Comments on Rejection

I had a rejection email a couple of days ago, which was quite good as it had several notes with it. In general it gives me plenty of information about what the editor is thinking, though actual “improvements” are not quite so plentiful. I will act on the suggestions, as they took time and effort to produce, but like several other of my published pieces, I will also write the one i want to write and try again. Poems are, after all, only words and, as I have said before, I have plenty of words to write another one. It’s not like every poem published depletes the stock of words for the rest of us.

The three main points are that I should show, not tell. Last time I sent something to that magazine the comment was that I should have shown the house being built. There was, in the entire poem, no mention of a house being built, and in real life no house was built. The editor imagined it as a result of the poem. This is both good and bad, and after reading up I found that telling is sometimes necessary. It’s one of those things you find when you have contact with editors – inconsistency, grey areas and matters of opinion. Usually, I tell too much and gradually edit it out as I condense the poem. However, this can take months and I wrote the poem in question in three days. The problem wasn’t so much telling not showing – it was rushing things andย  not editing properly. I’ll hold my hand up to that one.

Then there was the question of certain phrases and whether they were “poetic” or necessary. One of them was a metaphor that linked with other things in the poem, but that wasn’t noted. I’m obviously too subtle. Another was a phrase that most of you would have recognise a my speaking voice. I tend to write as I speak and I don’t always sound like Shelly or Frost. This irks me slightly a it’s like I’m being edited out of my own poems. It’s happened with others too, so this isn’t unusual.

Finally, the suggestions seem to have reduced the poem to a short paragraph with a tanka at each side. Whether this is by accident or not, I’m not clear. Over the years haibun have become shorter. I presume the same is true for tanka prose, though I admit I didn’t pay much attention to them until I started to write them. It seems to be a particularly American thing – a few lines of prose and a quick poem, usually with a tangential connection to the prose, referred to as “link and shift“. What they don’t tell you is that there are other ways of connecting the two elements.

I will stop there, lest I go on to explore other areas where editors may have blind spots dictated by fashion. I’m very close to 500 words now, which is a long post on a subject that is mainly of interest only to me.

My Orange Parker Pen

21 thoughts on “Comments on Rejection

  1. Lavinia Ross

    Reading about the process was interesting to me as well. I have heard that about editors, editing one’s own personality and voice out of things.

  2. LA

    I found this quite interesting. But I love words and how we do, or donโ€™t use them, and subtlety versus hitting someone over the head with an idea

    1. quercuscommunity Post author

      I have no problem with comments on subtlety and technique and all the nuts and bolts of writing, but I do find myself resisting when they try to edit my voice out of the piece. It has happened several times now.

      1. LA

        I took a writing class a few years ago and felt that was the hardest part, people critiquing my voice. My voice is the only part of my writing that I likeโ€ฆ

      2. quercuscommunity Post author

        Yes. I know what you mean. I’d be very bad in a class, because my face shows what I think. At least I can breathe deeply and put a smile on when I am online. ๐Ÿ™‚

      3. LA

        My favorite was when I read a chapter. One person criticized that my characters seemed too young for their 50s. Another said they seemed too old. I asked my instructor if that was helpful critique

  3. tootlepedal

    That was interesting to me. I suspect that editors probably have quite a hard time coming up with reasons to reject an offering when the real reason is that they just didn’t like it as much as another one.

    1. quercuscommunity Post author

      Mostly they just snd it back, telling me they are going to pas or that it is a poor fit for the current issue – means they didn’t like it but trying to be pleasant. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. quercuscommunity Post author

      I’m not sure anybody is ever so good that they can’t improve. It’s also a case of reinforcement – I know to show not tell and I know to let it rest for months afterwards, and I still get it wrong. ๐Ÿ™‚ Fortunately I am growing to love rejection.

      1. Laurie Graves

        In most writing, there is a time to tell and a time to show. Poetry, of course, is usually a much shorter form so the balance is different and far trickier.

      2. quercuscommunity Post author

        It’s a bit like scaffolding – I seem to tell too much in the early drafts and need time to get rid of it. i this case i just didn’t leave enough time for it to settle after writing.

  4. Bitchy After 60

    Writing is so subjective. So are editors. I once submitted a short story to a contest that provided critiques and someone anonymously tore it to shreds. A couple of months later I submitted it to another contest in a well-regarded literary journal with very little changes. Maybe some grammar changes. And I won. I believed in that particular story. I knew it was well written. Not all of my stuff was that lucky. But there were certain things that I had good feelings about and they were the ones that seemed to get accepted somewhere eventually.


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