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A Rejection

The story I sent out a few weeks ago came back the other day.  A rejection.  The turnaround -- the time between when I sent the piece in and when I received the rejection -- was mercifully short, and the editor's note was polite, professional, and even helpful.  But, alas, it's still a rejection.

When I go to conventions or workshops and I speak with young writers, they complain, understandably, of the rejections they've received.  But there's an assumption in the way they speak to me that once an author is as established as I am, rejections become a thing of the past.  That's simply not true, and I make a point of telling them so.  Rejected stories, rejected manuscripts -- they're a part of the business, a part of what it means to be a writer.  Sometimes the things we write work just as we had hoped; sometimes they don't.  Sometimes two editors, both of them skilled readers, both of them experienced in the field, both of them successful, can look at a story or a book and have completely different reactions.

I'd even go so far as to say that rejection is good for us writers.  It forces us to take a second look at our work, to think about it critically, to put ourselves in the mind of that editor who said, "No," and make ourselves see the story as he or she did.  Sometimes, even after looking at the story again, I might decide that it's fine as it is, that the piece simply didn't connect with this particular reader.  Other times -- most often -- I'll find that the story still needs work.  Maybe I was too close to the piece when I first sent it out, and it took this rejection to make me see its flaws.  In this case, the editor has done me a great service by rejecting it and making me look at it again.  And, on occasion, it's also possible I might come to see that a story can't be salvaged, that there really wasn't a story there after all.  Again, if this is the case, I owe the editor my thanks for not publishing it. 

So my story was rejected.  Now it's up to me to decide which of these possibilities applies to this particular work.  Naturally, I'd like to think that it's option one of the possibilities listed above.  Certainly I don't think it's option three.  Most likely the second one is the correct one.  The story still needs work.  And when next I see the editor who rejected it, I'll have to remember to say thank you for helping me improve the piece.

Today's music:  Strength in Numbers

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
mmerriam
Dec. 19th, 2007 07:55 pm (UTC)
This is something I try to hammer on when I do the "Publishing 101" panels at conventions. Rejection is a part of the writing life, no matter if you're brand new or an old hand. It's not personal, it's business. If a story gets rejected, try to learn what you can from the rejection, look the story over again, and then send it out to the next market.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Hi David! My wife, careswen, and I met you a few years ago at Odyssey Con in Madison, Wisconsin. We still have fond memories of the late-night Buffy panel you moderated.
davidbcoe
Dec. 19th, 2007 08:30 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the comment, Michael, and for the warm greeting. Hope you both are doing well (and also your cat).

If everything we wrote was perfect the first time it would be too easy. The struggle for improvement, the hope and expectation that tomorrow's writing will be even better than today's, is what keeps this writer going.

Edited at 2007-12-19 08:32 pm (UTC)
mikandra
Dec. 19th, 2007 10:13 pm (UTC)
put it aside, forget about it for a while and come back to it later. It's much easier to see what might need fixing (or not).

Just forget about the rejection. Send it out again to a different place. It was one of the first lessons I learned in academia, and as it turns out, one of the most valuable ones. Rejection and criticism isn't personal so you shouldn't take it as such. If you do, that's your problem, not the publishers'.
davidbcoe
Dec. 20th, 2007 03:16 pm (UTC)
Agreed on all counts. Thanks for the comment!
(Deleted comment)
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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