Rejection as encouragement

This week has seen three rejections in the span of 3 days, but the third, for “The Revisionist”, included my very first rewrite request in the form of a decidedly NOT form rejection from the Assistant Editor. The writing itself was noted, but a couple elements of the story were identified as lacking/mis-aimed, for which some suggestions were made, with the offer to pass it along to the Senior Editor if I wanted to take another pass at the piece and re-submit it (no guarantees of the Senior Editor liking and accepting it, of course, but that’s to be expected).

To be honest, I met this with mixed pleasure and trepidation. My knee jerk reaction was that the reader didn’t see quite what I was trying to do with the piece and had therefore missed the point. After discussing it with my wife, however, I realized that I had two choices:

A) File the rejection with all the rest and sulk over the reader’s inability to understand what I was trying to do with the story

B) Swallow my pride and realize that that was exactly what he was trying to tell me. It’s not the reader’s fault that a story doesn’t succeed; it’s mine as the writer.

I choose B.

But not to be accepted by this magazine — which however, I fully admit I am quite anxious to do. Rather, I choose B because I don’t believe in perfect products. Nothing I write will ever be beyond the reach of an objective edit or thoughtful reconsideration. Even without external input, none of my stories sees the light of day without at least 3 or 4 revisions to begin with, often followed by several more after input from my beta readers.

On the other hand, I don’t like the idea of changing my work merely to suit a audience’s expectations or desires.* I want to write stories I can and will enjoy. So the question becomes, are the changes requested fundamental or not?

In most cases, as in this one, the suggestions are valid and identify something I overlooked or tried to gloss over. Moreover, the very best suggestions pull back blinders I had not realized I was wearing or better still, they open entirely new doors for me and for the story. These last are the hardest for me to accept (How did I not see such an opportunity? I’m a terrible writer!), but also the ones that challenge me the most and result in some of the best final outcomes.

So, I choose B!


* Actually, I have discovered I am largely incapable of doing this. When I try to force my work to fit particular expectations, etc., I balk at every word and the result is a horrid mess. I seem to undermine my own success here.