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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 07:02 pm (UTC)
My process is fairly different from eljaydaly's; while my stories are at a high polish when I send them out, I definitely do not take on board all crit that I receive. I work from the "where it's wrong is right, what's wrong probably isn't" model of crit. That means even at submitttable-polish levels, it's still useful to me to get editorial feedback.

As long as the rejection isn't going out of its way to be insulting, I don't really care. And I say this as a writer who came very close to just giving up before selling his first story. Getting bent out of shape at some market's rejection slips seems to me akin to getting angry that people wear yellow shirts.

Also, I should clarify on the 'not insulting' part.

"The part where he uses the drill to trepan the marmoset was incredibly stupid, marmoset skulls do not have the density to withstand the concrete bit he was using in the previous scene, it would just splatter the thing like a grape." A-Okay!

"The first half was pretty good, but it took a turn for self-important preciousness when the zombie babies took over the daycare." Perfectly acceptable.

"You are a terrible writer and we had to fumigate the office to clean the stink of your fiction out." Not good

"This story reminded me of a big bloody turd that sent me to the hospital." Uncool.

(edited to fix my damn html tags)

Edited at 2010-05-21 07:04 pm (UTC)
May. 21st, 2010 11:02 pm (UTC)
Yes, there are different kinds of helpful, or at least different kinds of insightful, aren't there?

And different kinds of jerky personal responses, too :)

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