To my surprise, an author whose blog I follow lives in Seattle. His name is Aeryn Rudel, and his blog Rejectomancy covers rejection letters and other writing topics, like submission protocol, genre fiction markets, and tools for authors. He also interviews writers and editors—and he kindly met with me for the following interview. (But what else could you expect from someone who spells his name similarly to my daughter Aeddan? Those Gaelic types are so cool.)
Me: You actually work fulltime as a writer. What was your career trajectory? (By the way, I really didn’t sound this together….It was more like, “Oh my gosh! This is so great! I am so thankful that you are willing to do this! I think I will put an exclamation point after every sentence! Even the questions, if that’s okay with you?! So, I have some questions for you! I even wrote them down! Ummmm…how about this one?! You write full-time, right?! Without any other job?! That’s what I want to do! How did you pull that off?! If you don’t mind my asking?!” But neither you nor I have the patience for that, so let’s just pretend that I work for NPR and followed a professional script. Deal?)
AR: Let me see if I can sum up my, uh, trajectory in a (long) sentence for aspiring authors. Write poetry in your teens and twenties, stop writing altogether for a couple of years, start writing tabletop gaming stuff on internet forums in your late twenties, take freelance writing and editing gigs in the gaming industry for a couple of years, work for a small gaming company as a writer and editor, then work for a big gaming company as a writer and editor, quit cushy job as writer and editor at said big gaming company to become a full-time novelist, and, finally, get extremely lucky that your former employer thinks enough of your writing skills to sign you to write novels for them. Yeah, that’s pretty much it. There’s probably an easier way to do this whole writer thing.
That’s incredible. What kinds of things do you write?
AR: Well, I write primarily fantasy and horror. Most of the fantasy these days is for Privateer Press and set in their steampunk-esque setting of the Iron Kingdoms. The horror I write is mostly short form, including flash fiction, and I’ve had a fair number of stories published by zines like The Devilfish Review and The Molotov Cocktail. I also write about the business of writing and rejection on my blog Rejectomancy, where I post the rejection letters I receive from publishers on a pretty regular basis. It’s a great place to indulge in a bit of schadenfreude at my expense.
That’s a lot of projects going at once. What’s your schedule like? (Do you notice that transition I added? Good, since I didn’t use any in my actual interview.)
AR: I’m big into daily word count goals, and I have a target of 2,500 words per day on big projects, like novels. At that rate, I can get a 90,000-word rough draft done in about nine weeks. Once I hit my word count goal on the big project, I move on to smaller jobs, like short stories, articles, and blog posts. I try to stick to an eight-hours-per-day, five-days-a-week schedule, but I always end up working more than that.
How does your work as an editor help you now that you are writing and submitting your own work?
AR: Working as an editor helped me quite a bit with the nuts and bolts of writing. You can’t spend eight hours a day correcting grammar, punctuation, and story structure without picking up a thing or two for your own work. Furthermore, constantly reading other writers’ work exposed me to many different styles, letting me see how a lot of pro authors go about their business. I worked with some great writers, and, again, you can’t help but learn something from being exposed to that kind of talent on a regular basis. As far as submitting my own work, all that editorial experience allows me to present a very clean manuscript to editors. This is not to say a clean manuscript gets you published—it’s always about the story—but anything you can do to make the editor’s job easier can only improve your chances.
I’ve read that, after three rejections from the same market, writers should delete it from their potential market list, and that any piece that gets rejected three times needs major revisions or even retirement. What’s your viewpoint?
AR: Yeah, I’ve heard that too. In my experience, three rejections on one story isn’t really that many. I mean, I had a story that was rejected 13 times before someone picked it up, and I’m not the only writer with that kind of experience (a friend of mine had a story rejected 37 times before it was published). I think getting published has a lot to do with right story + right editor + right time. Even good stories get rejected, and those rejections can have more to do with stuff like the editor’s personal taste, the publisher’s current market, or whether they’ve got something similar in the pipe. You can’t know any of that when you send out a submission. That said, if you get three rejections where the editors give you detailed and consistent feedback on what’s wrong with the story, then it might be time to revise rather than resubmit.
Any last advice for writers?
AR: I like to think the following equation rules the author’s world:
hard work + talent + luck = success.
You can only really control the first one, so work your ass off. That means write a lot, work on your craft a lot, and do all the other stuff required of the modern author, like get really, really good at self-promotion (through social media and elsewhere).
Finally, stay sane. Writing can be a tough business, and you’re gonna be told NO a whole bunch. In fact you’re gonna be told NO way, way more than you’re told YES. The best way to deal with that, in my opinion, is to commiserate with your fellow rejected authors. Support one another. Give lots of “There, there’s” during the bad times and even more “Hell yeah’s!” during the good times. No one is going to better understand what you’re going through than those who have chosen the same path.
For being your fellow rejected author for the day!
Thank you kindly, dear sir, and may I offer my apologies for all the bumbling that my corporeal self made during our interview?
Think nothing of it. I pretended not to notice.
Just kidding about those last few lines! But, despite my verbal gracelessness, I enjoyed this interview very much. Next to the encouragement to keep on submitting, my biggest take-away came when Aeryn said, “Remember that moment when you read something, and thought, ‘I could write like that, better even’? Stephen King talks about having that moment in his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. And now, you just have to go out and do it.”
So that’s what I am going to do right now.
Aeryn Rudel is a freelance writer from Seattle, Washington. His short fiction has appeared in The Devilfish Review, Evil Girlfriend Media, and The Molotov Cocktail, and his first novel is due out from Privateer Press this summer. Learn more about Aeryn and his work on his blog at www.rejectomancy.com.