Saturday, September 29, 2007

For Once: A Post About Writing and Rejection

Current mood: chipper
Category: Writing and Poetry

CURRENTLY ON MY IPOD: Makes Me Wonder: Maroon 5

Good Afternoon,

I have the weekend off...Thank God! I needed it more than anything in the world. Well, I need a book contract more than anything in the world, but a weekend off is also nice.

For once, I am going to share some thoughts on writing. I highly encourage any and all of you to comment on this. Topic of the day...are you ready? Do you have your 2 pencils sharpened and ready? REJECTION.

Inevitably, rejection is a part of every writers life. Rejections on a small level, on a large level and on an insurmountable level of pain are just going to happen. Get over it.

But there is a difference between rejections meant as "stop writing...leave the world alone, we are sending little blue men to take away your laptop" rejections and the rejections that are impersonal, or are meant to ask you for more.

As the submissions editor for Bust Down the Door and Eat All the Chickens, I can tell you that there are several types of rejection I send out. And I can also say that this is a very difficult job, most of the time.

Here are some of my grounds for rejection, and after speaking with other sub-editors I know that they go by this as well.

If you want to be rejected please follow these rules:

1) Don't read the magazine you are submitting your works to. This is a sure fire way to get rejected. I can not tell you how many submissions I receive that are not nearly on topic of what we accept. Our name says it: A LITERARY JOURNAL OF THE ABSURD AND SURREAL. If I get one more story about ponies, carebears or love I am going to puke.

Well, unless the carebears are revolting against a mutant force that calls itself My little pony and then the ponies get slaughtered by He-man..I might actually read that one all the way until the end. And then reject it. If you submit to a magazine geared for children, it better not talk about heinous sexual acts etc.... Just go to the archives of any e-zine or email the print ones to see if you can get an issue at a discount. What's your hurry anyway? Its not like literary mags are going away and this is just a phase. So chill out, research your market and then take two steps back and then re-edit and then send.

2) Ignore the damn guidelines. Please...pretty please with sugar on top. I was once rejected by a wodnerful mag called, Sybil's Garage. The rejection letter said...We liked your work, your story was intriguing..BUT YOU SHOULD HAVE READ THE GUIDELINES...STANDARD MS FORMAT ONLY....I admit that I was young, green and wet behind the ears. I submitted everything else to their liking, I just left out that little incidental thing called standard MS format. Oh for shit's sake. I about cried. But then the story was accepted elsewhere.

If we say we don't want stories based around D&D and zombies..don't send it to us. Don't think you will be cute and see if you can get away with it. You are not cute. You are probably pale and sickly like me from lack of sunshine...and too much computer time.

If we tell you to attach your sub. in word or RTF, then do it. Don't cut and paste into the body of your email. IF we tell you to send it in pink hieroglyphics then do that too. It doesn't matter. When you are asking to be published in a certain magazine then you better know good and well what they want in order to have their editor even read the first few words. INCLUDING WORD COUNT. We will let a few past the count slide, anyone will, but when we ask for subs of under 1000 words and get one that is 5000 it is an automatic rejection. Trust me on this one. We have that little word count button on our computers too.

3)Writing, terrible, awful, no-good writing. Yes, I actually reject the writing because of the writing. I recently read a piece in my submissions box that was composed entirely of very very very flat dialogue. Now take this down kids..."And then Fred said, I don't like you. And then Molly said to Fred, But I love you. And then Fred said, I am going to take a knife and cut the editor's brains out, as this writing is killing her.." Got it? If you aren't sure if your writing is up to snuff, then have someone take a look at it. Read it out loud, read other writers works of whom you wish to emulate. I love the short stories of R. Dahl and R. Carver. So, I read them when I can and try to soak in their style as much as I can.

And if I hear one more person say that they don't like to read because they feel as though they will be wrongly influenced by the works or that they will start to become "unoriginal" I am going to throw myself off of a bridge. Come on people! WTF? Do you think musicians don't listen to music in fear of playing like the greats? Do you think that artists blind themselves when they go everywhere in fear of being tainted by Picasso, Matisse? Am I right? Read, read, read and then when you are done reading, go read a little.

It will dramatically improve your writing.

4) Surprise endings. No, not the good kind of surprise ending. The one that makes you go, WTF? I can be reading a story, actually like this one.. I think I might forward this on for consideration and whammo! Stupid and terrible ending. Almost as if the writer said..Oh shit..My word count is out of hand. Must end now..must end story now!!!!...And then the two people lived happily ever after and they never heard from the giant killer squirrel again.

Yeah...uh...okay. Reject.

