There is nothing like cruel reality to give you a good whack in the face, is there? Speaking from the writer’s perspective, one of the most painful whacks is an act I’m guilty of committing many, many times as an editor: the dreaded “It is good, but it just doesn’t work for me.”
How many times have you gotten that rejection? I’ve written short stories only intermittently for the last 8 years, and I’ve heard this refrain many times in rejection letters…I would venture dozens of times.
“Your story is awesome. But you see, the story…it doesn’t click for me.”
As an editor, when I rejected stories in this manner, I always meant well. I meant it as a compliment. I meant it as a “Hey, you’re a swell writer and all, but me and this story didn’t click, so we’re just going to be friends, okay?”
Good intentions and all that.
The problem with being a frequent reader of all the top zines is that you get a damn good feel for the type of work they prefer to publish. When you submit to these publications and you receive the “It’s not you, it’s me” rejection excuse, it can be annoying. You see what they’ve published. You feel that the story you sent the editor is just as strong and enjoyable. Heck, they say as much in their rejection.
It just didn’t click.
Fine. So you sit back and watch the editor buy and publish story after story you feel is no better than yours. But you’re left in the rejection box. You play nice. You smile and you welcome any feedback you can get from the editor.
So like any good writer, you turn around and submit it the next nice publication on the list. They tell you the same goddamn thing.
Oh, that’s nice.
Now your confidence wobbles. What is it about the story that turns the editors off? They say they like the story, but obviously not in ‘that publishing way’. Successful writers have the ability to figure this out, to write work that is attractive enough to hook the editors’ hearts. Right now, I’m at that stage where I’m standing like a fool under a spotlight scratching at my head thinking “Uh, what did I do wrong?”
With all my editing experience, I feel like I should have a better grasp of this. Currently, I do not. And perhaps I have hubris considering my work as good as some of the stuff published in the top tier magazines…okay, yes, major hubris. Hey, being confident isn’t a sin, y’all!
So…at least I can take home one lesson learned from this experience of double rejection within a 5 day period…
…telling somebody that you just want to be friends with someone’s story is something you must do with care and extreme volition.
Pardon me while I go hug my story and eat a tub of ice cream (chocolate, of course).