One of the things that annoy some writers is that rejections don’t come with any feedback on the story or novel being submitted. The reason given is that agents, editors (in the case of magazines) and publishers just don’t have time. I understand that completely, because to give responsible feedback takes a lot of thought as well as the time to write it properly. So when feedback does come, it’s greatly appreciated and very heart warming. It shows that someone has taken the time to nurture your writing. It’s only happened to me once, in this recent response from Aurealis Magazine (an Australian and New Zealand Sci fi/fantasy magazine).
On the 4th May, I submitted a 6000 word story called ‘Butterfly’. The first 500 words of it are at the end of this post. (I won’t put it all up yet, because I’m still hoping to find a Magazine to publish it.) In italics below is the email I received from the editor. My comments are in ordinary type.
Thank you for submitting your story to Aurealis magazine. I’m afraid I won’t be picking up your story and you should find another market for this story.’
Like all the rejections I’ve had, this is polite and suggests that I try elsewhere. Then the email followed with what I think is an excellent example of constructive criticism.
‘Hmm, aliens as gods. This story took me back to the days I read Erik von Danikin. This is a nicely written piece, the set up well thought out. ‘
A positive opening, and then he followed with the problems. I won’t put them here, because they won’t make sense without knowing the full story. The interesting thing about it was that all of his concerns stemmed from one core point that I obviously hadn’t made clear. I’ll look at the story again now and make sure that that’s clear. Then he went on to say.
‘But still the way you describe the way they (the aliens) interact with our plane of existence was well done. ‘
I was pleased about that, because there were some fairly subtle ideas in there. After a bit more detail – wow, not just feedback but detailed feedback – he gave a general word of advice, this…
‘When the premise doesn’t hold the plot, the story doesn’t work. ‘
Then he followed with a suggestion.
‘I think the narrator having some modern problems dealing with “re-modelled” gods would have held together better. I look forward to your next submission. ‘
This was nice – no doubt they say it to everyone, but it’s appreciated nevertheless. It says, ‘keep writing’ and ‘keep submitting’. Not only this, but he suggested where I might send it after review. So I’ve done that and sent it to Andromeda Spaceways.
All the best, STUART MAYNE | EDITOR | Aurealis – Australian Fantasy & Science Fiction PO Box 2164 | Mt Waverley | VIC | 3149
I think Aurealis deserves our patronage for taking the time to nurture. I’m looking to see what other story I have that they might like.
Here’s the beginning of the story.
© Tahlia Newland 2010
I sucked in a sharp breath and rubbed my head.
At least there wasn’t much blood, but a bump was forming already and it was going to be a big one. What stupid person left a brick in the middle of the footpath, and what stupid woman didn’t look where she was going? Someone who’d buried her lover and her mother in the same week, that’s who. Someone who’d taken them both for granted and learned to let go the hard way. Someone who’d vowed never to miss anything again. Yes, that was me, and I’d just failed, but I knew enough to know that wallowing in self-denigration wouldn’t help.
My head spun and my legs felt like jelly but I made it to the outdoor café at the corner and crept into a chair. To my relief, the old man at the next table ignored me, and only the black-haired man glanced my way from the good-looking group at another. Strangely, even though they were several metres away, I could hear them talking clearly.
‘This planet has its perks,’ the big black man said as he wiped cappuccino froth off his top lip.
‘Coffee!’ the woman scoffed. ‘It’s addictive, remember?’
‘I’m not drinking that much,’ the big guy retorted. ‘Besides, it doesn’t seem to do the Earth People any harm.’
‘Well, I don’t want to risk getting a pathetic craving for some earth muck,’ the woman replied.
The man grimaced.
‘Relax Odey, Marn’s just concerned you might want to stay,’ the handsome black-haired man said. ‘Don’t forget Taron’s stint at Formtal.’
Strangely, my vision was as super clear as my hearing. I could see the blue of his eyes and the smooth texture of his pale skin.
Odey nodded and turned to the woman, his face gentle now. ‘Hey baby, don’t worry. As soon as we’ve rooted out this little infestation, I’m out of here. The bad in this place far outweighs the good.’
The black-haired guy sniffed the air. ‘One’s coming this way,’ he whispered.
‘James has the best senses in the business,’ the other man said proudly, his sandy hair bobbing as he talked.
‘Come on Dirk,’ James said, pushing back his chair.
Dirk followed his lead and they strode towards the alley. They sizzled with energy as they passed me and I stared at the table, wishing the waiter would come. I needed coffee.
‘Shit, it’s huge,’ Odey said a moment later.
I looked up and saw a scaly grey, giant octopus-like monster slithering out of the alley. Needle-like spines covered one side of its long fat tentacles and rows of plate-sized suckers adorned the other. James appeared, arms raised towards the creature, lightning crackling from his fingers. The monster, limbs thrashing, multiple eyes rolling wildly, ducked away from the lethal fire. James leapt over a waving tentacle, flashed a stream of laser light from his fingers and sheared off the limb. It crashed to the ground, leaving the monster shrieking and green light sparking from the stump. Swinging around, James lopped off another twisting limb and sent a volley of fire into the centre of the creature. It folded in on itself and disappeared.
Well I think Mr. MAYNE deserves a Bravo for taking the time to give you some constructive criticism.
I liked the beginning of your story very much even though I’m not a fantasy fan! And I loved this line,
“Besides, it doesn’t seem to do the Earth People any harm.’
No it doesn’t! Coffee is the best friend of the Earth Authors 🙂
That is really special that he took the time for that feedback. I know from the gobs of time I’d spend grading English essays how time constraints can limit feedback–that’s precisely why I always DID spend so much time leaving comments, because I know personally how important that individualized feedback is on explaining why you get the grade/rejection that you do.
I second his compliment on how the aliens interact with the human plane of existence, as I like how that already appears in the sneak peek you gave. People’s varying levels of awareness (in reality or possibility) has always been a fascination of mine.
You are going to love some of Lethal Inheritance then. There’s a whole section where two people perceive a situation quite differently becasue of their beliefs about what’s happening.
I just noticed this post, and I have to say, that I am extremely impressed that your “rejection letter” is as constructive as it was. Even if he had only written you what you shared with us here, I would have been impressed…
Going to read chapter one of Lethal Inheritance now…