Frustrating compliments (#SFWApro)

So I got a short story back early this morning with very positive reviews. My story was one of less than 30 that made it to the final selection round, it was really good and even their extremely picky editor liked it. However, they only have limited space (like most markets) and when the final round ended, they went with the other stories.
Fair enough. As I’ve mentioned before, that’s how publishing works: One story gets picked, another gets turned down; one story gets a reviewer’s attention, another passes in obscurity.
And lord knows, I’d much sooner have someone say No But We Loved It than “didn’t work for me” (I got one of those this weekend) or any variation of the same. Getting compliments is always preferable. And as I’ve submitted to the same market before and not gotten this kind of response, I don’t doubt it’s sincere.
But at the same time, of course, it’s incredibly frustrating to be told It’s Good, But We’re Not Taking It because it’s hard to figure out where to go from there. I don’t particularly enjoy editors sending me a critique—I’m grateful, because the critiques are frequently accurate and I appreciate them taking the time, but I don’t enjoy it—but that gives me something to fix and something to watch on my next project. By contrast, if the story’s good, I’m not going to change it. And there’s not really a strategy for making my next story better than good—all I can do is write it the best I can, and I do that anyway. There’s no clear path to “better” nor do I really know how much better I have to be (10 percent? 25 percent? 50 percent?).
I’m glad they liked it, and gladder they told me so. But still.

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Filed under Personal, Short Stories, Writing

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