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Lakeshore
An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2008-03-15 07:01
Subject: [process] Rejection
Security: Public
Location:Nuevo Rancho Lake
Mood:thoughtful
Music:house noises
Tags:process, writing
I have posted before on the mechanics and realities of having stories rejected. See here and here for lots of detail.

This issue cropped up again because there was a rejection in my email inbox this morning in which the editor opined that my story was not "sufficiently distinct" from other mythic retellings. I was slightly tweaked by this, as I occasionally am by rejections, even after accumulating well over 1,000 of them and having been a (co-)editor on almost a dozen book projects.

The irony in this particular case is that the story was a reprint sub of a piece which had originally run in a major market, then appeared in two Year's Best volumes as well as accumulating a number of other YB Honorable Mentions and strongly positive reviews. All of which means absolutely nothing if the story is not to the editor's taste. As kenscholes reminded me in chat, rejection is always arbitrary and subjective.

So many of us (myself included sometimes) take rejections personally. They're not personal. A rejection is that editor's reaction to that story on that day. Nothing more, nothing less. To read a judgment about one's own personal worth, or even the value of the story on the page, into that is a mistake. Very human, very understandable, but still a mistake.

Sometimes I need to remind myself of this.
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The Green Knight: Determination
User: green_knight
Date: 2008-03-15 14:35 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Determination
Thank you for this post. It's easier to believe that *everybody* gets rejected sometimes when others share their stories.
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User: david_de_beer
Date: 2008-03-15 14:55 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Sometimes I need to remind myself of this.

yeah, true. Easier said than done, isn't it though? as much as we all say, "rejections are part of the business, don't take it personally, get used to it, etc, etc", man, there are times when it does wear you down. Me, I take a mini-break from subbing when that happens.
Course, it only take one "yes" and you're on top of the world again.

Since I've been only reading your journal regularly since last year, I didn't see those older posts of yours before, ta for the links. Never broke subs down like that before. I file them into "accept" or "reject" only*, and count stories rather than subs most of the time. That might be because I throw away a lot of stories, but in any case, it's more of a concern to me how many stories I finish that I'm happy to keep sending and not junking, and I don't right now believe that every story I write must sell. Some of them are junk, they must die. For now, it works for me to keep track of the amount of publishable vs Fugly I write and to improve that ratio to a degree I'm happy with.

*most people I know do seem to keep track of the amount of "please send again", or similar kind of stuff, though.
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Deborah Layne
User: deborahlive
Date: 2008-03-15 15:02 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Actually, Jay, sometimes rejections are personal.

Deeply personal.

They are issued in the face of an obvious Nobel-prize caliber story because there's just something about the author that the ediotr doesn't like. Maybe it's the socks. Maybe it's ears. Hard to say.

You knew this, though, right?

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Jeremy Tolbert
User: the_flea_king
Date: 2008-03-15 21:46 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I know I regularly rejected Jay over that hair.

Oh, wait--you mean his stories?
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User: swan_tower
Date: 2008-03-15 15:12 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:*writing
The ones that stick in my craw are the ones that confidently make statements about the story that are factually wrong. Hard to shake the suspicion, then, that the editor wasn't really paying attention . . . .
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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
User: swan_tower
Date: 2008-03-15 18:09 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:*writing
Sometimes, yes. But sometimes the editor just gets it wrong. They aren't perfect any more than I am.
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Janni Lee Simner
User: janni
Date: 2008-03-15 19:02 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I find it's weirdly cyclic. At first, I was always grateful to get anything resembling personal comments and a take on what didn't work for that editor. Lately, though, I find all I really want to hear is "sorry, it didn't work for me" (a response I respect), and the sooner the better, so that I can move on--sometimes I feel like some folks try too hard to explain the why, when it really does come down to "I just didn't like it," and maybe it'd be better to say so.

And yet, I once treasured those explanations--and it's still not impossible that one will make me go "aha!" again one day (as, indeed, the feedback I get from other sources still does all the time)--and I do appreciate that folks who take the time to comment are doing something they don't have to do, maybe don't even really have time to do but have decided to do anyway--so I don't know that I want to suggest everyone should stop doing this, either.
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User: swan_tower
Date: 2008-03-15 20:07 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:*writing
As someone said elsewhere, I'd often rather get a one-day "Sorry, no" than wait six months for detailed feedback -- especially since that feedback is often so subjective.

But I have, on occasion, gotten editorial advice on a rejection that made me say, "oh, exactly!" So it isn't that they're never useful.

