I still haven't sold a short story, but I'm beginning to experience something a little different with my rejections since I started to submit some of the stories that I wrote over the summer. For the very first time (from professional markets), I've received personalized feedback from the editor(s) rejecting my stories.
Not just one story, but two stories so far have received that treatment, from two different markets.
The first one was actually preceded by a very hopeful email informing me that my story had made it past the first cut, into rarefied territory. It would take up to an additional month to hear the decision, but at least I knew that it had gone somewhere, that it wasn't just slushed out of hand.
"They" say you shouldn't take form rejections personally, and I try not to, but after a while they get depressing. I have no idea what exactly has been "wrong" with my story to garner such a bland response. It's a signal that my story is in that large pile of rejects that aren't "worthy" of an additional response.
And yet, a personalized rejection is still a rejection. At first, I wasn't happy to be seeing yet another rejection. Sure, my story had made it past the first round of consideration, and that was great. And the editors liked my story, which was also great. But they didn't want to buy it, and that... was not so great.
But then I received the second rejection with notes, on a different story, submitted to a different market. Again, the first reaction was that crushing sense of defeat, but that probably had as much to do with the fact that I really needed to eat as anything else (hard workout, followed by shopping - I needed lunch). It was in the shower, washing the salt from my skin, that I came to the understanding that the feedback was in fact a very good sign, despite the rejection.
And, in both cases, the feedback was helpful. It confirmed that my stories are approaching what these particular editors are looking for, even if they haven't quite reached it. And it's helping me keep the stories "in the mail" and circulating. It's pushing me to do something with all the stories I wrote over the summer, not just the two I had initially started submitting.
So I've got one more circulating and I'm going to self publish two others. I'm going to keep working, keep moving forward and continue improving until I get something other than even the nicest of rejections.