If you are a writer, you have been rejected at some point in your writing career. It comes with the job. I have a big, fat pile of rejection notices for every single short story I’ve ever written and submitted.
The funny thing is though, some of my rejection notices aren’t quite rejection notices. Here is one example of those from a nice editor who will remain anonymous for purposes of this posting:
Hi Carol, thanks for sending (Story Name)… some good writing and a very good setup, but for me the ending was a bit disappointing… I would rather have seen the emotional long-term affects of the abandonment than the transition of “that’s not what happened” to ” maybe that never happened” as a literary device… so I am going to pass, but thanks anyway!
That wasn’t so bad, was it? I actually feel better after reading rejection notices like this than those silly form rejections which tell me nothing and give me no feedback for improvement. In fact, I took this editor’s suggestions and made edits to the story in question to reflect a more emotional impact to the narrator than the literary device I had used. This particular story hasn’t been placed yet, but I’m sure it will be eventually.
Here is another rejection notice which isn’t a full, flat out rejection:
Some nice lines in there, Carol. “scraped the remaining soldiers from the battlefield…” Overall, it does not seem right for (Journal Name) at this time. We have decided to pass.
The previous rejection notice was given on a story called A Full Head of Hair, which was published by First Stop Fiction because it was more in keeping with the style of their journal than the one that rejected it above.
What do I take from these rejections? Well, a few things – very important feedback on the story, which I always read and consider carefully. Also, when I consistently get great rejection feedback like “this is well written” or “nice lines” then I know my writing is at a quality level consistent with what these journals would publish even if that particular piece isn’t right for them.
And of course, here is the BEST kind of rejection notice:
I love what is here, but I wanted more development, and the last line wasn’t quite working for me…. I would consider a revised version of this if you are willing.
Not only was I willing to revise it, that piece was accepted and published. (You can try to guess which of my stories the note above was about….)
There are so many unsung editors of small journals out there who are incredibly generous of their time and feedback. I have benefitted tremendously as a writer from their guidance and (at times) their tough love. I’m glad there are publications out there who care enough about the writers who submit to them to give personal feedback on submissions. It helps create a positive feedback loop.
I’d enjoy hearing from you writers out there who have also had good experiences with rejection notices. Did they spur you to re-write, re-submit, or make a needed change in your writing? How did the feedback affect you and improve you?