British shorthair cats and Golden Retriever, both watching computer screen on bed.
Cat: (Rolls Eyes)  “Another dog story.”  Great photo by chendongshan from IstockPhotos.

You’ve sent your story off to a magazine and next thing you know it comes back with a generic paragraph.  Very polite, very neutral.  Maddeningly, it doesn’t seem to tell you anything at all!

These last two weeks, I’ve been struggling with being creative because the craziness around me is very overwhelming.  I can’t work on a novel-length project, and I’m struggling a bit with short stories. So I sent out four existing short stories, including one that had just been rejected with a form letter.

WHY DON’T EDITORS SEND OUT COMMENTS?

This is a pretty common question from writers.  They want someone to tell them what they’re doing wrong so the can get published. 

Unfortunately, the editor of a magazine or anthology doesn’t have time to hold everyone’s hand.  He’s got to put out a magazine or a book. 

Or, there’s no profit in telling someone you just rejected what they did wrong.

But there’s a second reason…

Bad behavior of writers.  There’s a lot of people who have meltdowns when they are told why their story was rejected.  When I did critiques on the writing message boards, I would periodically run into a person who really off the deep end.  It’s very frightening!

WHAT DOES THE FORM LETTER MEAN?

It was only after I started getting personal rejections for stories that I understood exactly what happened with my stories when I got a form rejections.

There is no guessing if you’ve received a personal rejection.  The editor will make comments that you can tell are about your specific story. 

One of the four mentioned above got a personal rejection.  The comment was that the story was choppy and the characterization between the two characters hadn’t been developed enough.

These were both true. I’d been experimenting with pacing using sentence structure and went overboard with that story.  It was very obvious once I revisited the story.

The second issue was because I laser-focused on getting the theme on the first page.  Unfortunately, that caused me to do the story out of order and a discussion that happened between the characters was later than it should have been.

But circling back around to the story that got a form rejection…

The editor didn’t get off the first page.  I think he did get down the first page and it wasn’t right for the anthology.  But I’ve also gotten form rejections where I doubt if they read more than a sentence.

The fix for all this?  Push yourself to learn new skills.  Don’t ask other writers what you’re doing wrong.  Just pick a new skill and try it out as I did with the pacing.  It’ll work or it won’t, but you’ll learn something.

What’s the strangest rejection you’ve gotten?

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