WHAT'S NEW http://matthewbrennan.net
12/7/13: I've just relaunched this blog! With a whole new look, I'm returning to this blog and will be publishing my fictions - old and new - along with notes and thoughts about writing and being a writer. I'll also be including posts about my work with World Vision as their blog manager as well as my travels. You can now subscribe to this blog by email or through Google+, and you can leave me comments here or in Google+ itself. Come read!
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Friday, March 14, 2014
Don't let me say no
"No" is a response writers have to get used to hearing, though it rarely comes in that exact simple form – "unfortunately" … "I'm sorry to say" … "not for us" … "not quite right" … "did not find a place for" … "we must pass" … "not right for my list" (i.e. it's not you it's me).
All jokes aside, it is often true that editors will receive more submissions they like than they can fit into their current issue, and thus are forced to pass on stories even when they don't want to. For this reason, and because all editors have their own styles and preferences that you can't know for certain even by reading past issues, you can't take rejections personally. It's going to happen, even when you're optimistic, even when you've been published before. It really is nothing personal. Just keep trying. The majority of pieces I have published were rejected by one or more editors before they found homes elsewhere.
If the above paragraph was encouragement, now comes the hard truth: as inevitable as "No" is for all writers, some rejections are actually your fault. And it's not because your story or writing isn't good enough. There are some very specific and very common mistakes that cause these rejections, which ultimately come down to impatience.
But the good news is, you can fix them.
First: typos. When I'm considering a submission, if I see more than two grammatical errors within the first few pages, you're going to have to have the best story ever for me to keep reading – if you don't care enough about your work to proofread it, I'm much less likely to care about it myself.
The second reason also comes down to editing. The opening paragraph of your story is the most important few sentences of the entire piece, and if I'm bored or confused within the first page, I won't want to finish reading it. Take the time to get it right.
What all this comes down to is one very important rule: don't give editors a reason to say no. And they are looking. Editors have so many submissions to get through, the faster they can say no, the faster they can move on with the search to find the story they do want to publish. Don't give them a reason. Take your time editing, make sure every sentence works, typo-free. Don't let them say no. Will you still get rejections? Of course. But self-editing with this in mind will keep those rejections more about the editor's preferences than your writing.