Rejections Revisited – Think of Them as “Declines”

It’s Ollie here. I’ve had a rather interesting two weeks. I saved my friend Dragon (you can read about it here ), after consoling my dear friend James. I’m basically a hero. (I’m not bragging, simply stating facts – James can be so sensitive.) I’m also dictating this while looking after my recuperating, dearest of friends, Dragon.

Speaking of how sensitive James is, he received a “decline” for his screenplay. Yes, the very same one I told you about two weeks ago. They didn’t call it a decline or a rejection, but that they were taking a “pass.” So very civilized of them, don’t you think?

Well, James was, to say the least, upset. I’ve never seen him like this. Usually he lets these things roll away like kibble dropping into my mouth. (He didn’t take the hint.) However, I understood why he was upset: he’d spent hours learning how to use the screenplay option of Scrivener. Then to be told that his format for the screenplay wasn’t correct was quite a shock.

After letting him sulk for a few days (You did too, admit it.), I told him to look on the bright side. He’d learned a new software to aid in his writing, AND he had been given some wonderful insight into the movie industry. (At last he started to feel better.) After all, one of the things in which the movie people appeared to be interested was whether or not two of his characters were superheroes. As a hero (Please see above should you have forgotten.), I can tell you that whether one is super or not is irrelevant. At least in real life. Another thing in which they were interested was having buildings blown to smithereens. Yes, fantasy and violence seem to be a big deal in Hollywood. At least James had a rather large building destroyed in the first fifteen pages of his screenplay.

The people James was writing about were typical high school kids who stumbled upon a cure for a deadly virus, and their overachieving parents who become instrumental in getting the kids out of an international predicament. It involved Big Pharmacy, ISIS and Navy Seals. However, no superheroes were included, unless, like James, you think of Navy Seals as superheroes. If only James had created a story where the kids stumble across how to fly or see through walls or lift tall buildings or – (Okay. James tells me there’s this guy who already does that stuff called Superman. Who knew?)

The one thing that stuck in James’ craw was the format comment. He’d looked online and seen screenplays and then utilized Scrivener to create his first fifteen pages. There should have been nothing wrong with it, but they said there was. As such, James has decided not to try to repair the story to one Hollywood might prefer. Even though repairing, or editing, is something he will do when a story or poem receives ongoing declines from multiple sources. However, the format he uses for stories and poems is not at issue as it appears to be with screenplays.

Something James wants everyone to know is that the correct format for plays and screenplays makes you look like a professional, therefore you are taken seriously. Without that, even when using a software to help, it isn’t worthwhile pursuing. That is key: know the correct format in which to put your submission.

James was telling me about the different formats for a short story submission. He says they should usually, but not always, be double spaced in twelve-point type with numbered pages. Some publications ask for the word count to be in the header. Others ask for your name and contact information not to be anywhere on the piece or else to be on the first page in the upper left side with the word count on the upper right side and the story’s title to begin halfway down the first page. Others will only take a file saved in Microsoft Word’s “.doc” format. Others only accept a story copied directly into the body of an email. You see what James means: following the correct format is critical. Most journals and magazines won’t even read a submission if it isn’t done correctly. A word of caution: there are also different styles to be followed with include how to spell words (different for a British publication than an American one) and denote numbers, etc.

Note: haphazardly torn from what would appear to be a long list of declines.

When it isn’t in the correct format or style, the declines begin to arrive. A typical decline via the mail comes in the form of a postcard or note-sized paper. Some consider this decline cold and heartless. Nonetheless, every so often there will be a handwritten note like the one James received from “Hank.” He said, “I found your piece moving. Please write again.” It is such a simple gesture that can mean the world to a writer. I know it did to James because he read it to me at least five times.

Note: They don’t respond personally to submissions, yet Hank did.

When he least expects it, James receives a decline via email that actually offers encouragement. While a publication recently decided not to use the short story he’d submitted, they wrote that they were interested in his work, and would be glad to see more of it. An offer to keep submitting, without cost, is something James always appreciates. Of course, had they accepted his story it would have been time to celebrate. Next time.

Note: they would appreciate seeing more of James’ work.

Rejections, or as James likes to call them ** declines **, are part of the playing field. He tries to think of them as infield fly balls. (I know about balls, but I’m not sure about “infield fly balls” – just sayin’.) James reports that some get dropped and the player gets on base, yet most get picked off. Nonetheless, there is always another time at bat – another publication that might be interested in your story.

Like Hank said, keep writing. Also, remember that editing is also writing. This past week alone James has edited three stories that he will begin submitting again. He’ll step up to plate and take a swing.

Have you received any handwritten notes on a decline that inspired you? If so, James and I’d like to hear about them. Please let us know in the comments section below.

I always enjoy hearing from you, so please leave a comment on this blog post about this or anything at all.

Until next time,
Short Stories - Author Webpage Help Needed
Sir Oliver of Skygate Farm (you can call me Ollie)

Paw Prints courtesy of
All photos © James Stack 2016 unless otherwise indicated

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