Just out of curiousity, how do people figure out the reason their work is not accepted? I tried submitting my work to a newspaper but the editor rejected it with a brief message. How do people get feedback on their work besides friends and family? I mean how do people know what to improve on if their work is rejected.

I write in Chinese, but I suppose this question is valid regardless what language I write in.

6 Answers 6


Specific critique groups or websites such as Critique circle (what I'm using now) may help as a basis to find the reasons of the rejection or methods to improve upon.

I think this website is able to provide feedback on specific issues but I am still new here and can't say much.

You probably will need to find another similar type of website for Chinese based writing (I'm sure there is one out there)

Hope this helps.

  • 3
    We don't do critiques :) However, we will provide help to identifiable problems (such as using a small passage from your work to highlight a problem that you want talked about). Say someone has a habit of using the same word multiple times when they could choose alternatives. Someone could highlight a passage showing the word "bellowed" used multiple times during a dialogue and ask how they can better diversify their word selection.
    – ggiaquin16
    Commented Nov 7, 2017 at 15:25
  • @ggiaquin u mean submitting my work here? I don't think it works for me due to the language barrier lol
    – Jeffrey04
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 9:56
  • 1
    @Jeffrey04 John suggested that we might provide feedback, So I was clarifying that we don't do critiques but we do provide isolated help on a specific issue that is provided in an example.
    – ggiaquin16
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 15:26
  • @Jeffrey04, you'd be surprised by how many people read and write in Chinese on Stack.
    – J Crosby
    Commented Sep 25, 2019 at 19:36
  • not surprised, but again, this site doesn't host critique discussion (:
    – Jeffrey04
    Commented Sep 27, 2019 at 6:26

Publications don't explain why they reject things because:

a. It takes time.

b. If they do, people will argue with them and call them names.

c. If they do, people will try to fix the piece and send it back, creating even more work for them.

But there are really just three reasons why a publication rejects something:

  1. It is too badly written to be salvageable with reasonable effort.

  2. It is not a match for their needs. Most authors operate on the basis of trying to find homes for the pieces they want to write. Most publications operate on the basis of publishing material that appeals to a very specific interest group in a very specific way. Writers who study the needs of specific publications and write what the editors need have a very high success rate. Writers who write what they want and then shotgun it to every publication in Writer's Digest market books have a very low success rate.

  3. Their pipeline is full. Yes, they publish halloween recipes in their October issue, and yes you sent them a yummy recipe for pumpkin spice cookies, but they already have enough yummy pumpkin spice cookie recipes on file to last till kingdom come.

Many authors seem to think that if only they could fix the writing, they would get published. But most of the time is is not the quality of the writing that is the problem (and if you cannot tell if it is the quality of your writing that is the problem, you are a very long way from publication). The problem is that you have sent them a piece that does not meet their needs or that they already have more of than they need.

This is why every editor, on their website and market listing, lists exactly what they are looking for (and not looking for) and urges writers to read the publication before submitting. Because most of the submissions they get are not on topic for them or are already over subscribed.

Alas most writers write before they market, and thus end up sending in the MS anyway hoping against hope and reason that the brilliance of their work will blow the editor away and make them throw all their guidelines out of the window. And thus they waste both the editor's time and their own.

So, chances are the publications told you exactly why your work was rejected, and told you in advance, before you ever sent it in, before you even wrote it. You just did not pay attention.

And, for the record, I am guilty of this as much as anyone.

  • 4
    "and if you cannot tell if it is the quality of your writing that is the problem, you are a very long way from publication" - I didn't understand this part. Isn't the question about not knowing what is the problem?
    – Pedro A
    Commented Nov 7, 2017 at 22:25
  • 5
    @Hamsterrific. Yes, and the point of my answer is that poor fit is a much more common problem than people suppose, and poor prose is correspondingly a less common problem. But I find that people whose ordinary prose is bad generally can't be convinced of this fact, or, it they can be convinced of it, can't fix it. Decent prose style is something any reader should pick up by osmosis by they time they reach adulthood and if they don't the problem seems to be a complete lack of an ear for prose. And I don't think that is fixable. Too many people write today who don't read, it seems.
    – user16226
    Commented Nov 7, 2017 at 22:56
  • 1
    Hmmm... I see... But that's a bit sad, I guess. You're saying that most people with a bad prose aren't salvageable and basically should give up. Perhaps it's true, but I guess I was a bit shocked by the lack of euphemism :P
    – Pedro A
    Commented Nov 7, 2017 at 23:03
  • 1
    Maybe you could change that part to something less blunt and more supportive to bad writers who are trying to improve? Haha
    – Pedro A
    Commented Nov 7, 2017 at 23:05
  • 1
    Is it the case that rejection implies that the MS has unfixable problems? If it had unique value if only it were edited beyond recognition :) it might be accepted on condition of a lot of rewriting? Clearly being off topic is unfixable, or being redundant with the other 50 pumpkin spice cookie recipes is unfixable, but a valuable article with wrong commas is fixable? Commented Nov 7, 2017 at 23:16

There are tons of reasons for rejection.

