Thursday, November 29, 2012

First Ever Guest Post: Jeff Harget

The best thing about blogging is the people you meet. Not that I've ever actually met Jeff.  We haven't had beers or shared embarrassing childhood stories or spent a cold Buenos Aires morning burying a dead llama jockey that I HAVE NO IDEA HOW HE GOT INTO MY TRUNK!

But Jeff has been super supportive to me and my writing. He's really nice. Like super nice. Like so nice it makes me wonder whether he actually has a closet full of suits made with human skin and he's just covering up for it. Even so, he's my kinda people.

And he's been kind enough to grant me my very first guest post! I asked Jeff to tell us a little bit about how he got his short story published. As always, he exceeded my expectations.

Check it out.

"I've Never Had a Story Rejected."

Can you make that claim?  Writers all over the world can.  Never rejected.  Not even once.


Are they storytellers so brilliant that rejection is impossible?  Is their prose so powerful that the Earth itself is moved by it?  Do they write their characters so real they knock at your front door and borrow cups of sugar?  Are their settings so vivid that you could walk through them with your eyes closed?

They must have a secret.  That's the only explanation for never having had a story rejected, isn't it?  Want to know what their secret is?  I'm about to divulge it.  Right here.  Right now.  Follow this simple step and you'll never find another rejection letter in your mail again.

Don't submit your story.

That's it!  It's the only way.  It's guaranteed to prevent the heartbreak of reading, "Sorry, but your story isn't right for us at this time."  And you'll never again battle the self-doubt that comes with receiving no response at all to your submission.

This is a secret I knew instinctively.  I had a perfect record with zero rejections.  I was undefeated.  And I wasn't about to jeopardize it!  Surely, my fragile ego couldn't possibly withstand an incrementing counter in the losses column.  Once a rejection came I'd never again be able to claim that I had avoided the disappointment of rejection.

Undaunted by fear, I blissfully wrote my stories and chapters.  I posted chuckles and light-hearted shorts on my blog without the dread of agents and editors scrutinizing every word and phrase.  I participated in weekly challenges with my online fantasy writing group, knowing the worst I'd receive was a callous critique.  I was happy.  I was writing.  And I had never been rejected.

And then came opportunity.  A message appeared in the fantasy writing group, posted by an editor who had just finished selecting stories for the "Cutlass: Ten Tales of Pirates" anthology.  She asked the group, "You wouldn't per chance have a really good story about magic?"

"Magic??? This is a FANTASY Writing group," I replied, and ended my response by quoting Harry Potter. "I love magic!"

She asked if I was fishing for an invitation.  I hadn't thought so consciously, but now that she'd asked, maybe subconsciously I was.  Was a push all I needed?  I inquired about where I could find the submission guidelines.  "Nowhere," she answered.  She doesn't like slush.  Submissions were by invitation only.  We took the conversation to email and she told me what types of stories she was seeking.

"What the heck," I thought.  I drafted the first thousand or so words of an idea I had.  I sent it to her and asked if it was in the ballpark.  She said it was.  So without regard for my perfect record, I wrote.  A few weeks later, I sent her the finished story.  And waited. 

An email arrived a couple months later.  It contained a handful of suggested edits.  I was ecstatic.  Edit requests mean they're interested, or so I'd read on more than one blog.  I happily revised and resubmitted.  A few days later I received word that she wanted to include "Barnabas" in the anthology.  My short story had found a home.

This was a case of me being in the right place at the right time with the right story sent to the right editor.  In North Carolina, we call that "sheer dumb luck."  But sometimes, sheer dumb luck is the best kind to have. 

But then I got to thinking.  That's what it always comes down to, isn't it?  Beautiful, powerful, exciting stories by the thousands skirt across the desks of countless agents and editors before they find a home.  They have to be the right story at the right time for the right place and read by the right agent. 

All we can do is keep submitting our stories until the celestial muses align and our words emit that almost divine aura that only the right agent at the right time can see.  It doesn't matter how many desks our stories see before they find their home.  What matters is that we continue giving our stories the chance to find that perfect home.

The quotable Winston Churchill said, "Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts."

Never having been rejected isn't a boast; it's proof you need to buy more stamps and click "Send" on more emails containing your stories and queries.  Have courage. Be tenacious, unrelentingly persistent.  The perfect home for your story is out there.  Only you can help your story find it.

About Jeff Hargett

Jeff Hargett is a grandfather from North Carolina with an imagination full of magic and dragons. He stays young and fit by dining on epic fantasy whenever possible. He has a short story that appears in the Spells: Ten Tales of Magic anthology and a couple others that placed in competitions, but prefers his fiction in novel-length doses. He is currently writing an epic fantasy series that he hopes will be published while he can still wield a pen. He’s a firm believer that when this world doesn’t suit you, you should write a world that does. He enjoys interacting with readers and other writers and spends far too much time loitering around his blog.

When this world doesn’t suit you, write a world that does.