First, check to make sure it’s a rejection letter. Maybe the editor is asking for a rewrite. If an editor takes time to say the ending isn’t strong enough or story was too long, maybe if you fixed the problem, she’d take another look. This happened to me. But I didn’t take it for granted. Instead, I wrote and asked. Sure enough, the editor answered back and said, yes, he’d be willing to look at my article a second time. I did a rewrite and resubmitted and this time the magazine took my piece.
Of course, this doesn’t happen all the time. Sometimes there is a clear statement: “While I wouldn’t be interested in taking a second look, ….”
Next, read the letter carefully and treasure any specific feedback. Editors are busy people and they don’t take time to help writers unless they see promise. They are trying to help you. It means you’re really, really close.
Learn from their comments. If you don’t know what some of the words mean, here is a tutorial:
Slight: Message isn’t deep enough for readers to care about. You didn’t touch the editor emotionally.
Predictable: The reader knew from the opening what would happen next. Nothing surprised editor.
Clichéd: unoriginal story, characters, or setting.
Too wordy/too long: Check your descriptions. Are they getting in the way of the story? Some readers enjoy details, others don’t. Maybe you need to do some cutting.
Slow-paced: Oh, no. Does this mean your story is boring? Look for ways to add tension.
Sentimental: Are you overemphasizing things that mean a lot to you but might not mean much to the reader?
Quiet: Not much happens in the plot. Doesn’t mean your novel needs to be action packed, but it might mean you didn’t engage the editor in your character’s problem.
Abstract: You might receive this comment if you’re writing a novel with a quirky plot or with odd characters. Fantasy, speculative, and science fiction writers probably see this word from editors who don’t “get” their genre.
Formulaic: a pat story, stereotypical characters, an overused setting.
Familiar: Too many books in this genre.
Not compelling enough: Your novel failed to grab the editor emotionally.
Ending is a letdown: might be predictable, unsatisfying, or rushed.