Rare Insight

It’s a shame when something incredibly helpful also happens to be incredibly rare. The personalised rejection is one such thing. If personalised rejections were a species, they’d be on the critically endangered list. Personalising a rejection turns a slammed door into a gently closed one, leaving you with that touch of hope that the next door might actually open wide and invite you in. Not only that, it can give you an insight into what prevented that editor inviting you over the threshold, and that can make all the difference.

I had one such rejection this week. I’ve got a story that’s been doing the rounds for a while now, and I finally had it rejected with more than just a ‘Sorry, this isn’t quite right for us’. The personalisation was brief – a single line, actually – but it was something. And when I’d thought about it for a while, I realised it wasn’t just a token gesture of usefulness, it actually was useful. It made me look at the story again. I saw my opening paragraph in a new light, and revamped it as a result. It’s not radically different, but it’s stronger and more intriguing. There’s no question it’s better now than it was this time last week, and all because of one single line that gave me an insight into why one particular editor chose to pass on it.

It’s clear why personalised rejections are lesser-spotted beasts. The very few publications I see that promise something personalised over a form rejection are usually fledgling ones that have yet to be jaded by the amount of time involved in replying individually to every submission they receive. You see plenty that apologise for their lack of personalisation, often stating they used to offer more than a form rejection in their early days, but time constraints have taken over. It’s completely understandable, but it’s still a shame. We writers need all the help we can get to rise above the slush. One tiny piece of insight can make a world of difference.

4 thoughts on “Rare Insight

  1. You see, I’m not sure I would take any form of rejection… well and make it valuable. Or at least, not until after mulling on it for a very, very long time. So I admire your strength for being able to get over a rejection and make it something useful instead. But thankfully, unlike you, I am not a writer. 😉

  2. Yeah… a thick skin is pretty much a prerequisite if you want to be a published writer. I think the trick is to never take rejections personally, although that’s sometimes easier said than done. My solution is to bounce a rejected story straight back out on its rounds so it continues to feel like potential instead of failure.

  3. Did you say writers need help, or was it help and hope? So you turned a negative into a positive and gained from it and if nothing else, that’s a sign of good character. And everyone has a favorite situational anecdote….one of my favorite authors, both for his stories and his writing, is James Lee Burke. Referred to on more than one occasion that I’ve seen as ‘a modern master’ (whatever exactly that means) but anyway, his first book, to hear him tell it, he finished it and started sending it out (sending the whole printed manuscript out) and having it bounced back over a hundred times, each time looking a little more dog eared and worse for wear and tear. And he said he never touched it, re-visited or changed it. Nine years passed before someone finally read it and said: huh!
    No usually means no and one must listen and continue to listen he said, because someone will say the word yes, if you’re still listening.

  4. Pingback: The Eight Stages of Story Writing | Panoply

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