There are writers who keep rejection blogs online, detailing every rejection they've received. For the most part, such blogs are a little dull... but they do have their uses as an archive. If I'm in doubt about whether a rejection is a form rejection, or what level of form rejection*, I can search for distinctive phrases from the rejection and find it (or not find it, when it turned out to be a personal rejection after all**).
People sometimes debate the legality of it, but for the most part, I doubt many magazines care if you post their form rejections online (personal rejections can be another matter, as was seen in the case of Helix magazine).
The problem comes when writers start commenting on the rejections, rather than just copy/pasting them into the blog. Every month or so, it seems someone is linking to another new writer who does this:
- It starts with the small stuff. Tiny details of the rejection are dissected as proof of the agent/editor's evil. They used a full sheet of paper for a short rejection, which is environmentally unfriendly. They used half a sheet of paper, which was insulting because they didn't think the writer was worth a whole sheet***. A hand-written note is unprofessional; a computer printed note is impersonal. The rejection was too short and blunt; the rejection was too long and didn't get to the point.
- The comments devolve into rantings about the evil industry which fails to see the writer's genius. How dare they send a rejection!
- For bonus points, the blog starts to criticise agents/editors who ask to see more materiel (thus guaranteeing the writer's rejection, because it wouldn't be hard for agents/editors to work out which of their recent requests this must be).
Sometime during this:
- Other new writers find the blog and see the blogger as a kindred spirit. Here's a person who understands being rejected. This usually happens during the more moderate early days.
- Other writers try to explain why it's a bad idea. Even an anonymous blog will be linked to the real name eventually (especially with personal rejections posted).
- Industry consequences aside, it's not good for a writer to believe the whole industry is against them and everyone is evil.
- At this point, the writer defends it by saying it's a public service to all writers to let them know who the bad agents/editors are ('bad' apparently meaning anyone who rejects the writer... or uses small pieces of paper for their rejections).
- Some of the blog commenters continue to defend the blogger, no matter how unhinged or drama-filled the posts become.
The thing that I find worrying about such blogs isn't the original blog or blogger. A drama king/queen will always be one, and it won't be the first time they've faced the consequences of that. The issue is the other new writers, who see the original blogger as someone just like them. When they're feeling a bit vulnerable, it's easier to get sucked into something like that. Then the blogger goes off the rails...
... and the commenters end up following. By this point, the commenters have brought into the idea that all established writers are part of the conspiracy and can't be trusted. Any other aspiring writer who comments is sucking up to the big names (and if they're not blogging about the evils of rejections, they can't possibly understand what another aspiring writer is going through).
It's an interesting thought that we might be doing a disservice to people starting out on the road by being too positive. Though few people want to read endless sobbing about rejection, only focusing on acceptances could be a problem. A new writer is more likely to empathise with rejection than acceptance, because they haven't experienced acceptance yet.
My musing is making me look again at my own writing diaries. I could mention the rejections more, without it coming across as "woe is me". Sometimes it doesn't hurt to mention that all writers are in the same rejection boat.
* By this, I mean where markets give different form rejections depending on whether you almost made it or not.
** I've had some gloriously vague personal rejections. The only thing that made me think they were personal is I couldn't see the comment applying to every story. Often due to them being form rejections with an additional comment tagged on (I get a number of "this story made me laugh" and similar additions... sometimes on serious stories, but I like to take it as a compliment anyway).
*** You might think I made up the paper size example for the comedy value. Alas, I can't take credit. It came from a rejection blog from last year, where the writer had a bit of a thing about the different insults implied by the size of the rejection letter paper. I believe that writer saw the error of his/her ways and deleted the posts criticising agents for their paper choices, but the memory lives on. I won't ever be able to take rejections printed on half-sheets of paper seriously.