In some occasions, if the story is absolutely over the top and stellar, we will ask the person for a rewrite of the ending. But this is totally up to them. If you are passionate about the ending you wrote, then keep it and tell us to sod off, just know at this point it is a rejection. And also, if you are asked to do a rewrite and we offer suggestions, you don't have to necessarily take our suggestions to the letter, but just write something better than what you gave us the first time. Anything better and we will give it a heavier consideration.

Alrighty all that?

Here are the types of rejections I send out. And ones that I have received..(thank you Steve Finbow..from Thieves Jargon for my weekly rejection this morning) I will place these in example, for I learn better from example than I do preaching.

1) The good:

Dear Mr. Pen,

Thank you for submitting your work titled, Mr. Pen Does a Happy Dance. Your writing is very good but unfortunately this will not be right for our publication. However, we would like for you to submit more of your works as you see fit. Thank you again for your submission.


A. Hole Editor


Thank you for your submission. Although this particular story is not quite right for what we are looking for, we think your style is very much in tune with our publication. Please feel free to submit again anytime.

Sincerely....A. Hole Editor

I have been asked to submit again on many occasions and often after a few more submissions to the editors who requested more, I get an acceptance. With the exception of Steve from TJ. I have sent him four or more pieces after he has asked for them and rejected them all. Oh well, tenacity wins, right? If I submit approx. thirty or more times a week I am bound to be accepted somewhere, some time, some how...Someone has to love me, right? WRONG! Do not take any of this personal. What is that line from the Godfather? "Its not personal, its business.." I just pick up my little laptop and keep going.

2) The bad:

Dear Mrs. Pen,

Thank you for submitting your work, Mr. Pen Does a Happy Dance While Churning His Butter. Unfortunately this work will not be right for our publication. The story was not sufficiently written in our style and the ending was slightly jarring for the reader. I especially was thrown off with the addition of the killer squirrels. I suggest you read one of our journals in order to get a better idea of what is expected from our contributors.


Major A. Hole Editor

(NOW I HAVE TO NOTE THIS: If an editor gives you specific feedback, be thankful. At least you will have an idea of what was going through their head when they rejected you and at least you know they read your story.)

3) The ugly:

Dear Mrs. Ink,

Thank you for your submission. We hated it. Please do not write anything again..As a matter of fact, we sent a virus with this email in order to prevent you from ever writing again. Your computer will self destruct within a matter of minutes.

Just kidding.

But this is the worst, at least in my opinion.

Dear Mr. or Mrs. Idiot,

Thank you for your submission. Unfortunately we are going to pass on it at this time.


No-Name A. Hole, Editor

With this, you have no feedback, no inclination as to whether or not they even read the story etc...I once got a rejection letter from a literary magazine that stated the wrong title in the rejection. I emailed them back to see if they had even read my story and never got a reply. Jerks...

I usually give personal feedback with the rejections unless I have nothing good to say. Then I know when to keep my mouth shut. LOL... I would want someone else to do the same for me.

Regardless, the rejections we get should not make us cry. They are just a fact of life. How's that for cliche'. Remember this: often times after you have followed the guidelines, read a few dozen issues of that magazine and written the "perfect" piece for submission, and you still get rejected, it is still a matter of personal taste. Bradley and I don't always agree on what goes in and what doesn't. But that is okay. We talk it out. If I really really really like a piece and he I throw a mild temper tantrum and then ask him why, or at least rest on it for a day and then go back to read it again the next day to see if his opinion is valid. And often times it is.

I hope this helps somewhat. Also, schmoozing the editors from mags and requesting them as friends etc.. is not something that is going to help or hurt. It just takes up time. Your writing will be what will sell you to the mag. And that is it. At least for most of the mags I know. I am becoming quite friendly with another editor of a well known EZine and I sent her a story for the publication. She rejected it, told me why etc.. Fine..Our friendship is not tainted because of it. I don't care. It just wasn't up to her tastes.

And if you want a reply to send out to the people who reject you then here you go.

Would love to know your rejection stories etc... The good, the bad, the ugly. And if you have received a rejection from me.. let me know what you think of that too.

Going to submit to a few places now..

Enjoy your Saturday.

Yours in Rejection from Red-Headed Editors, Right Ways and Reasons Why,



Anonymous said...

What is wrong with this world. I wrote a wonderful sotry called Deo Goes West about a young man who "takes matters in his own hands" and yet no one appreciates it.

Cicily Janus said...

I am guessing that this is either Mike, Alex, Travis or Anna...If it isn't one of you guys, you must reveal yourselves..

If I was drinking milk when I read this comment I would have spit it out of my nose and then probably have gone into a coma.

And I am sorry about your rejected masterpiece regarding Deo..but anyone who writes about a character that takes matters in his own hands...Need I say more. Give playboy a call.



Travis Erwin said...

The typo should have given it away. Do you know anyone else who types as poorly as me?