Thursday, August 30, 2007

Not the Harshest Rejection Letter I've Seen...

but still very harsh.

One of the reason writers tend to dislike editors is because editors can be downright nasty when it comes to rejecting ideas and writing. I recall the letter from an editor that suggested with some training, I might not be bad. Thanks! (Actually, I have a lot of training.) Or the letter that suggested once I had processed the experience with some therapy, it might be proper fodder for an essay. Great! (Already have the therapy too!) And then there is the endless stream of Not for Me's, which sort of wash over me like the August heat.

But that is just what it means to be a writer. You submit, you get rejected, and occasionally, you're accepted somewhere. You just learn to live with the fact that editors will often read too much into fiction and assume it's nonfiction, like certain techniques and not others, and won't read beyond the first paragraph if it doesn't grip them. It's most of all not a quality issue (because editors don't agree on quality for the most part....what I like others don't, and vice versa), but an opinion issue.

For an editor, learning how to say no kindly is important. When I worked as an editor at a literary journal, I learned never to give too many specifics about why something didn't work. The truth is that it just didn't work for me. It might work for someone else. When I gave specifics (too much narrative summary, not enough evocative detail, cliched dialogue, whatever), I inevitably ended up in an argument with the writer who naturally disagreed with me.

All of that said about how nasty rejection letters can be, I found the overall tenor of this rejection letter truly appalling. You can say no without threatening to shoot yourself in the head. You can reject someone with dignity.