Dealing with (Inevitable) Rejection
We’ve all heard the statistics. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter was rejected twelve times before achieving publication, George Orwell was told he would never become an author, etc. That’s all good and humbling for them, but there is a problem when comparing their short-comings to mine: They are now world-renowned and beloved authors. They have written books that will stand the test of time, along with their names and images. I don’t mean to be bitter, but it’s an honest opinion of mine. How is comparing my rejection to that of a best-seller equal?
I originally wrote this post to express my agitation and anger over being rejected, but as I began to write, I realized I was taking a step backward. I could rant as much as I wanted, but it would not change the fact that I was rejected. So, after I cleaned my wounds and bandaged myself up, I decided to make a post dedicated to dealing with and overcoming the pain of rejection.
- ADMIT THAT REJECTION IS INEVITABLE
This is something all aspiring writer’s need to realize. When you decide to dedicate your life to writing and publication, there will come a time where you will get rejected. Not every story you write will be accepted by the first agent/publisher/literary journal you send it to. This is a major trial-and-error process. You’ll get it or you won’t, but there is always something to learn from every rejection.
- DON’T FEAR A SECOND REJECTION
If you’ve been rejected once, you’ll probably be rejected again, but don’t allow that rejection to completely stun you into a non-writing coma. A rejection is not the end. You have so much more to write, and so many more things to learn.
- IF YOU’RE GIVEN FEEDBACK, DON’T THROW IT OUT
Not everyone is this way, but when I find I have been rejected, my immediate reaction is usually anger. If the letter is the run-of-the-mill rejection, I will usually just toss it out and burn it with my gaze from the comfort of my couch. If it has a specialized note on it, for some reason I find that even more offensive and may actually burn it. With fire. But in the end, I realize my anger was for naught. Feedback is hard to come by and is usually there because you were very, very, very close to making it in. Take their feedback as a compliment because chances are, they probably want you to resubmit with the revisions, and the rejection could easily become an acceptance.
- YOU’RE A WRITER. BE STUBBORN.
As Jon Stone pointed out to me on Twitter, “sometimes the biggest difference between ‘someone who writes’ and a ‘writer’ is the sheer refusal to take no for an answer.” This single statement motivated me to keep going. He’s completely right. If you truly want to write and become a full-fledged writer, don’t let a single ‘no’ break you to pieces. It may be the first, but it won’t be the last. Get tougher and make sure to keep writing/submitting.
- KEEP WRITING. USE YOUR EMOTIONS.
The worst thing you can do to yourself is to stop writing. That’s like punishing yourself for the rejection. You can only get better by continuing to write. The more you write, the better your style will become. The better your style becomes will help with your editing. You will become a much better writer and there will be a better chance at success your next time around. Plus, if you’re angry or hurt, use those emotions to write. Some of my best work came from points in my life where I was in a heightened emotional state. Your own experiences are the best inspiration. Keep writing.
- REWRITE AND RESUBMIT.
Just because a particular manuscript gets rejected does not mean it is a terrible story. A lot of the time you will have an intriguing story, but the writing needs some work. Learn from your mistakes. Change some things around. Hire an editor the next time. Get different beta readers. Once you have it in a new and better way, send it off again, but give it time. Don’t submit to the same people right away. Let them have time to move on to other things and give yourself a chance to edit, edit, edit, and edit some more. Make it the best it can be before you send it off again.
- THERE IS ALWAYS INDIE PUBLISHING
A disclaimer: This is not an answer to all your problems. No one is guaranteed success in this business. Whether you go the traditional route or self-publish, there is no guarantee. There are lessons to be learned from both, but if time goes on and you find you just can’t seem to get your foot in the door traditionally, try it out. Make sure you do your research and continue to edit. Edit a lot. Then, see where the masses take you and good luck!
I am no expert, and I am hardly a therapist, but I find all of these thoughts comforting or motivating in one way or another. Regardless, as writers we are here to support each other. I, for one, want to make sure I can help all I can in the community because I would want someone to do the same for me. So, if it will make you feel better, I have created a page dedicated to my rejection letters. Check it out here.
Thanks for reading!
I find my best therapy of all is to cheer and celebrate every time I get a rejection letter. Yeah, rejection hurts. But by celebrating, it reminds me that rejection is a sign that I’m working–it’s proof that I’m professional. Rejection is part of the business, so every rejection is a sign I’m in the business.
Besides which, the physical aspect of cheering and engaging in celebratory behaviors alters the mood, meaning it hurts less. 😉 It’s like smiling when you’re sad–it really does make you feel better.
I’ll really have to remember this post the next time I get a rejection. I have never heard of the smile when you’re sad actually working. Thank you for the comment! 🙂 It made me smile (yah see what I did there?).
What a great article! As a former acquisitions editor, I can tell you that when a busy editor bothers to write any comment at all, he or she was moved by your work in some way. Take that and run with it! As you wrote, “Take their feedback as a compliment,” and get back to work, because you definitely have something there.
Exactly! Too many people assume that means they’re bad or that the editors are mocking them. It’s their job to pick and choose, and it’s a lot more work than just saying, “yes” or “no.” They have to read through each one, then pick maybe 10 or 15 out of the thousands and thousands. If they could pick all of their favorites, then they would, but they can’t. Which I’m sure you know all too well.
Good post. My saying is, “Most won’t, but some will.” And in truth the “some” makes it all worthwhile.
It’s usually “the some,” that matter the most. I’d rather have 10 saints than 100 demons. Great saying. Thank you for the comment. 🙂
Love these encouraging words! I need them. My new project has received 2 manuscript requests that I am currently awaiting a response for. Ughh… In the meantime I’ve received 2 rejections which took the wind out of my sales for a moment. It’s good to hear some encouragement!
Just remember: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. I’m currently at three rejections, so if you ever need a pick me up, come on down to my page and we’ll talk it out! Good luck on your latest endeavor! Let me know when it gets published so I can check it out. 🙂
I’m glad you kind of ‘brought this in’ after mentioning JK Rowling and George Orwell. I think that just about everyone mentions them. But the advice you give afterwards is perfect. A great read. Thanks for the validation and encouragement!
Thank you for your kind words as well! I’m glad you found everything relevant, and I hope I helped in some form or fashion. 🙂 Happy writing!
*I particularly like Jon Stone’s observation.
*I would suggest you ALWAYS need an editor. If your piece (particularly a novel or other long work) has not seen an editor, you’re asking for rejection.
*My own advice would be to be sure you’ve researched where you’re sending your work. You minimize your chances of rejection if you only send it to a place where it is a good fit, and that is present accepting submissions. The work must fit their publishing niche, otherwise you’re wasting your time and theirs.