Acceptance and rejection letters come to writers in all forms. Of course, the acceptances are the most fun. You savor them, place them in a special file, even frame them. The rejections are often form notes, maybe with a small handwritten line of encouragement. These you drop in a file. Perhaps you’ll try the publication again.
Periodically, but not all that often, an editor(s) at a publication will take the time to offer something specific about your work.
A while back, I received this rejection letter about a story called “Ferrelli’s Fall.” I’d made multiple submissions, but with no luck.
Dear Carol Mann,
I am writing with mixed news. While the editorial staff has decided that “Ferrelli’s Fall” does not meet our needs, we liked your work and would welcome future submissions.
So I’m thinking – they liked it. Great. Then what’s the problem? What does “it does not meet our needs” mean? The note continued:
When reviewing your manuscript, our editors praised the interesting characters, especially Captain Jack, but they wished that the ending was more surprising. In the end, your submission did not fully complement our editorial preferences.
Ah, there it is. A specific reason. In their view, a predictable ending. Okay. I can work with that. The note continued again:
We thank you for your interest, wish you success in placing this manuscript elsewhere, and hope to see more of your work in the future.
Now that’s encouraging! That’s nice. So what did I do? I reread the story, thought about the editor’s remarks, and tore apart the story’s ending. But, of course, when you do that, you end up changing other parts of the story to arrive at the new ending.
But I liked the positive feedback and felt it constructive. I’ll be sending the story out again.
A different literary journal sent this about another story called “Behind the Triple K.”
This came close as we are looking for some strong, authentic Vietnam and post-Vietnam stories full of the human spirit, compassion, and healing. Maybe the next one.
All right. Spirit, compassion and healing. I took that comment to mean “more hopeful.” My ending was dark, but I played with the idea. Again I worked with a story ending and changing story parts. I’ll also be resubmitting this story.
It’s a fact of life a writer must keep submitting, writing, and growing. Editors at different magazines have different ideas. Consider this rejection.
The editors want to give you some feedback on your piece, “Creek Songs.”
We all agree it is well-written. Many of the vignettes could be scenes from a movie. What we think doesn’t work is using the creek to tie the vignettes together. It seems forced, as if it were a prop. There seems to be something missing. We don’t sense that the creek has any kind of emotional importance.
Did I miss the mark? I loved that creek. Important parts of my life played out beside it.
We hope you will take this as a helpful critique rather than a criticism because we feel the piece has potential.
Okay, thanks. I think.
One editor’s opinion. Something to look at. Before I could do any rewriting, I received another letter from another literary journal about the very same piece, “Creek Songs.” Only this was an acceptance letter.
It pays to make multiple submissions.
There’s no explanation for different tastes. But I do appreciate editors and publications who take a moment to give feedback, whether I agree or not. However, I appreciate even more those editors and publications who send acceptances.
And so, my friends, keep writing. I know I am.