Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Horror of the Form Rejection

Posted by LD Keach on Thursday, February 11, 2010

(Or, “Do you like me? Check yes, no, or go to hell.”)

There are few things more crushing than the dreaded Rejection Form.

You’ve already gone through the horror of Submitting. You’ve spent weeks editing your story, crossing your fingers and praying to your favorite dark gods that yes, finally, this time someone will say “What an awesome story! Thanks for sending it!” And then you spend weeks more, waiting, pacing, compulsively checking your email or your mailbox every ten minutes for that shinning gold note that says, yes, you are validated in your pursuit as a writer…

But then, the day comes, and you get a form.

Not just a note from an editor saying “This story doesn’t fit our needs.” Not just a “Thanks, but no thanks.” But a demeaning piece of fill-in-the-blank crap that lacks any semblance of soul or humanity. A Form Rejection.

The worst form rejection I’ve ever gotten read as follows:

Dear Mrs/Ms/Mr (Writer),

We were unable to accept your submission for one or more of the following reasons:

1. While the quality of writing and formatting was good, the mood and tone of the piece did not fit with our publication.

2. There was excessive and gratuitous violence/gore/sexuality, which does not fit with our publication.

3. We are currently closed to submissions.

4. Never in a million years would we consider publishing a story as abysmally conceived and horribly written as the piece of crap you just sent us.

Okay, maybe I’m embellishing a bit. But, the point is, many editors employ similar multiple choice, no-effort form letters. And some of the forms I’ve gotten weren’t even filled in! Seriously? Refusing to fill my name in the blank is one thing, but send a form, and then don’t even make the effort to check a box?!  We all know that editors are busy people, but does being “busy” give you license to be a jerk?

No, it doesn’t. I may have sent them an abysmally conceived and horribly written piece of crap, but it’s never okay—professional or not—to be a jerk.

So, instead of slinking into their offices under the cover of night and painting lewd penis graffiti all over their desks, a tough writer will just go “Oh, well.” “Oh, well” is one of the most powerful weapons in a writer’s arsenal. With a shrug and a toss, a jerkish form can be discarded, erased, exorcised from your desk, and then all you have to do is concentrate on the next place to send your story.

Sure, it’ll sting for awhile, but we’re writers. If it doesn’t hurt a little, you’re not doing it right. Okay, if it doesn’t hurt a lot…

Anyway, my point is; it’s useful to just get rid of your form rejections. Some people say get rid of all your rejections, or save them all, or use them to build a paper mache temple to Nyarlathotep in your living room—do what you want. But, I’ve found keeping the good ones, those nice personal notes from editors, and trashing the jerkish ones really help keep you going when the nights grow cold and nobody’s reading your stuff.

Of course, if you happen to be a writer who’s also a powerful Voodoun, then totally keep the form rejections. Pile them up on your altar to Somedi and wrap them around your little editorial-shaped dolls…

And, if you have editorial-shaped dolls, would you mind if I sent you a few of the form rejections I’ve gotten lately? Oh, not for any specific reason…but I’ll pay $50 cash for every mysterious herpes outbreak. Just sayin.