Take a walk with me, will you?
. . . perhaps you are wondering why I have just shown you these quite uninteresting pictures. Rest assured, it will all make sense in about three to four paragraphs.
Years ago, when I was first learning to hone my craft, determining what sort of writer I wanted to be, I explored — a lot. If you’re undecided in terms of genre, in my opinion, it’s necessary. As often as I could, I entered contests on the writing site, Figment.com. This is a fun little community — or it used to be, anyway — wherein novice writers are able to present their work — poetry, short stories, novels, novellas — on a massive scale, and receive feedback, both positive and constructive. **On a side-note, to any young writers, and I speak here in terms of experience rather than age, I highly recommend getting involved in this, joining some type of writing community; some place where your work can be nurtured and pruned. It takes both. There’s a ton of them out there, and I credit this aspect of my journey in helping me arrive to where I am today.
That being said . . .
A couple months back, I submitted a very old, but recently augmented, short-story to a literary magazine. As I mentioned before, when time allowed, I entered many contests, and this story was so far outside my comfort zone that, when I look back, I smile, because I know now that I would never want to write this genre, professionally, or for fun. Once I decide whether or not to resubmit, I will post it.
Going into this process, I had very low expectations. Short-story fiction of any kind isn’t particularly a passion or a strength of mine. In truth, I did it for exposure’s sake, and liking the plot, I went for it.
The morning I received the rejection letter for that submission. And so, before I go on much further, I feel I must caution you; for if you are to continue reading this post, it is possible this — what you see happening in the picture below — could happen to you.
Apparently my prose makes people trip.
Word for word, this “I liked the concept, but I noted uneven prose” is what I was told. Out of respect for the magazine and its editors, I will refrain mentioning any names. In this industry, taking your bristling ego to the page and spitting venom will get you somewhere very quick — and it’s not a place you want to be. Yes, there are thousands of agents and publishers, but somehow they all do know of one another.
Rejection: it is part the process, an important part, in fact. I expect it, and I expect to see it become more personal than “uneven prose” which, may I just say, is more than likely the most unhelpful piece of criticism I’ve seen generated. For about five minutes I was embarrassed, because I had no idea what it meant. Turns out, neither does anyone else — writers, editors, and literary gurus included. What I have gleaned, and this is only my own interpretation, is that there is a distinct shift in POV narration or language, or both, resulting in writing that feels incongruous or jarring. Still, high-volume of confusion circulates the web at this very moment. The same rejection letter has been received and reviewed multiple times, and I know that a few of you writers actually received the very same one. I am sorry for that. Because I can’t imagine you found it helpful to your writing either.
I’m not entirely sure what the editor’s intention was in formatting a form-letter to appear as if he had taken the time to personalize his message. There is nothing sweet about rejection, which is why I feel it should be kept straight, simple, and to the point. Unless there is desire there to see the work re-submitted, nothing more than a cursory “Thank you for your submission, Blankety-Blank; however, at this time we are going to pass” is required. Smothering ketchup on burnt chicken doesn’t make it go down any easier.
At all cost to a writer’s sanity, the use of elusive vernacular should be avoided. Depending on where they are in the game — perhaps this is their 87th rejection letter — they might feel compelled to pillage Google, ransacking archives, and offering up slivers of their soul for answers. Writers, among other things, are compulsive, diligent beings, with a tendency to obsess, whether it is merited or not. If you’re going to chop off our heads, please be benevolent and use the guillotine, not a butter knife, thank you.
I am taking this in stride. I was not offended by this rejection, nor was I flattered that he liked the concept. If I am to endure, I need to prepare myself for total annihilation. Some agents are gentle, mitigating their criticism with kind words and highlighting positive aspects. Most, however, because they have to be I suspect, are ruthless in proffering a critical analysis. And if they did, you have cause for rejoicing, because it means they didn’t hit command C command V and call it a day.
Hope you all had a wonderful 4th, and I wish you a terrific Friday/Saturday.