It Isn’t Always A “Yes”

The rejection letter/e-mail is the bane of every writer. We all get them, some more than others and only the rarest of the few can say they no longer get them. The great Louis L’Amour got one for a book that I consider his best work, The Walking Drum.

s-l300His daughter was a guest of my podcast recently (Episode 41: Angelique L’Amour  / Audio Only ) and she recounted the story that every publisher he took the manuscript to wouldn’t touch it. It wasn’t a western (even though it really was, just one set in medieval times and in the Eastern Hemisphere) and though L’Amour was already an established best-seller, he couldn’t get it published.

He finally found a way, by persevering and by agreeing to write two other books in exchange for getting The Walking Drum to print, but he had to hear the word “No” quite a lot first.

For my part, over 35 years of sending out manuscripts by mail both snail and electronic, I have heard many a “No!” myself, although lately it seems like it has been happening less. But, it still happens.

Like today for example. I had submitted to a very interesting anthology a few months back, one I would have very much enjoyed being a part of. Sadly, it was a no.

“Mr. Paolinelli,

Thank you for submitting you story, “XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX,” to our XXXXXXXXXXX Anthology. Yours was a unique approach to the theme, and the editorial staff enjoyed the originality. The desperation of the main character’s attempts to bring his son back by XXXXXXXXXXXXX was quite scary, but well characterized. The editorial staff appreciates your talents as a writer.

We received over 400 stories, and more than 300 were dropped in the first round. The editorial team kept your story for a second round of consideration, and we enjoyed the chance for another look, but unfortunately it did not make the final round. Best of luck placing it elsewhere and with your future writing endeavors.”

I X-ed out the title of my story, the anthology and the plot info for obvious reasons. Besides, the point of sharing this was to show we all get these rejection letters – most are very professional as this one was.

I also wanted to share it because I see a lot of newer authors posting that they are on the brink of giving up after getting another rejection letter. I hate to see that because sometimes you have to get a ton of these and keep honing your skills in the craft before the acceptance letters start rolling in.

And rather than seeing the “No” in the letter above and getting depressed, take a look at a lot of the positives that lay within. Over 75% of the submitted stories were cut in the first round. Mine was not among them. My story got into the second round and who knows how close it came to making that final cut?

red spiritual smoke on black background with copy space

Having recently edited Planetary Anthology Series: Pluto, I can tell you the difference between the last story to make the cut and the story that just missed is razor-thin. About half of the submissions got in. The others that didn’t? They would have made an excellent collection on their own right. I can’t think of a story in the rejected pile that was so bad it got cut before I finished reading it.

But look further in that first paragraph. They were impressed with the story, its originality, how it fit the theme of the anthology overall (it was scary!) and the characters were well developed. Not bad for a slightly-over 5,000-word short story, eh?

So yes, I was disappointed that it was a “No”, but I walked away from reading this e-mail feeling very good about the story and my writing. And that is what I want every writer to keep in mind whenever that rejection letter arrives. Find the positives to build on, use any negatives as constructive criticism to improve on the next story.

And, most importantly, don’t ever let the “No” letters stop you from writing.

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