I just got the best rejection letter I’ve ever received, and I’m really excited about it.
Remember “Byresh,” the first short story I ever submitted? Well, the rejections are starting to come in. I got a standard one a week ago, which was fine.
But then yesterday, a helpful, thoughtful rejection letter arrived in my email inbox, and I’ve read enough blogs to know that a rejection like this is uncommon and extremely valuable. Instead of a boiler-plate “Dear Writer–No thank you,” I got a personalized letter telling me that they wouldn’t be accepting my short story and why.
Here’s the letter:
What I was happy to hear? That I did some things well, like:
- Generally well written — Wohoo!
- A memorable character. Great.
- Tied Byresh’s situation in well with the bigger picture of homelessness.
What I was even happier to hear? HOW TO GET BETTER! I just got free feedback on my story from an editor who reads short stories all the time and knows what they’re doing (I assume).
Implementing Feedback From This Rejection Letter
Before submitting, I had numerous people read “Byresh” and give me feedback, which I implemented. The story felt ready to go out.
And yet, it doesn’t surprise me that someone found additional things that could make the story stronger. I still have more to learn as a writer.
I wrote down the feedback from the story, splitting them up by general category:
- Put in a sentence or two explaining Rob.
- Tighten up the beginning.
- Strengthen the transition between flashbacks so what’s happening is clearer.
- Set the setting earlier and stronger — Setting is one of my weaker points as a writer, so this doesn’t surprise me at all.
- Reread dialogue for repetition and “mundane” stuff (though I imagine mundane means slightly different things to different people).
- Find a different publication for “Byresh”, since it didn’t quite fit their “out of the box” requirement.
Keeping Rejections–and Feedback–In Perspective
And of course, the Number One rule on receiving feedback is to keep it all in perspective.
Some of the feedback I already agree with (I know my setting could be stronger), but other things, like the mundane dialogue and the pacing of the beginning, are things that I’ll need to think about. I’ll need to reread my story and see where, how, or even if I’ll change things.
And that’s what the process of getting and implementing feedback is all about–critically analyzing and then critically accepting or rejecting.
Hooray for rejection letters!