Friday, December 11, 2009

Silly rejections

I just read the form submission I got on my story, Theft of the Seventh Chakra, and the editor took the time to print a note: "Don't skip extra lines between paragraphs." I'm pleased he took the time from his busy schedule to jot down that note -- and sign it -- but he's wrong. There are times when you skip an extra line between paragraphs, but he obviously missed it.

When you are changing points of view, narrators, chapters in a long short story, and denote a time or scene change, you use an extra line between paragraphs. Since the only extra line in my story is between the body of the story and the ending when the main character is dead and the point of view is no longer first person singular, that tells me he at least read the whole story. To pick out that one "mistake" and make a note of it makes me wonder if he was looking for an excuse to reject the story. That's the thing about rejections, as I've told many beginning writers anguishing over rejections, they are completely subjective and sometimes silly.

Editors are just people and they are subject to the same stresses, prejudices and moods as the rest of humanity, although there are some people who would argue that editors are people or even human. Some editors look for a reason to reject a story, like one editor who boasted she had read over 500 stories during the year and found only two worth publishing. She threw out stories when a word was misspelled or a sentence incorrectly published and rejected several stories because the grammar was incorrect. Her rejections had nothing to do with the stories and everything to do with feeling the need to reject everything that came across her desk. It happens. Editors can be very petty and mean. Not all editors are petty and mean every day; sometimes they're just having a bad day. As one friend said this morning when we discussed rejections, an editor can wake up in the morning and decide the minute they put their feet on the floor that they're going to reject everything that comes from a female writer. I'll just add that sometimes an editor will reject everything by writers whose names begin with a specific letter of the alphabet.

"Today I'll reject every writer whose name begins with C." The editor smiles and goes about his work.

Being an editor is hard work, especially when wading through a mountainous slush pile with stories that are unbelievably bad. It's like standing in a perfume shop assaulted by a thousand different smells and having to pick one scent out of the sensory avalanche of smells. Sometimes an editor misses the good ones because there have been so many bad ones that the eyes are swimming and slightly unfocused and the feeling of hope is a far distant dream.

The whole point of this informational rant is that rejection isn't personal 99.9% of the time and it is subjective 99.9% of the time. The only remedy for rejection is to send the story to another magazine or publisher or editor and keep sending it out until you sell it. Keep the work in play, especially if the comments are generic or are silly, like not skipping an extra line between a change of time, point of view, scene, character or chapter.

Maybe if I had used three asterisks between the story and the ending, the editor would have figured out the point of view change and understood the extra line -- or not. My story is going out in the mail this afternoon. I don't take silly comments seriously. Neither should you.

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