The Bad Idea that I Never Gave Up On

Richard Medugno
5 min readJul 1, 2021
Photo by Alice Donovan Rouse on Unsplash

And how this writer deals with near-constant rejection

The life of a writer is near-constant rejection. Jack London’s Martin Eden — a novel about “writers’ frustration with publishers” — was great for me to read when I was a young writer. (Actually, I still feel like I’m a young writer even though my resume says “senior writer.”)

The life of a playwright is even harder, where rejection is constant —if you ever expect to get a piece produced beyond your local community theatre — because the avenues to the “big leagues” or just a “bigger league” are so limited.

All this is to say, I’m very, very used to rejections. I expect a thumbs down every time I pitch or submit work to any outlet. And it’s always annoying when the publisher, theatre, production company, agent, or whatever, doesn’t take the 30-F-ing seconds to write a simple sentence to say “why” they're rejecting your work.

So readers, agents, editors, literary managers, and artistic directors, please know there’s a good way to reject a piece, and it’s not the chicken-sh!t standalone form letter. Okay, I understand a form letter may be a necessity in the interest of time, BUT there’s no reason you can’t add one simple sentence to each form letter to shed just a little light on your decision not move forward with the work.

The standalone rejection form letter

It can be a simple as two or three words: “Doesn’t work.” Or “Bad idea.” Even a brutal “This really sucks” is better than the standalone form letter that says in essence “thanks, but no thanks” with an insincere “good luck” tacked on so the rejector can feel they’re not a total cold-hearted jerk.

Recently, I pitched two theatre company executives on the same project. I don’t take a shotgun approach. I target where I submit. There’s no shooting in the dark for me.

(By the way, if you are a writer who “shoots in the dark,” stop it. You’re just gumming up the works for everyone. Do your homework before, say, submitting your shitty gritty drama to a musical comedy theatre company .)

Anyway, one executive had my script for months and came back with the expected “rejection” but offered no specifics…

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Richard Medugno

Richard is an author and scriptwriter. His latest book is Deaf Politician — The Gary Malkowski Story. His latest script is The Mulligan Marriage.