Rejection. It’s horrid word. It conjures up all sorts of images of being cast out, thrown aside, denied any part in the very thing that matters most to you. It’s also a word you’d better get used to if you want to write for a living, because no matter how good your writing might be, you’re going to experience rejection again and again and again.
Rejection of your writing comes in many forms: the short, professional note thanking you for your submission but this time you have been unsuccessful; the hateful diatribe telling you what a failure you are at life for ever attempting to write; the useful feedback explaining what you could have done better and encouraging you to try again and of course, the lengthy shopping list of everything that has annoyed the editor that day. But whatever way you dress it up, you’ve polished your creation as well as you thought you could, shown it to someone who might bring it to life and they’ve said no. That’s a rubbish feeling.
So you’ve got two options. Give up or deal with it and move on (hint: you’re not allowed to choose ‘give up’).
I’ll give you a few tips on how to deal with rejection in just a second, but first I think it’s worth pointing out that giving up comes in many forms. Sure, there’s obvious forms of giving up like quitting writing forever, divorcing your spouse because you feel guilty for shackling them to a failure such as yourself, or throwing yourself under a herd of stampeding cattle but there are also more subtle ways to cave into rejection such as abandoning your project and starting a new one. This might not feel like giving up, but if you really believed in this story a few days ago, why give up on it now? Has the story changed or have you? Alternatively, you might be tempted to put your rejected stories on your blog (yes, guilty as charged   but I’ve made a solemn oath never to do that again: any stories you get on Penstricken these days were specifically written for Penstricken).
Anyway, you’re not going to do any of that. You’re going to deal with your rejection in a mature and productive way, so here’s my top tips on how to do it.
Persevere From the Outset
Before you even submit your work to anyone, remember my writing motto (one of them anyway):
Nothing appeals to everyone. Most things appeal to someone.
There isn’t a single story out there that everybody likes but any reasonably written story will appeal to somebody, somewhere. You will get rejections but, assuming you’ve written a reasonably solid piece of work, the chances are that you will also find someone who accepts it. So persevere. Find that somebody. Don’t write your story off as being a bad story just because it’s been rejected, even if it gets rejected many times.
Take Time Out If Needed
Rejection hurts. There’s a good chance you will be a bubbling pot of yucky emotions once you get that rejection letter, so do whatever you need to do to make yourself feel better. I find fast paced computer games I don’t have to think about too much work for me. You might enjoy a healthier option, such as going for a jog. Whatever it is, give yourself an hour or two to purge those horrible feelings in the way that works best for you.
Of course, there are some ‘techniques’ for dealing with your emotions you absolutely must not indulge in. For instance…
Do not Send an Angry, petulant or otherwise inappropriate Reply!
I mentioned this on Twitter the other day, but it bears mentioning again for anyone who missed it because it seems that agents and publishers are often inundated with authors writing back to vent their disappointment that their work has been rejected. This can range from general whining (‘I poured out my soul into this story and now you’ve shattered my dreams!’), to arrogant (and probably false) boasting (‘I’ve been accepted by a billion other people and you’re an idiot for not seeing how amazing I am!’), to blatant insults and threats of violence.
Don’t do this guys. Don’t ever do any of this, no matter how you feel. It will only put you on their blacklist and the blacklist of any other agents they might happen to know. If you must write back, write back only to thank them very much for their time. Graciousness, always graciousness.
Objectively Consider Feedback
You won’t always get feedback of course, but sometimes you will. Sometimes it’s constructive, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s well justified, sometimes it may not be.
We know you believe in your story already. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t have submitted it. The question is, is the feedback you received justified? Think carefully and objectively about the criticism you received. Even the best stories have room for improvement, so if you think the criticism you received is justified then act on it. Make your story better and try again. Equally, don’t feel pressured into making unnecessary changes that might not be appropriate for your story.
Repeat until accepted.
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Every Tuesday, I post a new edition of Spotlight: a short post which shines a proverbial spotlight on a published novel or collection of short fiction. If you would like to have your book considered for a future edition of Spotlight, drop us an e-mail including a short synopsis of your book and a link to where we can buy it. Better yet, send me a copy of your book and I can include a mini-review.
I’m still looking to interview fiction authors here on Penstricken, especially new or indie authors. Whether it’s books, plays, comics or any other kind of fiction, if you’ve got something written, I want to hear about it. If you’re interested in having your work featured on Penstricken, be to sure to drop us an e-mail or message us on Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest.
You can check out our previous interviews here:
- Sharleen Nelson, author of The Time Tourists 
- D. Wallace Peach, author of the Shattered Sea duology 
- Jacob Klop, author of Crooked Souls