Good rejections

I’ve been wondering lately if good rejections may have the power to paralyze a writer. Specifically, I’m referring to myself (of course) and the following lovely rejection from an editor who shall remain anonymous:

Dear Ms. Akers:

Thanks for sending your story to our magazine; sorry to be so delayed in our response. We like “Animo, Anima, Animus.” It went to all our readers, even the out-of-towners, because everyone liked it so much–until the last page.

We appreciate the two different perspectives of the two very different women coming to the circus, who assess, misunderstand, and come to conclusions about each other. But there is a sense of violence (or something) unfulfilled at the end.

The discussion of this story was very interesting; I don’t remember another like it. We only publish everything on which we can agree, but in your case people were saying, “Tell her we’ll publish it if she changes the ending.” Others: “We don’t have any suggestions for the ending, and how do we know what she’ll write?” “This could be wonderfully comic, tragic, etc.” In brief, we think this is an excellent story. Hope you think about changing the ending. And if you do, we hope you’ll send it back here.

Sincerely, etc.

This is a wonderful rejection, and an excellent glimpse into the editorial process. I’m very grateful for the time this editor took to write so much in explanation. And I’m happy to revise. But, as she said, there’s no specific request as to how they wish to see it revised, no guidance. And, to make things worse, I actually like the ending I have, or at least the final sentence. I am having so much trouble re-envisioning this, and wondering, as I struggle, if it isn’t the compliments, in part, that are making it so difficult? If they had said this sucks, change this, I would feel as if I have more “permission” to tear the story down and rebuild it. But here, the emphasis is on changing just the last page.

Maybe I’m creating too much conflicting mental work for myself. Maybe that’s causing the paralysis. Maybe it really is just a matter of changing a few sentences–not so much the ending scene, but the language used…

I think I’ll give that idea some time to percolate.






3 responses to “Good rejections”

  1. Carol Peters Avatar

    fascinating, Mary. i actually think they are saying, “this sucks, change this,” that is to say, “the ending sucks, change it.”

    [nothing i say is to be believed]

    if i, a foolish enough editor, were to say this, i think my next sentence would be along the lines of, “everything that led up to here could not have arrived HERE,” which to me means that the editors felt you forced an ending instead of allowing the ending to happen. in other words, Ms A and Ms did what they did and thought what they thought and the result of that might have been any of a number of things, but what you wrote is not one of those things.

    [please believe nothing I say]

    so my next thought would be, where did the “sense of violence (or something”) begin for the reader, and where did it go, and where might it have gone instead? i have often found that with my love for violence (in my stories, believe me, only there), i often create a threat of violence that does not resolve. it’s awfully fun to write, but the reader hates an uncharged gun, or a promise of tragedy/horror that turns into cream cheese.

    that said, GREAT rejection, mary. send that story to 10 more places without changing it unless you already have unless this was a top tier journal because the other possibility is they’re too limited for your work.

    – Carol

  2. Mary Akers Avatar

    Thanks, Carol! Actually, your comments are very helpful. I love your analytical mind. Of course, I need to examine the problem at the site of the problem, yes, but also in the lead-up, and the follow-through. Simple, yet brilliant.

  3. Carol Peters Avatar

    please forgive all the typos — jet lag, i hope.

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