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Dear Alan,

Thank you for your submission to Penumbra eMag. Although your story made it to the final round of evaluation, ultimately I'm afraid we're going to have to reject it. I did, however, enjoy your work and would love to see more of your stories at Penumbra in the future.


Penumbra Magazine

This is a very nice and very friendly rejection letter. I have received worse and with an editor who goes into some explanation, Penumbra is still on my list. This sounds like a magazine I would like to continue to work with.

But to the beginning writers who read my blog (and even some old timers), I didn't die when I got it. Night Mares has been printed before so I'll just send it to the next market on my list.

So what does a rejection letter mean?

  1. It means the story could not be up to industry standards. Self-editing can be tough. This is why I am part of a writers group that helps edit each others work and is mature enough to edit for grammar and mistakes in logic and continuity and not make value judgments on the story. If the story I had sent Penumbra was not a reprint, I would send it to the group (even if it was a second time). Revision is hard work, many times harder than writing the original piece. Some of my stories have matured like fine wine for years because I still don't think they are yet ready to be sent out.
  2. If the story is up to standards, then all it means is that the editor did not think the story a fit for the final work. This is most likely the reason why Night Mares was rejected. When grouped with the theme of the magazine and balanced with the other stories, something just didn't feel right. Most often this is subjective, but the Divine Right of Editors even outweighs the Divine Right of Kings.

So I will send my baby out again and I will not:
  • feel bad,
  • write a nasty letter to the editor for rejecting my story, or
  • give up on what I know is a beautiful story and throw it away.

But you know what's really tragic? I have friends and acquaintences who are so talented at writing that they make my best look like the inane ramblings of a backwoods illiterate, but they never get published because they're scared to death of that note I received.

A rejection letter is not the end of the world, but it is evidence that I tried.

Now, on to the next market!


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Apr. 2nd, 2012 06:13 am (UTC)
I can wave ten pulp novels at you that prove your first point is crap. I can also reinforce my point with a hardbound copy of a hardbound novel by William S Burroughs, and the Retief series by Keith Laumer. You can get so bogged down with trying to please editors with rewrites and revisions, and waste so much time editing that you don't have time to actually submit anything. I used to think it was some magical formula, that if I just wrote my story a certain way, and edited a certain way, it would magically get published, but it turns out that just because you edit it, it doesn't mean they will come. Trying to rewrite your story to conform to what you think publishers or the public will like doesn't help, either. Yes, Proverbs says it's great to hone your axe, but it's possible to hone it to the point where it's nothing but a handle.
Point 2, however, is true. It is the editor's decision. This is why I've lost most my interest in being a novelist.
The "evidence that I tried" sits in a box of papers on one of my shelves. To me, it's evidence that I should try something more rewarding. The thing I constantly ask myself is, what would I do differently if I could see the future and knew for a fact that I wouldn't get famous or published? Probably have more fun. Maybe that attitude will cause me to not get famous or published, but then again, maybe it's not going to happen if I tortured myself, either.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )