My short piece, “Why Did My Story Get Rejected?,” was originally published on the BLLC Review.
Rejection is hard, and let’s face it, as writers, we’ve all been there. We’ve worked tirelessly on a new story, only to be rejected from what we thought was a the perfect medium for the piece. Why? Well, no one but the editor who rejected your piece can give you the exact reason, but this week, BLF Press Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Stephanie Andrea Allen shares her thoughts on why editors sometimes reject writers’ submissions.
- You didn’t follow the submissions guidelines. Did you submit poetry when the CFS asked for short stories? Did you submit romance when the CFS is looking for sci-fi? Writers sometimes use a “one size fits all” approach to submitting, answering every call for submissions with their current work, regardless of what the editors are looking for. This is probably one of the most common reasons writers get rejected.
- You submitted your first draft. Did you spend any time revising the piece? Did you workshop the piece or get feedback from a writing group or a trusted writer friend or professional? No? Well, you shouldn’t submit it. Editors receive dozens, sometimes hundreds of submissions, and they don’t have time to workshop your story with you. You need to do this work before you submit it, not after. Only submit your final, polished draft.
- You care more about being popular than being good. This may be a little off-putting to some of you, but these days, it seems that some writers spend much more time talking about writing than actually doing the hard work of drafting and revising their work. (I’ve seen more of this with new and emerging writers than anyone else.) I know, I know; writers need a platform right? Nah. They need to submit good work. Stop worrying about your brand, your platform, or how many followers you have, and worry more about plot, structure, pacing, and character. For example, social media can be a great way to connect with other writers and your audience, but it can also be a distraction. Also, please know that editors often do a quick Google search to learn more about you and your work. Some of y’all are doing the most on your social media sites.
- You’ve waited until the last minute to write the piece. Please know that editors can sniff out a last minute submission quicker than you can hit the send button. The writing feels rushed, there are numerous errors, the story line doesn’t make sense, etc. Good writing takes time, and if you’ve written and submitted a story in three days, it doesn’t make you a genius, it makes you sloppy and unprofessional. Harsh? Probably, but it’s also why your story was rejected. Don’t get mad and don’t take it personally. Just do better next time.
- The writing wasn’t very good. Okay, so here’s another tough one. Most writers are riddled with self-doubt, so I’m not saying that your work isn’t important. As Black women writers, we are often told that our work isn’t good enough, or that it’s too Black, too queer, or too whatever. That’s NOT what I’m saying. What I AM saying is that some of y’all are letting your friends and family keep you from getting published. In other words, who is reading your work before you submit it? Your family and friends are going to support you no matter what, even if your plot goes off the rails about half-way through the story, or a character disappears after three or four chapters, never to return. Make sure that you have a cadre of writing professionals around you to keep you honest, and to keep you from embarrassing yourself by submitting work before it’s ready. Don’t let anyone keep you from telling your story, but make sure that there are people in your writing circle that can give you constructive criticism on your writing before you submit it to a publisher or editor.
- The piece wasn’t a good fit. This is related to my first point, but with a shade of difference. Sometimes writers submit a piece that fits the guidelines, but doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the accepted pieces in the issue or anthology. Rather than having an outlier, the editor will often just reject the piece. While it may not seem fair, keep in mind that editors and publishers decide what’s best for their publications, and most would rather have interconnectedness between the pieces than not.
Kiese Laymon wrote a piece entitled “We’re Not Good Enough to Not Practice,” and you aren’t. I’m not either. So before you submit a piece to an editor, agent, or publisher, PRACTICE. You may still get rejected, but at least you’re doing the work you need to do to improve your writing.
Thoughts or comments? Be sure to leave them below or send me an email.