Rejection can be hurtful. But all writers have to learn to accept it. It seems like someone is telling you that your writing is no good. But there’s a huge amount of subjectivity in the decision-making process, which a writer doesn’t normally glimpse.
I just had a story rejected by Every Day Fiction with enough feedback to illuminate the process of decision-making. There are several reasons why a story might get turned down:
- The writing is no good
- The writing is good, but the story doesn’t work
- The writing is good and the story works, but it’s not what the editors are looking for
The first two reasons are objective, the third is subjective. But, of course, the first and second reasons also involve judgements by people and can also be subjective. You rarely discover what has led to a rejection.
In this case, the magazine sent me the reports by the four readers. They had to score the submission between 1 and 5, and their scores varied between 1 and 4: a 4, a 3, a 2 and 1. If scoring were purely objective, this would not be possible.
The reader who scored me 1 said “This is an interesting beginning to a story but not a complete short tale as yet”. So that was a rejection reason two.
The reader who scored me 4 said “I love it when a story takes me by surprise, as yours did. Usually I find the ‘it was a dream’ motif a pretty hard sell. But here, the dream (or initiation) was an integral part of the narrative. Also, you capture quite a story in very few words. Nice. Your prose is gorgeous, too. I was taken in by its imagery and sound quality”. So that was an acceptance.
The remaining two readers also offered variants of rejection reason two. “The ending was a let-down” said one, who also commented “very strong writing”. They offered me the opportunity to rewrite and resubmit. Confident that the writing was good, I looked again at the structure.
I know enough about reactions to my endings to understand I have a problem here. I like open-endings. Readers, by and large, don’t. I’m working on beefing up the ending now.
Rejection, as Sylvia Plath once wrote, shows that you’re trying. Make rejection your friend. It can help you try better. And editors who tell you the reasons for the rejection are priceless.