This is a post about selective reading and how sometimes authors are their own worst enemies. I get emails like this, and I want to post them unvarnished with full headers so that people can see just how stupid some of their peers can be. But I will show restraint. I’ve removed anything that might identify the author. Because even though I would enjoy it, my goal here is not to embarrass anyone. It’s simply to remind people that they need to be responsible for their feelings. Nobody can offend you without your consent…or, in this case, without your desire to be offended.
I got the following email today:
A couple months ago I submitted my story [title removed] to you for publication. Ms. Dawson responded with a summary rejection that left no doubt she thought the story was crap.
Well, I just wanted to let you know the story you said was “UNPUBLISHABLE” was in fact just published here. Guess the story wasn’t as bad as she thought. Your loss.
Good day. And maybe work on training your editors to not be so judgmental. You will loss a lot of good writers with her bad attitude. I know I want[sic] submit anything ever again.
Now from this you would think I told this author that her newborn baby was a hideous monstrosity. I no longer offer automatic critiques of stories (because of emails like this, to be honest), but if the author specifically requests a critique, or if I am requesting a rewrite, I provide one. This author requested a critique. I went back through my old emails and found my original reply (which I have since sent her, privately). What I had actually said was this:
Thank you for your submission to the journal. Unfortunately, it does not meet our needs as is.
First person narratives are incredibly difficult to write well. In this case, the narrator seems to be more engaged in monologuing than of storytelling. She spends a great deal of time telling us her thoughts, but not actually showing us any of the action.
[paragraph removed as it provided examples and identifiable information]
Another issue is the character of Vinnie. He doesn’t really seem to serve a purpose to the story. [removed because it references a specific scene in the story and identifiable information.]
There are also a few continuity issues with the plot that need to be addressed. In particular, [removed because it references specific scene in the story and identifiable information].
I like the concept here and think the story has a lot of potential, but it would benefit from some careful editing to make it publishable. My suggestions would be to eliminate the character of Vinnie entirely as he is just taking up space and consider revising the story as a third person narrative. I think that might force you to be more mindful of what information is being conveyed to the reader and help resolve some of your continuity issues.
If you should decide to revise the story, we’d love a chance to consider it again.
Now apparently she got “her story is unpublishable and crap” out of my reply. Now I confess that I have written some venomous emails in my day, but this wasn’t one of them. This was, in fact, exactly what she had asked for: a detailed critique of her story if it was rejected.
Here is the kicker: I went and looked at where the story was published. She actually made ALL of the changes I recommended! And then instead of resubmitting it to me (a paying market), she submitted it to a non-paying digital market that didn’t even proofread the story (I found a half dozen typos and minor errors in it).
And I just know that, somewhere on the internet, she is ranting to her fellow authors about what I jerk I am and how I don’t know anything.
And you people wonder why I am the way I am.