Most writers seem pretty excited by the prospect of getting feedback on a submission. It’s especially true if you’ve become accustomed to receiving those 6-month form rejections.

At Bartleby Snopes, we work hard to give you personal feedback within a reasonable time frame. In fact, the literary magazine was founded on two basic principles:

1. Every story deserves a personal response

2. No submitter should wait more than a week to get that response

So what exactly does this personal feedback look like?

Let’s take a quick pop quiz.

Question: Which of the following reactions to the prospect of lit mag feedback is the most appropriate?

A. Wow, they are going to edit my story for me!
B. Holy shit, I can have my story workshopped without giving anything in return!
C. Feedback? I don’t care what these assholes think of my story. I just want them to publish it.
D. Cool. They will actually offer a reason if they reject my story.

If you guessed D, then you have passed the test and may submit your story for feedback. If you guessed A through C, then you probably still have a bit to learn about submitting.

Okay, so what does our “feedback” actually entail?

Well, it varies. We typically write anything from one sentence to several paragraphs explaining why the story doesn’t fit. Sometimes we offer a larger critique, but sometime it’s as simple as “Thanks for submitting, but we don’t publish 3-word stories.” The main purpose of our feedback isn’t to try to make you a better writer. It’s to give you reason for a rejection. In other words, you can get a better sense of what we want. However, we do hope that you will find our words at least a little helpful for future writing endeavors.

While these explanations are all nice and good, what you really want to see are examples. I’m about to share ten actual examples of feedback with you, but before I do, here is a little warning. We’ll call it the Managing Editor’s Warning:

  • Feedback will vary
  • Don’t expect 2-3 paragraphs every time. We have a lot of submissions to read.
  • A longer rejection doesn’t always mean you were “close” to acceptance
  • If you aren’t prepared to receive the type of feedback we offer, then please select the “without feedback” category

Note: All author names and titles have been removed to protect the identity of submitters.

Example 1:

Thank you for submitting XXXX to Bartleby Snopes. We appreciate the chance to read your work. Unfortunately, this piece is not for us. To us, this read more like notes for a story than an actual story. There isn’t enough of a developed narrative here — the summarized incidents don’t add up to what we usually look for, which is a piece with a plot and fully realized characters.

Example 2:

Thank you for submitting XXXX to Bartleby Snopes. We appreciate the chance to read your work. Unfortunately, this piece is not for us. Your vignette is capably written and appropriately ambiguous but does not typify the form of Flash Fiction we favor. Your piece doesn’t exhibit a full dramatic arc or character development.

Example 3:

Thank you for submitting XXXX to Bartleby Snopes. We appreciate the chance to read your work. Unfortunately, this piece is not for us. This strikes us as mere scene as opposed to a fully developed story; we prefer pieces with deeper characterization and more of a dramatic arc.

Example 4:

Thank you for submitting XXXX to Bartleby Snopes. We appreciate the chance to read your work. Unfortunately, this piece is not for us. With flash submissions we tend to look for a big emotional punch or some startling insight into the human condition; we feel those things can help lift extremely short narratives out of mere anecdote. Unfortunately we just didn’t see enough of either of those things here.

Example 5:

Thank you for submitting XXXX to Bartleby Snopes. We appreciate the chance to read your work. Unfortunately, this piece is not for us.

This feels like a good start to something larger. As is, it’s all situation and the reader knows nothing of the characters, or their issue. It’s a vignette. The prose works a little too hard to create complexity (bowing and tilting of heads, etc). You’ll also want to check on submission format guidelines.

Example 6:

Thank you for submitting XXXX to Bartleby Snopes. We appreciate the chance to read your work. Unfortunately, this piece is not for us. Although we enjoyed the tone here we think this needs more development — we wanted more plot, conflict and resolution, and character development. We also had some confusion regarding who Char A is and who Char B is … are they the same person?

Example 7:

Thank you for submitting XXXX to Bartleby Snopes. We appreciate the chance to read your work. Unfortunately, this piece is not for us. We thought the narrative was competent and capable with good pacing. However, it didn’t feel like the main character developed enough. There wasn’t enough sense that the MC wanted anything or changed at all. It also felt a bit overwritten/over-described at times. It’s a good piece with strong writing, but it’s not what we’re looking for.

Example 8:

Thank you for submitting XXXX to Bartleby Snopes. We appreciate the chance to read your work. Unfortunately, this piece is not for us. We didn’t feel grounded enough with this story — the jumps in time and place were just too disorienting. We prefer that a story maintain a single point-of-view; we feel this makes for a stronger, more focused narrative within the constraint of our word limit.

Example 9:

Thank you for submitting XXXX to Bartleby Snopes. We appreciate the chance to read your work. Unfortunately, this piece is not for us. 

This piece generated some discussion. We found it both compelling and well written. But we are going to pass because the story is a little too reflective for our tastes and our editors wanted to see a more tangible conflict than the somewhat existential one here. Also, while one of our editors really enjoyed the use of language, several others found it distracting. 

Good luck with this one elsewhere

Example 10:

Thank you for submitting XXXX to Bartleby Snopes. We appreciate the chance to read your work. Unfortunately, this piece is not for us.

Although there is a good arc here, we think the story needs a little heart; we didn’t have much of a grasp on how the narrator feels about anything. We especially craved more emotional weight and insight at the end. The dramatic gesture of ripping the dress is a good idea, but the gesture belongs to the mother, not the narrator, and, also, it didn’t seem to arise out of any character development that we’d been given. There hadn’t been any tension, related to the separation, leading up to trying it on (there is tension inherent in the daughter not wanting the dress, but that is minor and ends up unrelated to the climax of the story). We also think that the prose needs some attention.

Bonus Example:

Thank you for submitting XXXX to Bartleby Snopes. We appreciate the chance to read your work. Unfortunately, this piece is not for us. You didn’t ask for feedback, so we won’t mention that we actually loved the characterization, but longed for a dramatic arc. Keep writing. Good luck with this one elsewhere. Feel free to try us again in the future with something new, but please wait at least one month before submitting again

In Closing

No matter what you submit, we want to read your work. We exist to share the words of writers with the world. Please send your stories. We promise we’ll be gentle.

 

Nathaniel Tower

Nathaniel Tower is the founding and managing editor of Bartleby Snopes Literary Magazine and Press. Find out more about Nathaniel at nathanieltower.com.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebook