Any writer worth his salt is writing and sending out stories, essays and articles, one painstaking word document at a time. But submitting means opening yourself up to rejections and heartache. Once in a while, a rollicking acceptance mail lands in your inbox, rendering the previous rejections null and void. That makes it all worth it. Read on for what else to expect when you brave the big bag world of story submission.
The high that you get when an acceptance lands in your inbox is incomparable. Considering most writers log around 10 to 20 rejections per acceptance, the glow you get from reading the editor’s positive words has to sustain you for at least another few rejections. It has to tide you over for the stream of rejections that might follow this one.
My first reaction is to thank the editor for the good news, and then tackle the editing changes he has outlined, if any. So far, I’ve received minor edits for my stories which did not require much back and forth email exchanges with the editor.
If you receive a contract to sign, do look it over carefully and accord it the same importance reserved for signing other official documents. Important things to look for are rights (don’t sign all away!) and payments (if you’re getting paid).
You will also receive a final version of the story to proofread and check one last time. Ensure that you go through it carefully and not cast a cursory glance at your words.
In my email inbox, I label these as simply “Acceptances”. The best part about getting an acceptance – the editors usually write something like ‘I loved your story’ or ‘I really enjoyed your story’. Receiving and reading appreciative emails like these is rare. For the solitary art of writing, moments like this are few and are between.
This includes personalized rejections, or those in which you find that your piece weathered several rounds of reading but just missed the final cut. These letters evoke a kind of sweet pain. You did good but not good enough.
You can do two things at this time:
- Send it out to another market immediately. The rejection could simply mean the subjective nature of the business did you in. Or,
- Go back to the drawing board and revise it. This is especially true if you received specific feedback on some aspect of your story which you had not noticed before. An editorial eye might reveal any number of flaws or inconsistencies that the writer or critique partners simply can’t catch.
Refer the Rejection Wiki to check which tier of rejection you received (form, personal, etc).
If I ever get a personalized rejection that mentions specific reasons for my piece not getting selected, I label these as “Good Learnings” in my inbox, and look over them retrospectively once in a while to make sure I’m not committing any of the same mistakes. Also the editor’s comments are important because (assuming they are positive) you can quote these while submitting to the same editor again, reminding him that you came close once earlier.
I once had a story rejected in three days. Its penultimate sentence states (and I paraphrase here to protect the guilty)
“Your submission lacks the literary qualities necessary for our magazine…”
I have received my fair share of rejections and for the most part I feel a pang of disappointment when I read them, but this one stung. To add insult to injury, the last sentence states, “We hope you are not discouraged and will continue writing.”
This is like stabbing the writer in the heart and then drawing the knife out cleanly so you may dab ointment on the inflicted wound. The balm has no effect, and the damage has already been done. The heart of the writer is destroyed, stamped out, even if momentarily, for surely the scribbler will pick up the pieces of his shattered soul and send out submission packages with renewed vigour the following week.
After all, literary merit is highly subjective. Luckily this story of mine got placed in another well-paying magazine, so I didn’t shed too many tears on this rebuff.
How do you handle acceptances and rejections?