I’m talking about editors rejecting your writing here, but you know me, I’m also talking about life. You don’t want to be rejected and you certainly don’t want the same rejection as everyone else.
If your partner chucked you with a standard letter, an uninformative shrug of the shoulders – you’d have to kill him. You couldn’t bear for him to say: 'Not for me this time, sorry.' You’d want to scream: ‘But WHYeeee!!???’ What specifically did I do or say to make him discard me? Was it those PJ’s or the laughing at your own jokes or not paying enough attention to depilation or your fact that I may one day turn into my mother? (sorry mum)
Also, you'd like the fault to be redeemable - an easily rectified oversight - or at least the comfort of many, many additional plus points offered in mitigation. Yes, you snore but by god you look beautiful in the mornings. You want him to be already regretting his decision, oh and maybe giving you the number of someone else who might be more inclined to cope with your teeny weeny little flaws.
Oh – see what I've done? – I’ve talked about life as an analogy for writing instead of the other way round. What I mean is don't you hate the bog-standard, form rejection? I want to know what the editor did (or didn’t) like about my piece, that I was close and next time things will be different.
I've had a dozen stories published and plenty more poems, but only because I'm thick-skinned enough to keep sending them out. For every success there are many rejections, so I thought I'd share a few of my favourites that offered more than the standard rebuff:
- "Thanks for sending, but this is a very familiar idea, and I'm afraid you haven't done anything with it beyond simply stating it."
- "No. I liked the ending, but the story seemed to drag on and on."
- "How does he know a lump of himself landed on the camera when he is dead?"
- "… this tale just didn't interest us." www.AlienSkinMag.com
After a while, things started looking up...
- "It feels unexplored, thin. With an expanded, fuller ending, I think this story has good potential."
- "Oooh, this was a tough one… I think in the end though we're going to pass on it, but please keep submitting!" www.McSweeneys.net
- "…but it didn't quite make the final cut." www.aberrantdreams.com
- "...this one didn't do it for me (though I like the ending)." www.newmyths.com
And sometimes an encouraging rejection from a quality mag is better than an acceptance from a lesser one: "There were some words and phrases in it that we really loved, but the competition was fierce." www.magmapoetry.comI tried several times to submit to Postcards from Hell but kept getting the form rejection: "We have subjected our victims to your story but they were not sufficiently traumatized. Your story has been consigned to the
Sadly, I’m not always creepy enough, though: "The prose here is precise and elegant, the story quietly fascinating, but in the end, it's simply not dark enough for us." www.chizine.com Or I'm too flippant: "It is well written, but I wish it was less farcical." www.electricvelocipede.com
The worst rejection? One poetry magazine sends out the simple, brutal, disappointed: "Alas, these are not what I seek." Which makes you feel like you've let yourself down, let them down, let everybody down.
What's the best / worst rejections you've had?
Late addition (22/10/10) - I was just sent this link the Ten Funniest Rejection Letters - enjoy!