When a Rejection Makes You Happy

As some of you may know, I am in the process of finding a home for a flash fiction piece titled Swamp Gas.  It’s slow and tedious work to find a magazine that fits your niche, send it according to their guidelines, and wait often months at a time for their response.  

Today, I received a reply from the latest magazine after an extended wait.  The editor told me that while he personally enjoyed the story, he felt it lacked a meaningful conclusion.  The response is a rejection, but it still put me in a good mood.  Why is this?

Based on my experiences and what I’ve read from others, there are four different types of responses one can expect from an agent of publisher:

Form rejection.  If your story doesn’t leave the slush pile, the reader will send a pre-written message back to you.  Usually it’s along the lines of “Thanks, but no thanks.”  An editor or agent doesn’t see your work.

Personalized rejection.  Say your story made it to the next step, but it still doesn’t make the final cut.  This is where an editor will reach out to you.  The reasons for your rejection are more specific, and they can even offer advice.

Rewrite requests.  The editor thinks you’re awesome, but there are just a few things in your story that need tweaking.  Could you fix them and send it back?

Accepted!  Go out and party!

The rejection I got this time was of the personalized variety.  This is the first response of its kind I have received so far.  Previously my attempts were met with form rejections and I’ve adjusted and tightened the story over the months.  So the email I’ve received this morning makes me happy for two reasons:

-Closure.  I submitted Swamp Gas to this magazine in mid July of last year.  Despite assurances on their website that they do not believe in silent rejections and always respond to writers in one way or another, my anxiety got the best of me and I began to worry if the long silence was its own answer.  It is pleasant to see that this magazine kept to its word.

-Progress.  This being the first personalized rejection I’ve received tells me that I’m getting closer to my goal.

Today I will determine my next step.  It is time  to brush the digital dust off of Swamp Gas and determine if there is anything to be done about the story’s end.  I’ve heard the subjective nature publishing process compared to the dating scene before: sometimes there’s little to nothing wrong with you, but you’re not a fit for the other person.  Maybe this lack of meaning in my conclusion is a matter of taste.  But after several months, it couldn’t hurt to take another peek.

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