Rejected but not Dejected

Defoe’s Manuscript of Robinson Crusoe rejected by the Publishers
by Edward Matthew Ward

Every writer must deal with rejection whether it’s the gatekeepers of traditional publishing or no traffic at the Amazon Marketplace.

I’m not saying I’m immune to feeling down some days. Like this last Sunday when I got three rejections in one day. It can be tough. I’m submitting to pro and semi-pro markets, so while my hopes are high, my expectations are a bit more realistic. I do not say that to denigrate my work. Everyday I am working to tell better stories, to become a better writer, but I know that I am still climbing that learning curve.

I have been getting nice rejections. Some days it feels like those editors are killing me with kindness. Here is a sampling of editorial notes accompanying some of my rejections:

  • “It’s nicely written and I enjoyed reading it, but overall it didn’t quite win me over, I’m afraid.” 
  •  “It was quite clever and we enjoyed reading it, but it’s not quite what we need at the present time. We hope to see another submission from you sometime soon.” 
  • “P.S. A tough decision.” 
  •  “While it made the second round of consideration, I’m afraid it is not exactly what we are looking for at this moment.” 
  •  “There’s good writing here, but I found that the speculative elements used in the story were too conventional for us.” 
  • “P.S. Almost made our second round.” 
  •  “While the writing was clean and clear, I felt the story didn’t really do enough to enthrall the reader.” 
  • “You got close with this one … Not this one, but maybe your next one. Send us another story.”
  • “Again, good writing, but not an irresistible story. Do you have another one you’re willing to let us read?” 
  • “I loved the feel and details of the world and of the society, and how they meshed, but I didn’t feel as much of a sense of urgency or disquietude in the narrator’s initial situation … to seize me as much as I was hoping.  Please feel free to submit other work in the future.”

It actually does feel good seeing all that editorial encouragement lined up. My rejections with a line from the editors out number my form rejections, so I take that as a good sign. I work for a scientific journal where manuscripts are put through a review process, and so I get to send out many rejection letters myself. I know what a rare thing it is to append any encouragement to a “no,” as you never know what authors will read into the most innocuous phrases. Since these editors don’t know me from Adam (more aptly Eve), even a few words means a lot.

Forbes recently ran a piece titled Don’t Publish that Book! about taking the time to get good before putting yourself out there. John Mayer is quoted saying,

“The period of time before you become well known is an essential opportunity for you to find your voice and mature your talent.”

I couldn’t agree more. I feel like I am solidly in the journeyman stage of my writing. I’m getting better but I’m not quite there yet. All the rejections are part of the process. They inspire me not only to write but to strive to write better, to make each story just a little bit better than the last one.

The Best of the Rejection Collection

This book recently provided some salve for me, partly because some of the cartoons are hilarious, and while I love the New Yorker, yeah, there are places they won’t go. It was the introduction where the cartoonist showed how many ideas he generates and drafts before submitting a few to his editors (who will only maybe pick one), that really inspired me. As I continue to look for the keys to the kingdom of storytelling, this made me realize that if I’m trying to create something superlative, I’ve got to generate a lot of material.

You don’t get the cream of the crop without a crop.

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