You Stink!

What the editors wrote:

Dear Susie WriterPerson:

Thank you for submitting your short story, “Whatever” to Big Fancy Literary Review. We appreciate the opportunity to read it. Unfortunately, the piece is not for us. Good luck placing it elsewhere.

Best Regards,
The Editors

What the writer reads:

Dear Sucky WriterPerson:

Thanks for submitting your crappy short story, “Whatever” to Big Fancy Literary Review. We appreciate the opportunity to read it, but man, it was torture getting through 25 pages of pure puke! Whoever told you that you could write should be condemned to life in prison for crimes against the literate! Seriously, you suck! We wouldn’t publish this garbage if you paid us your Powerball winnings. The piece is not for us. You’re going to need a miracle placing it elsewhere. Find another hobby.

Best Regards,
The Editors

If you’re going to submit, you’re going to get rejected. It’s one of the guarantees in a writer’s life. I’d love to say I’m immune to it, and I believe I’ve gotten a thicker skin, but it still hurts, especially when I get a form letter from a literary magazine I really admire.

I’ll admit it. I’ve cried. I’ve beaten myself up emotionally. I’ve called on my inner Sister Dolores from Our Lady of Grace Elementary School and berated myself. I’ve considered quitting. I’ve eaten an entire bag of Sun Chips in one sitting. I’ve thought about taking up knitting instead, but I figured I’d be a danger to myself handling sharp objects.

I guess the rejection experience is similar to going through the phases of bereavement.

“What? They didn’t like my story?”

“Hey, they took so-and-so’s story!”

“Maybe if I had written a darker piece, like so-and-so.”

“I suck.”

“I wonder if ‘Other Fancy Review’ will like it.”

Then, after a few days, the story goes out again. Repeat process—until one day, some editor, somewhere says, “We love this piece.”

Rejection, like most aspects of life, is not black and white. There are different kinds of rejection.

The Impersonal: Form Letter
Short and to the point—we don’t want your story. It could be the editors are harried and don’t have time to elaborate. Or they just can’t use the story. They may not have room for it. It might not be to their taste, or it might not fit in with the style and tone of their publication. Or the story is truly not up to par. It needs work and should be revised.

The Glimmer of Hope: Form Letter with a Short Personal Remark tucked in
Once you’ve stopped beating your head with your thesaurus, re-read the rejection letter. Sometimes an editor will slip in a tiny hint that she liked your work. “We enjoyed reading your story.” “We encourage you to keep writing.” In fact, I re-read all my rejection letters before writing this entry (it took hours!) and found several I would swear were flat-out rejections that actually had a short bit that said to consider submitting again.

The Good Rejection: Send More!
If you’re going to be rejected, you want one of these! Sometimes, editors will really like your story, but for whatever reason, that particular story simply doesn’t work out for the issue they’re producing or the magazine, in general. They might say they were impressed with your writing and ask you to send another story in the future. These are gems. You’ve gotten their attention in a great way.

Good rejections keep me going. Though still a rejection, they’re tiny validations that I should still write, still submit, still create. Acceptances are celebrations. A moment of writer glory! Of course, happily ever after endings only happen in sappy romantic comedies and 1950’s musicals (I love all that stuff!). So chances are the next email response will be a rejection. So the story goes.

Commiserate! Share your rejection woes, your thoughts on rejection, wacky rejection letters or how you handle it.

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  1. #1 by rebeccacbond on February 19, 2013 - 4:18 am

    That’s brilliant! So so true! Great post!

    • #2 by wordimprovisor177 on February 19, 2013 - 12:35 pm

      Thanks so much for reading, R.B. 🙂 Good luck with your submissions!

  2. #3 by Melissa on February 19, 2013 - 11:24 am

    Darlene, this is just awesome. I laughed out loud at your interpretation of the rejection letter. It’s so true that we see it this way more than we should. Rejection is like being battered with storm after storm. Even with an umbrella, it does ware you down!

  3. #4 by professorkemp on February 19, 2013 - 11:30 am

    Darlene, this is just awesome. I laughed out loud at your interpretation of the rejection letter. It’s so true that we see it this way more than we should. Rejection is like being battered with storm after storm. Even with an umbrella, it does ware you down!

