Thursday, May 31, 2007

Understanding rejection

Earlier this year I wrote a hardboiled crime story that I particularly like. It's been out to a couple of markets and the gist of the rejections is a) not enough sex and b) too much sex. So, is it a problem with the story, or have I sent it to the wrong markets?

This is the kind of dilemma writers face all the time. And, no, it's not about having too much sex or not enough sex. It's about using the editors' comments to help prevent future rejection.

I can use what I learned from these rejections to help sell future work to these markets. For one market, I may increase the sexual aspects of the next story I submit; for the other market, I'll decrease the sexual aspects.

But the editors could have pointed out anything. Perhaps one felt the characters were well drawn but the setting was skimpy. In that case I might spend more time setting the stage. Another editor might think the setting was fine but never "saw" the characters. In that case I might spend a little more time describing the characters.

At least neither editor said the story sucked. Then what would I do?


elysabeth said...

I think you are lucky that you got more than just a standard rejection. Most people get a "Thank you for submitting, but we are not interested at this time" type of rejection. So any feedback, even one short comment, is better than not knowing why you were rejected. And I can see how those few comments that we do get help to fine tune our work for the next submission to that particular magazine or publisher. But what about for the next submission to somewhere totally different? Do you resubmit stories to the same place after getting a feedback comment like that after you've rewritten it for that particular market? Or do you just make a note so that when you submit a different story to that market that you need to add more sex scenes or take some out (or up the setting, et cetera)?

Thank you for your wonderful insight into these topics - E :)

Michael Bracken said...

If an editor says, "Make these changes and I'll buy the story," I make the changes and resubmit.

If an editor says, "Make these changes and let me look at the story again," I almost always make the changes and resubmit.

But if an editor simply explains why a story is rejected I rarely revise and resubmit. Why? The editor didn't ask me to.

Many years ago I did this with a story, revising it and resubmitting it based on the editor's comments. I did it twice with the same story. After the second time the kind and patient editor sent me very nice letter that said, in essence, "Quit bothering me. If I WANT to see a revision, I'll ASK to se a revision."

Lesson learned.

But every once-in-a-while I do revise a story based on an editor's comments and resubmit it. And sometimes those revised stories sell.

Otherwise, I just use the rejection letter comments to help me better target new stories to specific markets.