We’ve heard a lot about personal feedback lately. We like it, we love it, we want some more of it. At the same time, I’m here to say that form rejections are our friends.
Why? Well, here are a couple of reasons.
I currently have over 200 stories to read through. Believe me, I strap a little light onto my helmet and head down into the mines as often as humanely possible, as does the rest of the staff. But it takes time. We all have families, and lives, and other good things that we’re working around. Not to mention that every time I dive into the slush pile, more stories have been added. We’re talking several, several hours here. That, unfortunately, means an even longer wait on the end of the author. And I know how that feels, my friends! Not only do I write and constantly wait to hear back from magazines, but I’ve waited to hear back from the exact same magazine that I’m now slushing for! So I get it. Waiting sucks.
Now imagine if I was going to pick out something special and sparkly to say about every single submission. I want it to be constructive. I want it to be helpful. I want to genuinely say why we chose not to accept that story. How much more time would that take? A LOT. A TON. MORE TIME THAN THE UNIVERSE ALLOWS. And what does that translate into? More slush building up for me and an. even. longer. wait for you, the author. What does this equal? Me: #$*@!!
Here’s something else. Most writers are touchy. I don’t deny it; I know that we are. Writing is personal and it comes from somewhere deep inside. Somebody said to me once, “To read me is to love me” and he was speaking the truth. So when I send personal feedback that says, “I’m sorry, but the main character wasn’t engaging in any way and I didn’t find myself rooting for him/her/it/whatever”, chances are that the author isn’t going to want to hear it. Especially if the main character was based on themselves. Then we get a nasty email back saying, “What do you know? Who thought you could choose decent stories, anyway?!” Well, apparently the author did when they initially submitted, but now we’re all cranky. End result?
That’s another issue with personal feedback. Again, it boils down to time. Not only do we not have the time to critique every story, but we don’t have time to get into a conversation with every author. When an author emails and says, “Hey, my story was rockin’, so tell me exactly why you rejected it, losers.” Or, “You said you didn’t like this one aspect. How about if I completely change that. Would you accept it then?” I hate to say this, but personal feedback opens the door toward a conversation that, quite simply, I just don’t want to have.
Form rejections are quick, easy, and painless. Well, as painless as we can make them, that is. Remember that the story didn’t fit our particular need at the time. We passed over it, not over you. You’re still wonderful and shiny in our books, so shrug the rejection off and try again. Rejections make the acceptances that much sweeter.