Yesterday I opened my inbox only to receive another rejection from a magazine I’d submitted my story to. It’s my fourth rejection (the third being a very late response to a vignette I’d submitted months ago) this year, and probably the best one I’ve ever received.
The magazine did reject my story, but the editor also shared comments from the people who had read it, detailing why they did not connect with it, what they think went wrong, what they think went right, a couple of minor mistakes that I had somehow failed to notice before submitting, and suggestions as to where I could improve to make the story work.
Honestly, the comments were very unexpected. Some of the readers said they saw potential in the story but that I needed to improve my execution of it. Some said they liked the concept – the story about a mentally ill lady, narrated from a cat’s point of view. These comments made me smile.
Then there were some comments that said there was problem in the voice or that the cat’s behavior did not seem real to them. Some even said it was a shame that my ‘interesting’ concept did not work out.
Of course, these comments did make me feel bad and hate them for just a second, before I realized that what they said was true and I could not deny it. I read the comments once again and then went through the story I’d sent them. I’d had a feeling that I had hurried too much when sending it out but I was also very fond of that story. However, that is not how writing works. Soon after I received my first rejection for the story, I knew I was right to think that the story was not really as good as I could have made it to be.
I know it’s entirely my fault. Maybe I edited too much out and the readers found my voice dry and it didn’t make them feel anything for either the cat or its owner. Maybe I should have waited a while and returned to it with a fresh mind to.
Or maybe, my first acceptance, which I’d received three days into the year, had made me overconfident.That acceptance in a way told me that my writing was not as bad I thought it to be. I should have then worked with a little more confidence. However, it instead made me too overconfident, and as I usually do, I become impatient and restless to reach my goal of publishing ten stories this year.
The rejections this story has received, especially the one that I got yesterday, have taught me quite a few things. The first thing is to never hurry. I might be very fond of my story, but I also need to forget what it is and see it from a different perspective and be ruthless while working on it, and give myself time if that’s what I need in order to make it good.
The second thing is to never stop working. I’m not going to just criticize myself for all that went wrong while working on and submitting that story. As an optimist (and as a Psychology student), I’ve got to look at the positives of this situation. And that means to appreciate the unexpected feedback. Magazines usually ask for a fee if you want feedback, but this particular magazine provided detailed comments from not one but around eight to ten people who’d read my story. These people don’t know me; their comments are completely unbiased. They say that when a single editor rejects your work, you should not pay attention to it because that’s the opinion of a single person. Instead, you should send your story somewhere else so that people who’ll like it could find it. In my case, I had received feedback from a lot of people and there were some common mistakes that they all mentioned, which only goes on to prove that this time, my writing was not good. I should learn from my mistakes and not repeat them.
Secondly, receiving one rejection does not mean that I’ll get rejected every time. Each rejection teaches me something new. People receive so many rejections before they get accepted. I got accepted quite fast, and I should be grateful for it. I learned from the subsequent rejections that every time I’ve got to work harder than I did before. Moreover, I’m only a beginner. I’ve got to sweat a lot in order to do reach my goal. It’ll be tough, but it will be worth it.
“A lot of people want a shortcut. I find the best shortcut is the long way, which is basically two words: work hard.”
― Randy Pausch,