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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)?

Comments

ann_leckie
May. 21st, 2010 02:16 pm (UTC)
When I read that article, my first thought was, "This person has never actually written a rejection letter."

Having both sent and received rejections, frankly I don't care much how they're worded as long as they're not rude or abusive. I do like to get a small bit of feedback, not necessarily because I'm going to make changes, but because A)even if they're not intended to, they tell me something about the editor's taste and requirements and B)it's nice to feel like my story made enough of an impression that the editor felt moved to say something beyond the form, even if she didn't buy it.

And things like "send more" are conventional ways to send certain messages. A follow-up email? Really? Like, as an editor I keep a database of authors whose subs I kind of liked and spend an hour sending them separate mailings? Honestly? It's about a million times easier for everyone to just say in that rejection email the exact truth--you would, in fact, like to see more subs from this person, because this one didn't work for you but you think maybe another one might. Why should the editor make double work for herself, or clutter up the writer's inbox?

I can't imagine getting annoyed enough by a polite "send more" or "this is well written but" in a rejection that I would feel moved to instruct the world on how to write a rejection. Especially when you consider, form letters are just that--forms. Like cover letters, they're composed of more or less pre-fab components, utterly conventional and basically meaningless in themselves. Why waste any time worrying about it, as long as the rejection doesn't say something like "stop writing, you suck" or something. I mean, seriously.
krylyr
May. 21st, 2010 04:18 pm (UTC)
I do like to get a small bit of feedback, not necessarily because I'm going to make changes, but because A)even if they're not intended to, they tell me something about the editor's taste and requirements and B)it's nice to feel like my story made enough of an impression that the editor felt moved to say something beyond the form, even if she didn't buy it.

This is it for me, or at least, what I hope to glean from the receiving end. Because unless something there's a light-bulb moment, the story (as LJ said above) has probably been beta, critted, rewritten, etc., to death. It might not be right for that specific market, but you might give you some insight as to another story that is.

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