Tuesday, March 22, 2016

When a Rejection is a Blessing

It was evident in the exchange of emails that the editor was losing patience. I returned the final draft with revisions. The ones I approved. Too many for my liking. I’d authorized changes that made me uncomfortable. They disguised my voice, altered my style, and bastardized my writing. I was trying to cooperate. A compromise, of sorts.
Don’t get me wrong. I can take constructive criticism. Not all the edits were unwarranted. He corrected the occasional mix up on tenses. Caught the odd awkward phrase. Yes, those edits were appreciated. Good catches. I also followed up on his suggestions for detail that added richness to the story.
Yet, it still bothered me. Colons, semi colons, and exclamation marks dotted the now overly-long paragraphs. Yikes (exclamation mark) Oh sure, I explained to the editor that I normally didn’t use this punctuation. And those short sentences were there for effect. You know. Tension. Fear. Panic. Hysteria. Oh well, whatever.
Preparing for a weekly critiquing session, I made copies of an excerpt from the edited version of the story and offered it to the group without explanation. After reading the piece, each member offered a personal line-by-line critique. The re-edited excerpt resembled my original submission. That made me feel better. And worse.
Several months went by.
I considered withdrawing my submission but the editor of the anthology had invested copious hours on my story. It was rather long at over 8000 words. I couldn’t do that to him. I reluctantly put the anthology to the back of my mind.
Nearly two years after the initial submission, I received the final email. (Un)fortunately, my story hadn’t made the cut. I felt giddy. It was the first rejection met with relief.
This drawn out process began with a request. Would I write a story for the anthology, he wanted to know. I declined. I was currently involved in another project. He was persistent and friends pointed out the obvious. Never pass up an opportunity.
My submission was received with a glowing appreciation of my work. He was impressed with the story. It would be pasted into the master manuscript. A couple of edits were suggested and approved. Then over the course of several months…well, you heard what happened. The simple explanation is my work couldn’t hold up with the other submissions arriving daily. I accept that.
Rejections are a part of a writer’s existence. Believe me, some of my earlier stories that made it to publication should have been edited. I wince when I read them now.
On the bright side, which is where I’m usually looking, I have a story that is now open to submission elsewhere. I’ll get right on that.


  1. Yes, sometimes a rejection can be positive. I had one of my novels rejected by a publisher that appeared to be doing well, making acquisitions and sales appeared to be steady of its novels published. One of the reasons they rejected my fantasy novel was they didn't like the names of some of the characters, one in particular.

    I thought that odd, but moved on to find my current publisher. And that publisher? Went under about two years later. Got lucky, in a way. I think from the story you relayed, you did too!

    1. I feel lucky, Terry. I cringed thinking of that edited version appearing in print with my name on it. I learned a lot from this experience. I'd rather receive criticism for my own mistakes than blame for the mistakes I allowed others to make in my name.