Our Story Was (Gasp) Rejected?

I’m sure our readers will be deeply shocked to learn that sometimes, very rarely, our short story is rejected by a publication. (Quelle horreur! Break out the smelling salts!) The one of us who usually does the submissions is, of course, prostrate with grief. But that only lasts for a few moments, because she soon realizes the editors of the publication that turned down such a masterpiece are incredibly poor at their jobs. Clearly, these people cannot recognize greatness when it is staring them in the face.

Not that we would put ourselves in the same category as the following authors––we’re barely on the same planet (especially since they have all gone to the Great Library Up Yonder)­­––but they, too were rejected, sometimes brutally.

  • Rudyard Kipling was told, “you just don’t know how to use the English language.”
  • Publishers wouldn’t touch Beatrix Potter’s work so she initially self-published The Tale of Peter Rabbit
  • And Saul Bellow’s believed rejections “teach a writer to rely on his own judgment and to say in his heart of hearts, ‘To hell with you.’”

Post-rejection, one of us embarks upon a flurry of activity, searching for other contests, anthologies, or magazines worthy of such a magnum opus. If those publications have an imminent deadline, all the better: the sooner submissions are closed, the sooner we will hear that our story has been accepted, and we can adjust our egos accordingly.

Now, on those once in a blue moon, more often than we would like times when the story is rejected again … Well, it’s not pretty. It’s darn right amazing that more lamps and vases aren’t broken the house. (Okay, I put the vases away after losing half of them to a particularly egregious rejection.) Frantic emails ensue to one another as we spew assurances that our story is maybe not a masterpiece, but is still exceptional. The search for a new outlet resumes. But there is a difference this time. One of us rereads the story.

Clearly, there is a computer bug. Why else would we have started a story in a 3rd person vignette, which switches to 1st person for the remainder? Or used three lines to describe a character when one tightly written construct would have sufficed? Or inserted some beautifully written phrases, so utterly unnecessary to the advancement of the story? What we thought was a tightly knit story is full of dropped stitches and holes. Not just a computer bug, but literary moths are to blame.

Writing and rewriting, reading and rereading, and we failed to see it. Sigh.

The rewriting begins. The story is shaved to the bone, and reconstructed. Everything in questioned: why does a character do one thing and not another? Is this adjective or adverb necessary? Were there perhaps, the wee problem of five too many coincidences to be plausible? Does it matter that the 80-year-old woman drives a red Chevy Camaro and flies jets on the weekend or that her cat (not just any cat, but a Maine Coon cat named Jasper) understands Arabic?

Finally, the story hangs together. Another publication is found and the story submitted. And when we hear the story has been accepted, there is rejoicing, a fair measure of gratefulness and a few remote high fives that some entity has agreed to publish our good, but not quite great, story.

And what if we are rejected, yet again?

We persist.



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