Friday, March 6, 2009

Rejection Letter

I understand and accept rejection of my writing. It still sucks, but doesn’t sting as much as it used to when I first started submitting things. One day, years ago, I got two rejection letters in one day. Then a writer told me she once got four rejections in one day. So I gained perspective.

But, I love, love, love when rejection comes with feedback. I can work with feedback. It wasn’t until I got specific feedback on my first novel from two different agents within about a week of one another that I knew it was time to give up the ghost. They pointed out things I’d worried were weak. They were right and I knew it. The weak spots, I could suddenly see, were beginning writer mistakes. The question was to keep revising the novel or move onto a new project. Hence, book number two.

But earlier this week I got a rejection for a short story I submitted to a literary journal back in mid-November. Yes, this is how long these things take. I submitted the same story to about five different journals around that time and have only heard back from one. I only apply to places that allow simultaneous submissions. I love these places and really see no other way for a writer with a handful of stories in her arsenal to break through.

Anyway, here is the feedback I received on my story: “Skilled pacing and an interesting flow. The story's beginning is most emotionally powerful; its climax fails to keep the same tension and feels a bit forced.”

They are right. I had this nearly exact feedback from a seasoned writer that the ending of the story didn’t match the beginning. I couldn’t see that until it was pointed out to me. I reworked the ending, but apparently not well enough.
But, did you hear those words skilled and powerful? I didn’t even notice them the first fourteen times I read the rejection letter. But there they are, so I should appreciate them. Still, I know the ending needs work.

And guess what? I’m totally struggling with the ending of my novel right now. I kind of know how to wrap it up, but I’m just having a hard time getting the words out. Scenes are too long, people talk too much, a character turns from mean to nice with very little justification. So I recognize that I need to work better at wrapping up my books (remember that 550-page first draft?). But I have no idea how to go about this just yet. At least I’ve learned that I have work to do in this area. Frankly, I have work to do in lots of areas, but it’s easier to get started on that work when you know where the holes are.


  1. Yep, rejections suck, but as they say...if you don't get any rejections then you are not trying hard enough.

    Also, on a side note. I was curious to know more about the current novel you are working on. Tell us more about it. Also, is it possible I could read it, or a chapter or two? I enjoy your blog, and would like to see your actual work.


  2. Just curious, which journal was this that gave feedback? So far I've only submitted online and the way you find out if whether your story has been accepted or rejected is by checking your submissions folder at their site.

  3. Ben, my book is still a few rounds away from being ready for public consumption! I will keep you posted on progress though and do a longer post about it soon. Thanks for your continued interest!

    Linda, the journal I received the feedback from is Bellevue Literary Review. I've found that many more journals are starting to do online submissions, which I think is great. Some are still doing things via paper only, but I'm sure that will continue to evolve over time.