Rejection Becomes A Call To Excellence

Having our stories rejected is, if we’re prolific, an almost daily experience. Even if we’re a ‘once-a-month-er’, (or week, or year) those rejections are a bitter pill to swallow.

We rant, cry, eat chocolate to excess, (or other drug/comfort food of choice) eventually dust ourselves off, and get back to work. Because we are storytellers. That’s what we do, what we are.

Once in a while, among the ‘form’ rejections, something different this way comes. A personal note from an editor. Someone, whose job it is to read tens of thousands of words a day, has taken the time to respond. They give us clues that might help us negotiate the ‘getting published’ morass, encourage us to keep trying to do better, and remind us we’re not alone.

Occasionally something like this happens:

Last year I submitted a short story, told entirely with dialogue, to an eZine. I’d written it almost like a play, but of course, all the action had to be told through the dialogue.

For example – (not from the story but to illustrate my point) “This truly is an excellent cuppa tea. Oops. Sorry. I’ll clean that up.” (someone spilled the tea)

Writing the story this way challenged me, and I was happy with the end result. So was the eZine editor, but … the story passed around the reading table and everyone else liked it, but … they all wanted ‘more’. They didn’t know what ‘more’ they wanted, but they knew they wanted ‘more’ of it.

In her rejection letter, the editor apologised for not being specific, and invited me to resubmit when I had ‘more’.

Neither Mrs Widds, or Widdercat could offer any suggestions as to what the ‘more’ might be. Nor could any of my writerly friends. I stared at ‘more’ for about a week, then put it, and the story, in a metaphorical drawer, hoping it would miraculously appear while I wasn’t paying attention.

More eventually did, but not because I left it in that drawer. I tore the story apart, edited the characters, the action, the story arc, the ending, the beginning, threw all of the above out, retrieved it, went for long bike rides or walks in the rain depending on the weather, emptied out gazillions of cold cups of tea, rewrote it, and finally created a story that was more than it had been before.

Does the editor think it’s more-ish enough? We’ll see.


Some time later … another rejection – le sigh.


“I take rejection as someone blowing a bugle in my ear to wake me up and get going, rather than retreat” Michael Sylvester Gardenzio Stallone – actor, screenwriter, director

16 comments on “Rejection Becomes A Call To Excellence

  1. I wish you well that your revised story is the “more” the editor wants.


  2. Congratulations on exploring the moreness of your story! I love the challenge when someone says they care enough about a story to want more of it, and trust me enough as a writer to believe I can do it. (I also find the metaphorical drawer a necessary first step.)


  3. I love it when they give feedback, those frustrating devils!


  4. Erin says:

    I think if someone gave me a vague response like that, I’d just send it out to another market, hoping that they’d like it as is (since I wouldn’t be sending it out if I didn’t already think it was good) or that they’d give me something specific to hang my work on. I did just get a rejection with some specifics. Sadly, they didn’t say they’d like to see it again if I made changes, but I can take a look at it with their comments in mind before I send it off again.

    Good luck with your more.


    • Widdershins says:

      I was tempted to go all, “a plague on their house”, but after I got over my pout I was intrigued.

      … what a wonderful world we inhabit when a rejection with comments, is the next best thing to acceptance!


  5. jannatwrites says:

    I don’t think I’d know what to do with that response. How are we supposed to know what ‘more’ is if they don’t even know? 😆 I hope your rebuilt story strikes their fancy. You’ll let us know, right? (Yes, I am nosy!)


  6. Jeff Hargett says:

    The fact that you sought the “more” proves you love the craft. The fact that you sent the “more” proves you’re professional. Best of luck!


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