Slushpiles and Rejection Letters

My day today has been rather full.  After reading homework in the library, I had the privilege of spending three hours going through a slushpile for someone I know (for the uninformed, a “slushpile” is what you call the vertiginous heaps of unsolicited submissions received by agents and publishing houses).

It was enlightening, and somehow encouraging and discouraging at the same time.  It puts me in mind of the internal rejection notes from Houghton Mifflin Company that I read while doing research last spring; I found reading committee notes on why HMCo shouldn’t print Poul Anderson, Philip K Dick, or even George Selden’s The Cricket in Times Square.  That’s two iconic mid-1900s sci-fi authors and the 1961 Newbery Honor recipient, all rejected with pithy and sometimes caustic internal notes exchanged between the various submissions readers.

It was enlightening because I found myself rejecting anything that didn’t closely match the guidelines I’d been given, even things that I thought might have been perfectly decent books.  There were no hard feelings, the submission simply wasn’t *exactly* what I was looking for.  It was encouraging, because a number of them weren’t very good and I’d like to think that I could do a better job than that.  And it was discouraging, because in order to submit something and get an editor you need a finished manuscript, and finishing a manuscript that would be accepted is much easier with an editor.

Basically, you could do it if they’d let you, but they won’t let you until you do it.

It’s a mess.

So, it’s time for me to figure out how to finish my work.  Again.

And if your work has been rejected by people, don’t give up.  Submit again and again and again.  Everywhere you can.  Maybe you should tweak things, but do keep trying.