So I got two rejections back-to-back yesterday. Ouch. Double ouch. Rejections never stop hurting. No matter how many times you get accepted, each rejection throws you back into fear and doubt.
I can’t do this.
I suck at this.
I should just give up.
Why did I ever think I could be a writer?
Right? Okay, maybe that’s just me and the series of thoughts that flow through my head. I will say that both rejection letters were nice — one, in fact, was very nice. This is what the editor had to say:
I really loved the story; it was beautiful and heartbreaking. You did an amazing job of capturing Clara’s emotions. I was shocked by Clara’s response to Raven’s illness, but at the same time, I understood her. In addition, the ongoing use of bird imagery was very effective in displaying Raven’s fragile state. However, it seems that the shapeshifting in “Final Note” is primarily metaphorical in nature, so it isn’t the best fit for [this collection]. The story was extremely well-written and enjoyable, though, and I’d love to see it published elsewhere.
Those are the best kind of rejection letters, in my mind, and I’m always so grateful to a busy editor who takes the time to put a few nice words on paper. As soon as I finish posting this, I’m going to write her back and tell her the truth: I’m sorry the story didn’t work, but I really appreciate her kind comments.
Standard rejection letters are harder — I get those all the time too, and I respond to those as well, just to say thanks for considering me, and I’m sorry the story didn’t work. I think it’s polite — the editors probably don’t care and may not even read it, but it feels like the right thing to do on my end.
As an editor, I do try to say a few nice things about the stories I reject. Or, at the least, I try to be kind and encouraging, if there’s nothing yet to praise. Writing IS a learnable skill. I believe that, truly, and the best I can do is to be positive and supportive.
However, I will admit that I’ve had more than one author come back to me with something that is just career-killing. Calling me a “stupid, untalented asshole” because I do not understand the masterpiece that is your 1,000-word erotic short story about the downfall of Rome caused by a space alien that looks like Maria Carey in drag? Not such a great move. It might very well be true — we editors aren’t infallible or perfect (thankfully!) — and thus I might have missed the glory that is your piece. But, not to worry, if that’s true, then someone out there who’s much smarter than me will recognize your utter genius, I promise.
In a show of perfect timing, today over at the Crossed Genres blog, the editor posted two author responses to rejections that I found were spot-on to my own experiences. They made me laugh a little, but they also made me cringe. I understand rejection hurts (oh, do I!), but this is just bad practice all the way around. Editors are hard-working, busy, kind people for the most part. So not only are you turning around and stabbing them in their over-worked heart, you’re essentially doing the same to yourself. No editor wants to work with an asshat. I’ll work with someone whose skills aren’t honed but who is kind and willing to learn long before I’ll work with a writer whose work is decent but whose attitude is shit.
Here’s a bit of one of the responses:
What a way to kill creativity. I have sent a number of stories that I believe have a good deal of merit and all I get is, ” It doesen’t meet our needs.”, which is just another way of saying, “We don’t know what the hell we are doing.” I won’t be sending in any more stories because frankly, You Don’t meet My Needs.
I will say there are so many things wrong with the rejection-of-the-rejection letter alone (spell check, for starters, which doesn’t take an ounce of talent, only a little bit of care and attention), that I wonder what someone is thinking when they actually hit send. Granted, I’ve written a few responses in my head that were not at all appropriate, but then I went off and had a ginormous slice of lemon cake and a bitch session, and hit the delete button when I returned.
So what I wonder is: How do you do it? Do you respond to rejection letters? Or do you just put them into your archives folder and move on? If you’re on the editorial side, what do you do with the responses from authors (both good and bad?). Have you ever sent a letter you wished you hadn’t?
Kiss kiss bang bang, s.
PS — In interest of full disclosure, I will say I’ve worked with the editors of Crossed Genre — they published my short story, “Unsound,” and they were fantastic. Had great editing suggestions, were a pleasure to work with and put out a high-quality publication. I highly recommend submitting to them!
“Every rejection is incremental payment on your dues that in some way will be translated back into your work.” ~James Lee Burke