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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

steffenwulf
May. 21st, 2010 02:39 pm (UTC)
I am way too verbose today. Methinks I should write a Part Two of the article with my own points to offer a counterpoint.

But while I'm ranting, a couple things that bug me when I see them in submissions guidelines:
1. An explicit prohibition of submitting "trunk" stories. I think that you should send in your best work, regardless, but from an editor's point of view, they cannot determine what is a trunk story and what is not. One writer's "trunk" quality might be better than another writer's brand new stories. So, why state this at all?


2. Guidelines that say "Only submit stories if your writing is of professional quality." Obviously, any magazine is going to strive to get the best stories it can get its hands on. No magazine asks for "unprofessional quality" in their guidelines, so this ought to be implicit. This seems to just be an attempt to make one's magazine seem better than those other magazines that don't explicitly say this, but it just comes off as pretentious. And it's also likely to be counterproductive, because a writer who has a really neat idea, strong characters, and a decent plot but who is not widely published may second guess themselves after reading this and say "Well, I guess my work isn't for them" and then this market may have missed out on a really kickass story.

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