Rejection letters are part of pursuing a writing career. They are as unavoidable as death and taxes. Every single writer has gotten them. Let me repeat – EVERY. SINGLE. WRITER. So, as I promised, this is the second one I’ve received. Interestingly, this magazine rejected the same story the first magazine rejected, even after judicious pruning and a careful rewrite. Given they both said to submit something else in the future, I’m thinking my little story was a tad too grim for them. That’s okay, because there is a home for it, I know there is, and the people at Red City Review and One Story will definitely hear from me again with something they might like better. But wait a second. Does “send another piece in the future” really mean send another piece in the future?
Having done a little research and then put the question out there on Twitter, I was happy to confirm that when an agent or publication says to send a new story in the future, they actually mean to send work again. I think that’s encouraging, especially when I hear other writers, even successful ones, tell their rejection letter stories. In On Writing, Stephen King talks about having so many that he had to change the nail he was keeping them on to a spike. He also says that the tone of the rejection letters changed, from “thanks, but no thanks” to “please send a new story in the future”. So, I’m headed in the right direction, and instead of a spike, I’ll keep these e-mail rejection letters in their own file.
The bottom line is to not give up when these little messages come in. A “thanks, but no thanks” can be the hint you need to review your story and polish it, perfect it, and just keep sending it out. “Please send another piece in the future” means yes, send one when you have one, make sure you’re picking the right publications or agents for your work and the most important thing: Don’t give up.