Fortunately, I have learned a lot in the three months since I submitted that particular piece so I would like to take a moment and review the two primary reasons for this particular rejection.
Why do I care? A writer may construct the most beautiful prose or express the most amazing vision and that is wonderful. You can frame it on your wall or show it off in your literary blog. Most editors, most readers for that matter are interested in a story, specifically a character. Why do I care if Fred marries Kate? Why should I root for Anthor in his battle against the evil wizard? Without character development or at least some measure of resonance, your story is likely to see the circular file.
It is not enough to say Fred loves Kate. The writer needs to make the reader feel his yearning. The reader may or may not agree with the writer that the evil wizard deserves to die. Without some sense of threat the evil wizard poses to innocents, and the gravity with which the hero considers his mission, the reader may feel more as if they are watching a hack and slash video game than immersing in a story.
I don't get it. This is a tough one for me. I love irony and I love inside jokes. The dark and mysterious, the unexplained are the stuff of nightmares. The problem is if your first reader, the editor or the lucky slush pile warrior, does not understand what you are trying to say, then you will not likely reach any more readers.
Of course, your character with the leather jacket saying "Ayyy" is a clever homage to Arthur Fonzarelli, but if your reader never watched the 70s sitcom "Happy Days", or doesn't remember Fonzie's signature quip, they are not likely to get the reference, much less understand why it is so funny that your character jumped over a shark. Remember, it doesn't have to be an obscure reference. Make sure, whatever point you are trying to put across, you spelled it out in plain English.
This concept also encompasses transitions. If the scene has changed, let the user know. Kim went the grocery store. It may seem obvious to you that when she opened her refrigerator, she had already paid for her groceries, driven home and walked into her kitchen with the bags. Don't take the chance, any time a reader has to think, you risk breaking the spell that is the whole point of fictional writing.
In case you missed it, EMG-Zine picked up my poem Shango for their December Issue. I will have a few more links in the coming weeks. Keep writing my friends!