Monday, March 15, 2010

in this installment, james gets rejected ... and likes it.

I just got the best rejection letter of my life.

Why should this make me happy? Because a writer's life is filled with form rejections, little slips of paper or single-paragraph emails, as immovable as brick walls.

But a personal rejection, one that proves the slush reader ACTUALLY read your work and, best of all, understood it and liked it (though not enough to publish it) is the greatest response a writer can ask for. Except for the ones that come with a paycheck.

Without further ado, I present my rejection from the anthology Triangulation: End of the Rainbow.

Dear Mr. Roland:

This is an interesting flash piece, but we're going to pass on it. While it's a different take on the theme, we felt the story was not as sharp as it needs to be. Primarily, we need a stronger sense of identification with this character - the background info is interesting, serving as part of the metaphor for our loss of innocent fantasy in the age of Islamic terror - but we don't feel her anxiety about the train bomb, nor do we get close enough to her to viscerally care about her demise. The pieces of this situation need a tighter connection and I suspect the key to that connection is through the character.

Unfortunately, we're not certain a rewrite will solve this problem for us. You're welcome to try a revision and resubmit before the March 30 deadline if you like, but we don't want to offer false hope. Feel free to submit another story if you prefer.

Steve Ramey, Assistant Editor

So, yes, technically I have the option to resubmit. Seeing as I have no other stories that match their theme, I might just try again.

For those of you wondering, yes, his critiques are valid. Though (and this is why feedback is so important) my instincts have never been able to articulate these issues. I wrote this piece on commission for an anthology that was never published, a book of one-page stories based on the visual art of Pyropainter. The word restriction (I have over 500 words to play with and still be considered flash fiction) and visual description (I was describing a creature in a painting) really confined my story, but if I let these things go than who knows who or what I'll find on the page.

I'm excited to give it another go and I'll let you all know what they think about it!

Also, for those interested, this editor keeps a blog where he posts his thoughts on his slush pile and offers great insights into WHY he rejects. Take a read: Ramey Writes


BookFox said...

Wow, that's an amazing rejection. I mean, it's nice to get a rejection that says nice things about your piece, but it's even nicer when they list a bunch of specific stuff that really nails the flaws of the piece and how it can be improved.

I have a hard time believing that they wrote ones this long for every rejection -- you must have been just shy of an acceptance.

Anonymous said...

that's really cool;
i'm so glad this editor took the time to give you constructive criticism!

Anonymous said...

that's really cool;
i'm so glad this editor took the time to give you constructive criticism!

KathyB. said...

So i read this as : James will be writing, editing , and re-writing on his HONEYMOON????? to be able to meet the deadline.Correct me if I am wrong. ( you can tell me in person at your wedding)And also, this is the way a good rejection should read, full of interest and hope, which means it has very real potential. Congratulations on this, and hopefully acceptance, but alright already, on with the nuptials!

jr said...

Haha, yeah, man, I considered it. I'm going to tackle a draft after the honeymoon. there's a LOT I already cut out to make a 500 word limit (the piece was commissioned, then never used) so I"ll look to that source for character development and resubmit.