Dear Literary Magazine,
Thank you for sending us your rejection letter. Despite its evident merit, we’re sorry to say we cannot accept it at this time. And by “evident merit,” we mean its merit must be evident to someone, and perhaps that someone is you, because we just couldn’t find it. We mean “evident merit” like this: “evident (?) merit (?).”
No, seriously—while we don’t normally spend more than a paragraph rejecting rejection letters, we thought it might be beneficial to dedicate a little more time to your work.
First, your rejection letter doesn’t feel especially unique—at least in the context of other rejection letters we’ve seen. As a direct representation of a literary magazine with a mission statement to “bring the most honest and original writing” to its “readership of informed thinkers,” this is a concern. Consider it this way: How can we writers be inspired to mine our psyches for our truest and deepest humanities, and then send these efforts to you for humbling inspection, when you are so unwilling to return the favor with even a primitive stab at creativity?
We even briefly wondered if you were attempting a deadpan parody of the rejection-letter genre. But then it occurred to us that you may be hiding behind worn rejection-letter clichés—that you may be afraid to be genuine. So many young writers are afraid to be genuine! Don’t fall into this trap. Instead, figure out how to be your most genuine.
Here’s a concept off the top of our heads that you might be able to improve upon: Since some say your magazine’s rejection letters are simply form emails sent out by interns, perhaps the letters should be delivered in the voice of sci-fi robots simply doing their daily drudgery?
Example: “This is. 0811-0911. We’re sorry. To. Reject. You. But. Not really. We are robots. After all. We have. No Feelings.”
How about making the rejection letter poignant, depressing, or even hurtful? Push the envelope. Your audience is a bunch of bored writers begging for a little drama in their pathetic lives.
Or better, we have a friend who is convinced that a Jamaican accent sounds like a robot. How perfect is that?
Example: “Hey. Mon. This is your. Jamaican robot. Singing. ‘Rejection Song.’”
Then again, you might not be the funny type. How about making the rejection letter poignant, depressing, or even hurtful? Push the envelope. Your audience is a bunch of bored writers begging for a little drama in their pathetic lives. Never be sort of poignant! Depress and hurt the fuck out of somebody! (Don’t be afraid to use profanity!) There should be blood, or the threat of it. Or just mind games told in the first person.
Example: “There was a moment in your story, about a third of the way in, when I thought you might be on to something. But then I realized I had fallen asleep and it was my dream that had captured me. Waking again to your story was a nightmare.”
Or: “I Googled you after reading your ‘story’ and I want you to know that you seem like an interesting person with cool hobbies and friends. I like your hair, too. I even went so far as to think, ‘Hey, I might be interested in this person as a potential lover.’ But then I remembered your ‘story’ and its many failings, and I just couldn’t put myself through that sort of thing again. I’ve made too many mistakes in my life.”
Or: “The polished barrel of the gun hanging on my office wall glimmers cruelly in the afternoon sunlight.”
Now, about that closing: You didn’t plot out your finish, did you? “Yours truly” to cap off a rejection seems very much out of place (especially when followed by the nonspecific “The Editors”). Are we really “yours truly?” Are you very lonely editors? Because we’re certain that we don’t want to be “yours truly” after being rejected by you.
So, let’s rework that closing. Show us how you really feel. End it with “Yeah, whatever,” “Yours in stupidity,” “I have better things to do” … or maybe just forget the closing altogether and end it with a thought fading into an ellipsis.
Example: “The day seems drearier, colder, since reading your story. But there are plans this weekend. Always plans …”
Well, that covers it. Thanks again for submitting your rejection letter, and best of luck in placing it elsewhere!
P.S. If you would like to learn more about the kind of writing we do accept, feel free to subscribe to a year of our short fiction.