I recently received another rejection on my novel. It was the standard sort of rejection. "Your novel needs work. We are going to pass."
Angry that they didn't say more and curious as to what they thought needed work, I asked to do something I've never done before. I asked for specifics. My reasoning here was simple: if I don't know what was wrong I can't fix it.
They responded and told me what they thought was wrong. I won't bore you all with the details suffice to say it stung, worse than the original rejection. But I thought about it overnight and the next morning got to work on my revision.
As I worked, I realized the comments were correct. And then I got angry again because no one told me this before. Let me pause here to say that my novel has been read by several people, all of whom are suppose to be professionals in the publishing world. One of these people, I've come to realize really isn't very good at his job. But the rest of them should have given me some concrete feedback. They didn't and that just fuels my anger.
There appears to be a code of silence among publishers not to give writers the feedback they need to improve. We are suppose to guess or learn by osmosis or something.
It's ludicrous. I could have fixed my novel months ago if someone, any one, had spoken up. I know why they don't. They don't want to be responsible for crushing my dreams of publication. And I understand that. What they don't realize is that I've been writing for years and rule 1 in writing is you check the ego at the door. The critique is on the work not the person. If the writing is not working, then I need to know, I need feedback, to make it better. Vague replies like, "You novel needs work," are equivalent to not responding at all.
So I am now going to make it habit to ask what is wrong so I can improve my work because for the first time in a long while, it feels like the novel is finally on the right track.
Caution: If you decide to do the same, make sure you can handle the truth. I don't handle rejection well at all and it took me about a day to get past the hurt. And if truth be told, I nearly junked the entire novel and gave up. What stopped me? My own stubbornness and a few good Facebook friends. If your support system isn't there you might want to wait or have someone else read your work. Someone who is tactful but honest. That way, you get the feedback you need and don't give up either.