Lit mag editors who give constructive criticism with their rejections do a great service to the writing community. I realize time constraints prohibit most from giving feedback aside from pre-written rejection slips or emails, but when a writer sees why his/her piece didn’t make the cut, it is enlightening.
For example, I recently received response back from an online journal that rejected several of my works. However, included were responses from the editorial staff that gave me insight into why my poems weren’t up to their standards. Some suggested changes that I think would damage the original creative vision of the poem. Others made suggestions of cutting out fluff that wasn’t needed – edits I agreed with and did right away. Instantly those pieces became stronger because of those comments.
Even if I disagree with an editor’s opinion, it’s enlightening to see how my writing is perceived. For example, one poem did contain a commonly used phrase, but I had employed some wordplay that I felt took that phrase away from its clichéd meaning. However, the editorial staff instantly stamped this phrase as hackneyed. Have I eliminated the line from my poem? Not yet – I still feel the wordplay is slick, and I’d have to come up with a line better than it before I just give up on it. But their comments have me thinking about it, revisiting its structure, trying to find a way to circumvent the cliché.
That’s where feedback helps – I wouldn’t be thinking about this line it wasn’t for the comments. Now I have a chance, whether today or a week from now, to take an idea from a brainstorming session and see if it “fits” in this poem to replace the (perceived) cliché. Their comments moved this poem from “finished” status in my mind and challenged me with the notion that it still may need work.
Does this happen for every piece that an editor may comment on? No, there are some comments that I’m admittedly just too pigheaded to accept. But the fact that the right criticism might spur a writer to refine a piece is priceless. It makes writers better at their craft and their next submission more polished, so editors can have a stronger pool of work to review and, in turn, create a superior publication/literary journal. It’s a win/win, in my view. There is only so much we can get out of peer reviews – it is the opinions of editors that really matter.
Editors, I know your time is precious. But when you do have the time, even if it is just for one poem or story, please let us know what didn’t work in our writing. We all want to get better to make your job easier and only submit pieces that are publishable. I appreciate the comments, even if I don’t always agree. I’m sure other writers do as well.