Oh a writer’s lot is not a happy one. You give it your best shot, you grab your lightbulb moments and painstakingly put them together into a work; you hone and refine, you draft and redraft and finally you send your stories out into the world to seek their fortune and what happens? Pretty smartly you get an email where the words ‘thanks’ and ‘unfortunately’ stand in unreasonably close proximity to each other and at the end of it all you’re no nearer knowing what went wrong because most editors can’t or won’t give feedback and as to what they are actually looking for, the best response you get is ‘study the magazine.’ Well, dear editor, I would if I could: in fact I’m frequently tempted to draft a form letter so that I can reply thus:
Dear Magazine Editor,
Thank you for your rejection of my story/poem/flash fiction. I understand that in spite of having no guidelines whatsoever (bar length and formatting of manuscript), my submission does not meet your mysterious and cryptic requirements. With regard to this, thank you for your suggestion that I study the magazine. Unfortunately due to limited space in my bank account I am only able to study a tiny fraction of the magazines suggested to me and I’m afraid that on this occasion yours did not meet my criteria for inclusion. I wish you all the best in finding readers.
It really is a dispiriting and painful experience; one which leaves you with pain instead of cash (dolour instead of dollars). Plus, I can never decide whether it’s better to get rejections quickly or slowly: on the one hand I didn’t have to wait too long for this but on the other hand a rejection at lightning speed feels somehow a lot worse than one which takes weeks or months; at least in the latter case you can convince yourself that they really thought about it. You can imagine, if you will, ditherings; editorial disputes, wranglings over your manuscript taking place at the highest level. But to receive a ‘no thanks’ by return of post does not allow any such illusions to flourish. Plus if a rejection takes two or three months you can easily be on to other projects by then and not care so much as you do about something hot off the press.
Then again, if it’s a quick rejection you can whip it off somewhere else pronto rather than waiting. So perhaps I should do that.