A Writer’s Journey: Part 2

A Writer’s Journey: Part 2 – I’m a Reject

Dear Mr. Layng,

Thanks for submitting “My Manuscript” to Our Magazine. With regret, I must inform you that we’ve decided not to purchase this story. Though well-written, it simply is not what we are looking for at this time. The sheer number of submissions we receive each month makes it impossible to comment on most rejections but we wish you luck with your writing and finding a home for this story in particular. We’d like to invite you to make future submissions as we are always happy to have a look.

Remember I told you about those pesky form rejections? This isn’t a specific one but you get the gist of it. Do you know what it’s saying? If you read between the lines and I don’t suggest you do (that’s what this post is all about) you’ll see why this imaginary manuscript was rejected.

I know, I know, it doesn’t say anything specific and that tells you a lot. The fact is most rejections of this format come from magazine editors and the average magazine that the new writer submits to is a small press venture. These editors are doing what they do for the love of the story. They are not grammar Nazis or hunters of the chameleon-like misplaced modifier. They are looking for a story that grabs them by the chest hair (or pony-tail) and demand they finish reading. It doesn’t mean you should insult them with a manuscript that hasn’t been spell-checked and proof-read a few times yet they are less likely to turn their noses up at the work they are reading because of a single typo.

Between the lines of this rejection it is saying my story has been unaccepted due to subjectivity. The tone of a story and whether or not it works is entirely subjective to the person reading it. 50% of the time this is why you get a rejection letter. The other 50% of the time it’s because your editing sucks or you didn’t read the guidelines and submitted a vampire story to a werewolf magazine. I’m not going to sugar coat it but if you’re the guy or gal who subs a vampire story to a werewolf magazine because you didn’t take the time to read the GLs or take a glance at the cover of the magazine even then you are a dickhead for making the rest of us with werewolf stories have to wait for your rejection slip to get sent before our story gets read. Word to the wise: don’t be a dickhead.

On the bright side, if your story gets rejected for the tone of the story — which is usually indicated by “not right for us” or “not what we are looking for” – you are not entirely at fault. So stop blaming yourself.

So what is the “tone” of a story? It’s the voice in which the tale is told. If you read John Grisham you get the sense that a lawyer who likes to spin a yarn is relating a series of events to you. Stephen King gives you the quirky humor of rural Maine. You may like King but not Grisham or possibly the other way around. Some people like them and some don’t. One editor may not like the story or way you tell it but another might. The best way to sell a lot of stories is to write ones that appeal to a large group of people instead of just a specialized minority. Romance readers read King because he has a way of reaching out and touching a common part of many people. This is what you need to do.

When you’re done writing a story, and editing it. Pass it along to friends, especially those that read in genres outside of the one you favor. If they come back to you and say this is a great story and go on to tell you with fervor all the parts they loved even though they usually read Westerns… then you have a WINNER! Congratulations, you’ve converted someone. If they just tell you it was great and can’t explain why, they are just being nice. Get back to the drawing board and a try reading it out loud to yourself. Do you like it? If there are aspects of the story or characters that don’t sit right with you, then an editor won’t like them either. As a writer you must never be afraid to be brutally honest with yourself. Don’t wallow in shame over it though. Fix it. If you don’t fix it and insist on being stubborn in regards to continuing to make the same mistake then give up. Stop writing. You never really wanted to be published anyways.

Wait a minute. You don’t want to give up? Then why are you still reading this? Get out there and resubmit that story to another market. Find that editor who is looking for your tone of voice. They are out there. They may not pay you any money, but your story will get published and that’s when you have to ask yourself what matters most. Making a living at writing? Or getting as many people as you can to read your work?

Believe me or not but you can do both, if you find the right tone.

Don’t read between the lines when it comes to form rejections. They all basically say what I’ve just told you. Pay attention to the ones that tell you why the tone didn’t work or why they didn’t like the characters. Maybe you just have the common problem of confusing tenses. These are the rejections you can learn from and all of the other ones are telling you someone else’s opinion. The other important thing is to never let a rejection of any kind stop you from writing another story or resubmitting the one that got rejected. I had roughly fifteen rejections before my first sale and I didn’t get paid for it.

Git now and write or something, I’ve got a first story to read and feel proud of.

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