Funnily enough, one of the most wrong-headed comments I've ever gotten was actually praise for the story -- the reader (one of several, because of that mag's procedures) said many nice things about the narrator's determination and persistence. Clearly they missed the bit where the narrator had lost all touch with reality . . . . <g> Unreliable narrators are a risk that way.
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Janni Lee Simner
User: janni
Date: 2008-03-15 20:58 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
As someone said elsewhere, I'd often rather get a one-day "Sorry, no" than wait six months for detailed feedback -- especially since that feedback is often so subjective.

Exactly. Part of it is, I've gotten to a point where I have other ways of getting feedback on my work--and I do revise, hugely, on the basis of that feedback--and so it's not worth a six month wait to get one more opinion, more often than not. There are exceptions. of course.

And heh on the unreliable narrators. :-)

Edited at 2008-03-15 08:58 pm (UTC)
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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2008-03-15 15:35 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Link away! I'm glad it helped.
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kmckiernan
User: kmckiernan
Date: 2008-03-16 21:34 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I also linked it to my "Writer's Toolbox - Relevant Posts" page as I think this is a great reminder to everyone and there are some wonderful comments here, too. It's good to have something like this to reference when a particular rejection gets you down.

Thanks, Jay!
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manmela
User: manmela
Date: 2008-03-15 16:17 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
You need the rejections to make the victories taste that much sweeter
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kmp_zxcv
User: kmp_zxcv
Date: 2008-03-15 16:40 (UTC)
Subject: acceptances
After reading slush for a bit, I think some acceptances aren't personal either. The editor probably takes the work because it fits his/her needs, not because it's raining Lurve on the writer all of a sudden.
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Casey
User: thatmadgirl
Date: 2008-03-15 18:08 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Every time you write something like this, I want so badly to see what must be an incredibly insane spreadsheet that you keep somewhere. I mean, I haven't even closed in on 100 rejections yet and I'm still lucky if I keep track of markets and response time, let alone how encouraging the rejection was.

My non-writer friends never understand when I am nearly as cheerful about rejections as I am about sales.
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Sherwood Smith
User: sartorias
Date: 2008-03-15 18:40 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I think, at times, the hurt is not so much the "they rejected ME" but "How did I screw up so bad?" One loses confidence in one's work. That only is solved if the next editor along seems to be on your wavelength--one feels a bit less like everyone is secretly snickering and pointing as you as the real author of "Eye of Argon."
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J.K.Richárd: Gotta earn those kid.
User: neutronjockey
Date: 2008-03-15 19:07 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Gotta earn those kid.
snickering and pointing as you as the real author of "Eye of Argon."

That story is LEGEND!
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Sherwood Smith
User: sartorias
Date: 2008-03-15 19:15 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
. . . and not in a good way.
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J.K.Richárd
User: neutronjockey
Date: 2008-03-15 19:24 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Well yes... but infamy has usable qualities too ;)
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J.K.Richárd
User: neutronjockey
Date: 2008-03-15 19:16 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
my story was not "sufficiently distinct" from other mythic retellings

Not enough transexual zombies in your Homer Epic remake eh?
Happens to me all the time.
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Keffy
User: kehrli
Date: 2008-03-15 22:07 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'd seen the rejection breakdown post before, but not the first one you linked. I'm glad you linked to it. It sounds like what I try to tell myself about the submissions process in general. Even though I would like to sell stories, once I've written them and they go in the mail, the rest is completely outside my control. So, I try not to think about it.
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Patrick, The Space Lord: Launch
User: robot_scandal
Date: 2008-03-15 22:55 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Launch
It always makes me sad when mechanics reject a story. Not that it is much better when an editor or slush reader does it, but for some reason, the mechanics always sting the most. Well, maybe the veterinarian is worse.
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Grant Kruger
User: thirdworld
Date: 2008-03-16 00:39 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
ogre_san still has the best story on rejection that I've heard, where a submission to a magazine with two editors appeared to be lost and he resent it. He received a rejection and an acceptance for the same story a day apart in the mail, one from each of the editors. Fortunately the acceptance arrived first.
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J. Kathleen Cheney
User: j_cheney
Date: 2008-03-16 16:23 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Thanks for posting this...

Someone asked why we keep the ra_log up where editors might see our rejections. I explained that the editors already knew we got rejected all the time....but that telling about our rejections helps the other writers a)know what the editors are up to, and b)see that everyone gets rejected sometimes....
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2008-03-16 16:25 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Yah. I still get roughly three rejections for every acceptance. I think its important for writers to remember that rejection is a normal (and inevitable) part of life.
It's not like you just become magical one day.
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Danny Adams
User: madwriter
Date: 2008-03-16 19:42 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
And I'm still profoundly grateful when the rejection comes with comments. I see less experience writers mouthing off about editors who do this--or who outright argue--and want to shake them by the collars and say "Can't you see that they're trying to do you a favor?"
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