You can control a lot with the way you write a story. Your skill as a writer can probably control, with about an 80% degree of accuracy, whether your story gets looked at more closely by the front-line readers or tossed aside. But when it gets down the the tough decisions of whether to publish the many stories a journal gets that deserve publication--many more than they can actually publish--there may be some things going on that you can't control.
Here's one I've caught myself doing lately
Although I neither like cars nor guns, in other ways, I kind of fit the male American stereotype. I like sports. I like sex. I like a particular kind of narrative voice, aggressive, quick-hitting and jocular, that tends to come from male writers. I'm aware of this tendency, and sometimes, I find myself overcompensating for it by intentionally trying to vote for female voices, sometimes even ones I don't really like. Maybe I'll vote down that hilarious story about the misogynistic womanizer with a secret soft side, or I'll vote up the story about consignment needlepoint workers in Kenya even though I could barely get through it. I don't exactly keep affirmative-action type quotas, but I am aware, usually, of whether the last few stories I voted for were written by men or women, or whether they featured male or female characters.
|In case you were wondering--ladies--I do not drive a sports car. I have an old Corolla. So I'm not overcompensating. Or am I aware that people know men with sports cars are overcompensating, and I'm overcompensating for that? Hmmm...|
This is similar to the other fallacy I wrote about, where I am more likely to vote for a story if I haven't voted for one lately, and less likely if I just recently voted for one. I'm not sure exactly what kind of cognitive bias this is--it's something like an availability heuristic, but maybe also something like the gambler's fallacy. I'd call it a fairness bias--a sort of one for you, one for me, incredibly clumsy kind of thinking.
Even being aware of it, this is still lurking at the back of my mind. I'm not only aware of it, I'm also aware of being aware of it. I don't want to give in to it, and I also don't want to swing too far the other way trying to avoid it. It's a very uncomfortable thought looking over my shoulder as I read and do my best to get it right.
There's really nothing you, as a writer, can do about this kind of thing. Which is why one point I keep trying to get across is to take all rejections with a grain of salt. It'll be a grain of salt in your wounds, I know, but really, just don't beat yourself up too much.