Rejections are a soul-destroying business, but it’s not always your fault.
I’ve just learned that Graham Greene only came second when he entered a “Write Like Graham Greene” competition under a pseudonym. This in turn reminded me of an experiment years ago where someone tried submitting sample chapters of classic novels, with just the titles changed, to numerous publishers. No one seemed to see through the ploy, yet they were all rejected.
Sometimes – probably often – novels are rejected simply because they are bad. But in some cases it is no more than a matter of opinion. There’s a tendency to think that they are the professionals and it must be you that’s wrong, not them – but perseverance can pay off.
But there’s another level to this. In my freelance work for writers’ advisory services I often notice writers trying trying to emulate the style of the classics of a bygone age (I had one recently who actually used the “Dear reader…” device), and it just doesn’t work now. And that might have been the reason why the above experiment failed to gain an acceptance.
It’s something of a dichotomy – the classics are supposed to be great literature, but they are ‘not good enough’ to get published today. To many modern readers (me included) they are often slow and wordy, among other things. At the same time there are a lot of quite popular e-books which are riddled with spelling and grammatical errors, and often populated by one dimensional characters. It would drive me mad, but it’s clear that many readers don’t care!
Maybe modern folk have too short an attention span to deal with old classics, and maybe they are too poorly educated these days to care about or sometimes even recognise bad writing. But at least the new world of electronic publishing has opened the field up for anyone to have a go. Then it’s just up to the reading public to decide what’s successful and what’s not!