Monday, June 13, 2011

Putting on My Non-Stick Skin . . .

I finally finished the short stories I was working on polishing (including the long-suffering "Sympathy for the Devil") and sent them out into the world. Now it's time to brace myself for the (seemingly endless) waiting and, inevitably, rejection slips.

Rejection is something writer's just have to deal with. Everyone gets them. There's no escaping it. And since I'm just getting back into writing again after a long break, I have to "re-build my thick skin."

Of course, how thick that skin has to be depends on the type of rejection.

They generally fall into three categories:

Form rejection. In that case, I toss the rejection in the trash and send the story out to the next market in my list.

Rejection with comments/explanation. For those, I put on a stiff upper lip and examine the story. All advice and comments have to be taken with a grain of salt, of course. One person's "non-sympathetic character" is another person's hero. For example, an editor once said the little girl in my story didn’t sound like a little girl. Well . . . she really wasn’t supposed to. The story established the little girl as a precocious know-it-all. Her lack of friends meant she spent most of her time with her nose in a book (think Margaret from "Dennis the Menace.”). She had some of the mannerisms and characteristics of a little girl, but of course she didn’t sound like your average little girl--because she wasn’t. The next editor "got it" and thought the little girl was a great character. Another time, I received a rejection from an editor who said I went a little hog-wild with the em-dashes. I re-read the story, smacked myself on the forehead, and said, “How could I not see that?” And then I made the changes. The story was 100% more readable thanks to the comments from that editor!

Rejection by Troll. These are the ones where the editor doesn't just point out the flaws in the story, but adds editorial comments explaining why you're a moron for making the mistake and how you should give up writing immediately because he'd rather read a novel written by pond scum than ever see your name on a submission again. I'm not kidding . . . there are actually editors like this. I've only come across one, thank god, and it was years ago. He picked one of my submissions apart, line by line, with rude comments on every line! It must have taken him hours to come up with all those insults; I've always wanted an editor to spend hours pouring over my submission . . . just not in that way! As I said, I don’t mind constructive criticism (actually, I WANT constructive criticism; please, critique me, and help me be better) . . . but this editor was mocking and derisive. Constructive Criticism, yes; Rude and obnoxious, no thanks.

I’ve seen this from lists of “rejections famous people got,” too. Comments like, “Should give up writing immediately” and “Not interested in the blatherings of an idiot lunatic.” Really? Who says that kind of crap? You can check out this link (Rotten Rejections) for some other examples of rejections (some quite rude) received by writers who went on to be famous.

You have to wonder if the rude editors have been locked in a little room reading manuscripts for too long. I’m a big girl and I don’t need anyone to hold my hand or to sugarcoat things for me, but being derisive and insulting is crossing the line. Of course, the writers had the last laugh, as they went on to become famous and award-winning. Thank god they didn’t let those editors get them down or kill their dream.

And that’s really the thing to take away from rejection. Everyone gets rejected, even the writers we admire. That little slip you'll get saying, "This wasn't right for us" seems like a joyous affirmation compared to the "There certainly isn't enough genuine talent for us to take notice" rejection Sylvia Plath received!

So keep going. Don't give up. Take advice from your "good" rejections. Keep learning the craft and growing as a writer. Then you can enjoy the satisfaction of proving the troll-editors wrong!

And if you get a troll-style rejection that really burns your butt and you can't seem to let go of it, do what I do: write your own rejection, rejecting their rejection! For the love of all that's holy, though, DON'T SEND IT! (never, NEVER send an editor a rebuttal; when it comes to comments from an editor, your position should always be to take your spanking and say, "Thank you sir. May I have another?"). Telling them what a moronic troll they are for not recognizing your greatness can be very cathartic, but then delete it or throw it away. And move on.

~ ~ ~

Links for Writers

Scrooge: A Character Study (nine steps to building a character)


  1. I just finished sending a short story out, too... so I can relate to this! I loved your line "For the love of all that's holy, though, DON'T SEND IT! (never, NEVER send an editor a rebuttal..." Soooo funny. (Not that it would *ever* occur to me; although once I did write a poem called "The Good Rejection" which was pretty sarcastic and never accepted for publication :)

  2. Lol. I wanted to make sure no one ever sent an editor a nasty note with the line, "Well, Brenda said it would be good for my soul to do this . . ." ;)

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting!


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