

    Granted, I don’t write much short fiction anymore now that I’m focusing on my novels…

    1. You know it’s funny though, it seems like a lot of authors have cats, or at least I see random cat photos whenever I do my regular blog rounds.

      That sounds like a very good system actually. I need to get my submissions tracking better organized. I think it’s spreadsheet time!

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