On the back of yesterday’s post, I participated in #zinechat on Twitter today. This is a regular scheduled chat organised by Jaym Gates, and which usually includes at least one prominent magazine editor. Topics relate to anything to do with short stories and the magazines that publish them.
The subject of rejection comes up frequently. Why stories are rejected, how to improve your odds, etc.
One of the things that strikes me is that when a writer gets a rejection, he/she automatically assumes that there must be something wrong with the story. If a story gets rejected quickly, that’s probably correct. Any comments you get from an editor at this stage are golden. Things like ‘didn’t like the main character’ or ‘the end fizzled’.
When, however, a magazine informs you that they’re holding your story for further consideration, it means that obvious hurdles do no longer apply. It also means that any comments you get if the story is rejected don’t mean all that much more than the editor scrounging for a reason to reject your story. In this case, the story is no longer at fault. I could be that the editor (usually someone different from the slush reader who passed your story) didn’t like it as much as another story, or the magazine is simply full, or the editor is looking for a different type of subject matter or style to complete an issue. Or a magazine has accepted a similar story recently.
So I feel you need to be a bit careful with rejections like that and not read too much into them. That’s why I prefer simple and short rejections, without embellishment or fake empathy. All a rejection means is ‘we won’t be publishing this’. Nothing more, nothing less.