Perspectives on Rejection

Image credit to mrsec.com

After trying to unsuccessfully integrate with an online writing group five years ago, I gave up on the idea that I could get unbiased feedback on my writing. When I took the writing workshops required for my creative writing minor at SNHU, I had high hopes that insightful critiques would be included in these classes.Overall, I have met four other people who view the critiquing process in a light similar to my own. Check out what Kristen Lamb said about this topic. You might notice I commented (along with 100 other people – if I get two comments I’m in Heaven – maybe someday I’ll have as many interested readers) about the lack of useful feedback from supposed “reviewers.”In my first creative writing class at SNHU, everyone said “I like this” or “you have such a way with words” and that was the sum of the feedback. I’m pretty sure that some of them didn’t like what I wrote, and I know there were things that could have been improved upon.

The only worthwhile feedback I got in my nonfiction workshop was from the instructor and that petered out. When I submitted my final story, he said it had “arrived” at the place he had been guiding me toward, but very little else. Again, disappointing remarks since they didn’t help me determine what worked and what needed work.

I didn’t get much in the way of helpful input in my fiction workshop. This is clearly evidenced by the rejection my “approved” story got from The Manatee, SNHU’s literary journal. One thing the instructor told me to change, one reviewer for the journal agreed upon (I still disagree, but I will do it without italics in the future).

Otherwise, reviewers said things like “show, don’t tell” and “too much description; I lost track of what was happening” and “needs more description.” All of this advice is incredibly helpful, don’t you agree?

What I got out of that is that they didn’t like the story. Other raters said “so much action, it was like I was in the river too” and “this was so realistic, I’m never going whitewater rafting.” How can an author reconcile these statements with the negative ones listed above? Not a single specific reference to lines that needed work or passages that nailed the intensity.

I must say that the thing that really steamed me was the response to my two poems. Both of the poems I submitted had survived several rounds of improvements and constructive criticism in my poetry workshop. They weren’t perfect (none of my writing is ever finished), but they had passed the critical inspection of several respected poets.

Should a poem get a poor review because it is about nature “and that’s been done to death”? What about being considered “preachy” when it’s advice about blogging? (Yes, you’ve seen this poem right here – an early
version and the one I submitted to the literary journal.)

I awoke at 3 a.m. the day after being summarily rejected by this student journal. I had read half of the competition and only found a few pieces that surpassed mine. I’m really trying to be objective here. Most of that stuff needed more polish. Anyone who can’t even spell check before submitting something for publishing doesn’t deserve a spot.

I woke up, questioning my writing ability. My heart and soul petitioned God for guidance. Have I been wrong about my calling? Am I kidding myself? Do I really have any hope of becoming a published author?

I wanted to quit. I started thinking about what sort of “real” jobs I could get when I finished my degree.

Words swelled. Now I’m pouring them on the page. I might only have 60 followers (I love ALL of you, by the way) and I might not have a single publishing credit, but ideas keep growing in my mind. As long as that continues, my fingers will pour them onto the page.

What is your experience with rejection letters? Do you have any critiquing nightmares or successes to share? Maybe you’re looking for some honest feedback and would like to join an online writing group. I’m interested if you can objectively review my writing and not just the subject matter.

2 thoughts on “Perspectives on Rejection”

  1. My first experience with critiques was through an online website, YouWriteOn.com. it took a lot of guts to put it out there, but I finally did and I’m glad I did. First of all, YWO is a give-to-get sort of site. You have to review and critique in order to get reviews and critiques. This is incredibly useful as you can see what works and doesn’t work in someone else’s works, therefore you can identify what works and doesn’t work in your own piece. Second, I met some great cyber friends, many of whom I still communicate with today. Third, it toughened up my skin. The first time I got a bad review/critique, I cried. The more I got, the less I cried. Some reviewers can be downright mean. If you want to be ripped to shreds, there are some folks on this site who will all to happy to oblige. While they made me angry, they are probably some of the most beneficial reviews I’ve ever received as they made me really look at my work and analyze it…and make it better. it prepared me for the rejections I received from publishers later. That’s not to say the rejections didn’t hurt, but without the experience at YWO, they would have devastated me.

    If you want feedback like that, I’d try YWO and Scribophile. Both are free to join. All I can say is watch out for the forums. They can get nasty, but they also hold a wealth of information.

    Keep writing, my friend. If it’s in your blood, you won’t be able to stop. And don’t forget – write for you. The rest will follow.

    1. Jenny-
      Thanks for the thoughtful and honest comment. I will certainly check out the online forums you suggest in search of constructive feedback on my writing.
      Writing has been all about baby steps for me. As long as the words keep percolating in my soul like the coffee makers of old, I will continue spilling them onto the page.

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