  • The reviewers didn't think the work was good enough.
  • The work doesn't match the journal's theme well enough.
  • The journal just published a story about a dragon last issue and they don't want another one so soon.
  • The reviewer had a bad night's sleep.
  • Your story is the third one about mermaids they've read this month.
  • Your main character is named Brandon, the editor's ex-husband's name.

And that's just scratching the surface. I'm a reviewer for a literary journal that sends comments back to the submitter, but we're unusual that way.

So don't take it personally. Draft and revise your story until it's as good as you can get it and keep sending it out.

Here's an article on rejection you might enjoy.

  • Not taking it personally, just wondering how do I improve without much feedback on how others read my work.
    – Jeffrey04
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 9:57
  • The article on rejection was good, you should excerpt parts of it for your answer.
    – Amadeus
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 10:42
  • 2
    @Jeffrey04, as other have said, you probably won't ever know the reasons for the rejection. And the reasons might have nothing to do with the quality of your work. Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 13:45

I have been rejected many times with no explanation.

I think sometimes, like any competition, what I wrote is just not the best of what they had to choose from at the time. They can't publish everything, some editors say they cannot publish 1% of everything they receive, so there is no 'reason' I got rejected that is specific to what I wrote: I am in the same pile as dozens of other people, rejected because some other author wrote something more compelling than me. I got rejected because I wasn't the best thing they read that day.

If you have a specific venue that you want to get into, like a newspaper or particular publishing house, one way to learn anything from that is to try and figure out what the editor IS publishing. Imagine you are trying to learn how to predict what topics they like, the style they like, whether they like simple sentences or complex ones, whether they like highly educated language and grammar or more common language and grammar; similarly the education level they like their writing at. Does the political writing they accept tend toward the middle, or one end of the spectrum? Do they like emotional words and content, or do they prefer dry and emotionless prose? If there is humor, what TYPE of humor is acceptable, and what do you NOT see? For your newspaper, do most of the published authors seem to have credentials, like academic standing, political standing, or social standing (businessmen, school leaders, charity leaders, religious leaders, etc)?

Consider structure: the lengths of sentences, and paragraphs. The lengths of dialogue sentences.

All of these things (and any other generalizations you can think up) are metrics you can use to compare or categorize 'writing'. Some of what I mention may not apply to newspapers, or non-fiction, but I hope you get the idea.

Use such metrics to compare YOUR writing to the writing that gets published. Obviously the words are different, but you need to try and separate what your editor accepts from what they reject, and all you have to work with is what they have accepted!

That isn't as hard as it sounds; it is like trying to generalize my interests in fiction based on what what books I have bought: You'll get a pretty good idea, even though you don't know which books I have considered and rejected.

This kind of analysis may reveal why you were rejected. It may not, but if you can develop any mental model at all of what the editor accepts and prints, at least it can guide you toward writing pieces with a better chance of being published.


I found an online community a good place to get feedback from strangers. It helps to have someone, apart from family and friends, to read your work. At times, it's not what the editor was looking for. Also, we all are humans with different tastes, maybe your genre wasn't to this editor's taste. Very rarely, in the rejection letters, they state why the piece wasn't accepted. And yes, all the languages are the same. Just don't give up. Keep trying and learning to improve.

  • While I can understand why they don't state reasons in the rejection letter, I am wondering how do I improve without much feedback here. I know I have problems I need to overcome in my writing, but then I don't know if everyone else is having the same opinion as mine. Hence this question.
    – Jeffrey04
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 9:53
  • @Jeffrey04 "I found an online community a good place to get feedback from strangers" the answer says it right there. Get feedback from somewhere else. The editor isn't there to give you feedback, don't rely on them to do so.
    – user27611
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 16:00

Writing in particular suffers from what I call "The Artists' Bane", which is the fact that there is a LOT more good talent out there than there is market to absorb that talent.

I once sent a submission to a major literary agency, that said it could take up to 8 weeks to consider a proposal. 10 weeks after I sent that, I sent a very polite follow-up query asking if was still under consideration. Almost immediately they sent me back a rejection, leading me to believe that they automatically reject anything that gets a follow-up query.

The reason they said I was being rejected was that my material was not suitable for their list, whatever that means.

As others here have said, it could have nothing to do with the quality of your material. Remember, it took J. K. Rowling over a year for her agent to place the Harry Potter series with a publisher.

  • I know I am not good, but I don't know if others are sharing the same opinion regarding in what way I should improve. In the end I might risk working on parts where people think it is fine (not a bad thing, but I probably shouldn't prioritize that).
    – Jeffrey04
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 9:55
  • I. Have to disagree with the notion that there is more talent than the market can absorb. I don't think you will find too many publishers who would tell you their problem is too many good MSS. Their problem is sifting the overwhelming amount drek they receive to find the far too little good stuff. Publishers are actively seeking talent in a way they would not have to if it existed in abundance. They are just not seeking it in the slush pile.
    – user16226
    Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 15:47

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