I've been wondering lately if good rejections may have the power to paralyze a writer. Specifically, I'm referring to myself (of course) and the following lovely rejection from an editor who shall remain anonymous:
Dear Ms. Akers:
Thanks for sending your story to our magazine; sorry to be so delayed in our response. We like "Animo, Anima, Animus." It went to all our readers, even the out-of-towners, because everyone liked it so much--until the last page.
We appreciate the two different perspectives of the two very different women coming to the circus, who assess, misunderstand, and come to conclusions about each other. But there is a sense of violence (or something) unfulfilled at the end.
The discussion of this story was very interesting; I don't remember another like it. We only publish everything on which we can agree, but in your case people were saying, "Tell her we'll publish it if she changes the ending." Others: "We don't have any suggestions for the ending, and how do we know what she'll write?" "This could be wonderfully comic, tragic, etc." In brief, we think this is an excellent story. Hope you think about changing the ending. And if you do, we hope you'll send it back here.
This is a wonderful rejection, and an excellent glimpse into the editorial process. I'm very grateful for the time this editor took to write so much in explanation. And I'm happy to revise. But, as she said, there's no specific request as to how they wish to see it revised, no guidance. And, to make things worse, I actually like the ending I have, or at least the final sentence. I am having so much trouble re-envisioning this, and wondering, as I struggle, if it isn't the compliments, in part, that are making it so difficult? If they had said this sucks, change this, I would feel as if I have more "permission" to tear the story down and rebuild it. But here, the emphasis is on changing just the last page.
Maybe I'm creating too much conflicting mental work for myself. Maybe that's causing the paralysis. Maybe it really is just a matter of changing a few sentences--not so much the ending scene, but the language used...
I think I'll give that idea some time to percolate.