"Thank you for your recent submission.
Unfortunately, we do not feel it is a fit for us at this time."
If you want to be a writer, you better get used to seeing that in a broad spectrum of variations. It's called rejection, and it’s a big part of the life of being a writer.
I've only been submitting pieces for a relatively short while, but I've seen it many, many times already.
So how does it make me feel?
OK, yeah -- it sucks. I'm not here to lie to you. There's always a bit of a gut-punch when that submission I've been cautiously optimistic and hopeful about falls short and turns into yet another rejection. I may even wallow in "woe-is-me!" wretchedness, stew in "how COULD they?!?" indignation, and flail in "that's it -- I'm done writing forever!" finality.
At least for a while.
But, eventually -- and usually pretty quickly -- I come around and see it as part of the natural process. I'm paying my dues, honing my chops, and slogging my way through the normal development that ALL writers go through. Every writer gets rejected. It's not worth beating myself up over, and when I shake off my funk of pathetic self-loathing the rejection actually helps motivate me to make that piece, or the next one, maybe just a little better.
I also consider myself very fortunate that so many of my rejections have included specific positive comments about my story, offered suggestions for improvement, and gave encouragement about future submissions. That means a tremendous amount to me, and gives me at least some validation that I'm on the right track as a developing writer.
But not always. Sometimes it's as generic, short, and vague as the one I quoted at the start of this post, and all I can do is shrug my shoulders and move on.
Because, in whatever its form, the rejection eventually just adds to my determination to overcome it and improve my writing. I WILL get something published eventually, even if it's just to prove it to myself that I can.
OK, so here are some other thoughts about rejection I've absorbed from various places or just adopted as common-sense on my own. Maybe they can help you overcome your own rejections:
- Don't take it to heart. It's only a rejection of one piece by one publication, for any of a gazillion reasons. Maybe they received 1000 submissions for 2 slots and yours was #3 on the list of possibilities. Maybe the editor decided to go with her brother-in-law's piece instead. Who knows? Rejections aren't personal -- it's better to not take it that way.
- Keep the specifics to yourself. Other writers are submitting to that publication, or editors and staff of that publication (or others) may be checking out your blog, so there's really nothing to be gained by broadcasting, "Such and such publication rejected me and said this and that about my story." Remain professional, positive, and move on without sharing the juicy details. It's better for everyone, I think.
- Don't give up on the piece. Take any feedback under careful consideration, tweak your story to try and improve it, and resubmit it elsewhere. Other places may have different tastes and a different group of competing submissions. One man's trash is another man's treasure, so keep the piece in circulation.
- Don't give up on the publication. Respectfully submit another piece to them. They may like that one better, or it may better fit a particular issue they're putting together, or it might just be the 'right time'. Don't carpet-bomb them with submissions, but just because they've rejected one piece doesn’t mean they'll never take anything of yours.
- Keep writing! I believe a lot of it is a numbers game -- play the percentages. Even if 99% of the time you're rejected, it means that your 100th story will click somewhere. And as the biggest benefit -- writing is an exercise; the more you do it, the better you get at it. Keep trying to improve and keep churning it out. You'll connect somewhere. I know it.
See? No reason why I shouldn't be determined, right?