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How to Write a Rejection Letter. Or Not?

You can read the post at Diabolical Plots here.

I'm not sure I agree completely. There's some good stuff there, to be sure. It is a rejection letter, and it's not going to make the writer feel good. But there's an awful lot of "Nevers," too.  For example: I've read stories before that were written very well, either had been published someone else or could have been, but didn't work for me. If that happens, I definitely want to see more by that writer, and I want that writer to know it. Finally, aside from "Being Honest" (@ #7) this list makes it seem like the editor should be so worried about the fragile writer's feelings, that  if the editor says, "Not bad, but I think it should be a novella" or "The gender dynamics of hurting the wife to get to the superhero put me off..." or, "The plot felt a bit predictable once they arrived on the island" or, "It reminded of Damon Knight (in a good way), but it doesn't quite work for me" or any kind of feedback about what did or didn't work in the story, the writer might shatter. (This seems to be in direct conflict with #7: Be Honest, which seems like it supercedes everything that comes before it.) 

All I can say is that at the end of the day, if getting a rejection letter is going to cripple you emotionally, you probably shouldn't send me your story.

The truth is, I don't like writing rejections because as a writer, I know they suck. But whenever I get a rejection and the editor's taken the time to tell me why she decided to pass on a story of mine - what specifically didn't work, where the editor stopped reading, etc., it might give me some extra insight, whether it be to my own story, or to the publication itself.

A rejection can put you into a funk, sure. Especially if you practice rejectomancy (all hail duotrope) the way I do. But a rejection as something that injures you? Again, maybe you're not ready to send your stories out.

That's what I'm thinking now. But maybe I'm wrong. So let me put it to you - if you're receiving a rejection from me, what do you want me to tell you? Do you just want a form essentially saying "We've read your story and decided it's not what we're looking for." Do you want me to tell you why I decided against the story? What do you want (if you're not going to get an acceptance)?


May. 21st, 2010 12:56 pm (UTC)
I haven't received a rejection from you yet (although I'm looking forward to the day!) :)

In general, though... frankly, I prefer the form. Just a simple "Not for us." By the time I send a story out, it's already been beta read and revised, revised, revised. More editorial input isn't likely to help. In fact, it leads to depressing thirteenth-hour second-guessing. When the story is final, it's pretty much final (outside of some tweaking I might do to perhaps make it more appropriate for a particular market).

I consider it a form of cold-calling. When I cold-call, all I'm looking for is a smile and a polite thanks-but-no-thanks. "We're not looking for your product right now, but maybe when we get busy."

Which brings me to one other thing. Editorial feedback in a rejection can be very useful--extremely useful--if it gives me a direction for the next submission. "We prefer the fantasy element to be more front and center" might be a good example.

So... not so much for 'this story,' but for the next story. Something that narrows down the editor's preference so I'll know next time not to send him my elves in space story.
May. 21st, 2010 01:28 pm (UTC)
Something that narrows down the editor's preference so I'll know next time not to send him my elves in space story.

Yes! This! This is spot on!
May. 21st, 2010 02:14 pm (UTC)
Shit, you have an elves in space story, too? Now we'll never sell them!

May. 21st, 2010 02:25 pm (UTC)
Ha! :) (I miss you, btw)
May. 21st, 2010 02:38 pm (UTC)
I've been in semi-lurker land, reading but not posting too much. Trying out a new schedule!
May. 21st, 2010 04:07 pm (UTC)
Good to know. Thanks!
May. 21st, 2010 04:41 pm (UTC)
Just figured I'd toss my data point into the ether. That, and I'm so catwaxing.
May. 21st, 2010 05:06 pm (UTC)
You make some good points - and I appreciate it.

(And I guess I'm catwaxing myself :)

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