    I haven’t cried yet, but I have taken long submission breaks. And I totally agree–the positive rejection letter is the best. I got a couple of these from The Boston Review (for haiku). I tried a coupla times, but after the second rejection, I set them aside.

    Submission is like going to the casino (perhaps–I’ve never been, but in my imagination is must be like this): when you walk in, you deposit your monies (creative writing) into various machines and games hoping to hit. As the gamblers say, you can’t win if you don’t play; you can’t get published if you don’t take rejection. So keep on feeding those “slots” (lit mags, publishers, small presses, blogs, newspapers and magazines) and eventually, if nothing else, the law of averages will get a hit!

    • #5 by wordimprovisor177 on February 19, 2013 - 12:38 pm

      Your casino analogy is a good one. The odds may be against us, but we have to take a chance if we’re going to have a shot at winning. Thanks for reading! Good luck with your submissions.

      • #6 by professorkemp on February 19, 2013 - 12:40 pm

        And the same to you! Good luck with your submissions as well. I enjoy reading your blog a great deal. I hope you’ll pass along mine to others as well. You guys are doing a fabulous job with this! Cheers.

  4. #7 by wordimprovisor177 on February 19, 2013 - 12:49 pm

    Aha! I was just reading your blog the other day! I didn’t know you were you. LOL! 😀
    It’s a subject close to my heart–and my belly!
    Check it out, people.

    • #8 by professorkemp on February 19, 2013 - 12:51 pm

      Well Thanks so much, Darlene. I’m glad you are a reader. I hope I will put together some valuable information for you and my other readers! Take care!

      • #9 by wordimprovisor177 on February 19, 2013 - 12:54 pm

        Absolutely, Melissa! You’re talking to a Weight Watchers repeat offender here! Thanks for your good work. Keep writing and submitting. The world needs more poets. 🙂

  5. #10 by Brittany on February 20, 2013 - 7:37 pm

    Love this. I’m never sure which is more disappointing: the form rejection or the “Glimmer of Hope” letter. I like to convince myself that the form letter is no proof that my work was actually read, at least not by someone with real decision making power, while the glimmer of hope is proof that, indeed, my work was read, considered, and rejected. It’s like being broken up with: is it really less painful to hear specifics on why I didn’t get the girlfriend gig and to hear something like, “You’re real pretty, BUT…”. I think I would have prefered to blame a breakup all on some mixup…clearly the guy didn’t really know me, if he turned me down, right?….haha. Same with publishing. Totally joking with all that, (or at least kinda joking) I think. The Glimmer of Hope is certainly hopeful, but ya know….:)

    • #11 by wordimprovisor177 on February 20, 2013 - 7:47 pm

      I hear you, Brittany! It’s definitely a double-edged sword. Do you choose to view it as hopeful? Or hopeless? 🙂

  6. #12 by hawkeyehansentoby on February 22, 2013 - 9:39 pm

    I love everything you write. You will never get a rejection letter from me.

  7. #13 by victoriaelizabethann on February 24, 2013 - 4:04 pm

    I saved a rejection letter I received a few weeks ago to showcase to a few of my classmates.

    It wasn’t a glimmer of hope, per se; they actually told me where the weakness was in my story [the protagonist was lacking depth and they didn’t “want” to route for her] and encouraged me to resubmit the story to them after I made some tweaks.

    To receive a helpful rejection letter is almost as good as receiving an acceptance letter!

    Almost. 🙂

    • #14 by wordimprovisor177 on February 24, 2013 - 4:25 pm

      Absolutely! I received one where three editors critiqued the story and even suggested a different magazine to send it to! Keep sending you work out. Thanks for reading, Victoriaelizabethann. 🙂 Happy writing!

  8. #15 by April L. Ford on March 1, 2013 - 8:27 am

    Oh, to be rejected! Again and again. I may have become addicted to the adrenaline The Rejection Letter brings.

    Great article, Darlene!

    • #16 by wordimprovisor177 on March 1, 2013 - 1:16 pm

      So true, April! Sometimes I’ll see an email from a magazine I had submitted to and before I open it, I’ll go from “They took it! I know they took it” to “Okay let’s get this over with, so I can move on!” LOL! I should be in therapy! But I’m in a writers’ group which is frighteningly similar. Thanks for reading, April! Best of luck with your work and your submissions.

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