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  • Writer's pictureRiya Bajpai

Editor Can't Decide Whether to Accept or Reject a Piece (Humor)

By Sreya Nistala


After a week jam-packed with exams, essays, and group projects you had to carry, you finally find the time to settle down and edit. It may be 4 in the morning, but who cares? “Midnight for me is 3 AM for you,” or whatever Billie Eilish said. You figure that it’s possible she was talking about time zones, but you’re in a time zone all on your own. Student Standard Time.

Twisting your neck in a futile attempt to rid yourself of that relentless crick that makes turning six degrees to the left feel like lighting your entire body on fire, you open Submittable in a new tab.

The piece that awaits you is six pages of fiction, single spaced and labeled with a bolded title that reminds you instantly of that monstrosity Elon Musk chose to name his child. That’s a choice. You’re a good, non-judgmental editor, though, so you decide to look past it for now.

Setting up a split-screen, you start to read through the piece. It starts out strong with imagery and vivid sensory description of something you can only assume to be a forest. You decide it necessitates a compliment, so you type one out. As you continue, however, you start to feel a little lost.

P2, L4: I have to commend your masterful use of literary devices to describe your setting. However–and this may just be a fault of mine–I’m confused as to the physical

You backspace it all. This comment is not only starting to sound a little insulting, it’s also an accidental indication of your own current delirium. You’re a very capable editor! This is a very rare occurrence!

It only takes a couple more paragraphs for you to start to feel a deep sense of regret for having requested this submission. It’s due today, though, and you’re not about to flake last minute. You may be a procrastinator, but you’re not a flaker.

Your notes, riddled with typos and the occasional keyboard smash now consist of exactly six positive and six negative comments.

P3, L7: This line is so beautiful - your theme of human vs. animal is made so much clearer through the personification of the frog here.

Frankly, you don’t even know if that theme was actually present or if your eyes just got too sick and tired of trying to assign plot to this beautiful, ambient mess.

Maybe it’s because you haven’t gotten further than ten pages into a book other than “1984” in the last few months, or because you haven’t slept more than three hours all week, but with every passing second, the work in front of you starts to look more and more like a masterpiece and a fever dream all wrapped up into one neat six page package.


You make a mental note to revise your comments. Thoroughly.

The story concludes neatly. You slump back against your headboard and spend the next few minutes trying to transform your specific commentary into something that sounds a little less like a selection from your last exhaustive thread of K-Drama reaction Tweets. Then comes the matter of writing general comments.

Thank you for submitting “{Xna018kPZ}” to Polyphony Lit. I greatly enjoyed reading your piece; your control over a variety of literary devices, as seen through your use of vivid imagery and compelling metaphor, is truly commendable. This work was a stunning

All you really know is that it was stunning.

This work was a stunning work.

You start to feel like you could (and should) edit your own commentary using Polyphony Lit Guidelines.

I really felt the listless, explorative vibe to the whole piece. The ambience was incredibly well-developed.

As you take another look at this piece, I encourage you to take another look at this piece maybe from the eyes of a reader and evaluate the extent to which it actually makes sense because i thought it wqas really great like the prose took the breath out of my lungs but ill be honest with you im kind of lost on the plot its very possible im just finally going bonkers

Well, your thoughts are there. You’ll fix it later. Right now, you’re too busy reveling in the fact that the end is within reach. You might even get half an hour of sleep before school tomorrow!

The hard part, however, is yet to come. Your smile fades as you scroll to the next empty box on Submittable: your decision on whether to accept or reject the piece. Suddenly breaking out in a sweat, you decide to get it all out on paper before you combust.

Rationale for Reject: While this piece was incredibly artfully written and displayed the writer’s impressive skill at using English conventions to convey a beautifully ambiguous, thought-provoking message about the nature of humanity and existence as a whole,

Okay. Maybe not.

Rationale for Accept: Despite an overwhelming sense of vagueness and lack of clear plot beyond speculative, existential musings conveyed through detached symbols,

This is it. This is the end. You stare at the mess of words on your screen, waiting for them to start swimming in your vision before you inevitably pass out and drop dead and are never heard from again.

Maybe you should consider soft rejection or conditional acceptance! These are happy mediums! Right?


Steadily losing your grip on reality, you open up your trusty notes app and start to do what you do best: make a pro-con list.





-Made me sit and think

-Forest crying emoji

-Frog crying emoji

-Kind of reminded me of virginia woolf not even gonna lie but then again i read to the lighthouse three years ago and that was the extent of it

-And henry david thoreau but i hated walden with a passion like idk maybe its just the ap lang effect

-Is this kid a freaking transcendentalist

-Dude if i reject this it might be like rejecting henry david thoreau and ill be honest with you i feel like polyphony would be overjoyed to publish teenage henry david thorough


-what in the name of everything holy and otherwise did i just read with mine own two eyes

-no plot. Then again what is a plot anywqays

-No characters unless you count the frog but if you ask me the frog was like decoration yk like… like nick in the great gatsby

-nick in the great gatsby was Just Some Guy tbh like what did he even do for the whole book except go to people’s houses and be sad

This isn’t going too well.

15 minutes spent reading through past Polyphony issues and 10 spent on the Editing Guidelines masterdoc later, you’re praying for a saving grace. There has to be some way out of this, be it faulty formatting or a name you recognize, but so far, nothing’s working.

Then, on page 16 of 20, you see it. The word limit.

Near trembling, you press and hold on your Submittable tab to try and scoop up the body text. It’s like trying to scrape burnt food off a pan, but soon enough it’s neatly pasted in’s expanse. The bold number at the top of the screen reads 1,801.


So in the end, your rationale ends up looking like this.

hihi!! dming because i got assigned a submission that goes over the word limit for fiction :)))))

Maybe the fifth mouth on your smiley face was a little much, but at least your Discord DM’s don’t have to follow Polyphony Lit guidelines.


Sreya Nistala is a blogger at Voices and Junior Editor at Polyphony.

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