Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Rejection, Rejection, Everywhere...

 "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:

  1. 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. 
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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?


Precy Larkins said...

Well said! And those tips are golden. You can never take a rejection personally. And it's good to be determined, instead of wallowing in self-pity. As they say, there's no way but up from the rejection pit.

Elise Fallson said...

Awesome posts. I worry about rejections because I tend to take a lot of things to heart. I know I need to work on that. But getting a rejection also means you have a finished ms and that is a big accomplishment. I think I'll try writing myself my own rejection letters to toughen myself up lol. Anyway, thanks for the post, you will get published, it's just a matter of time. (:

Susan Roebuck said...

Good for you! Keep writing - you know they always say, "sub one write one". Rejections are awful, awful. But you'll get an acceptance - just when you're not expecting it.

Heather Murphy said...

Good points! They are easier said than done but you can do this. I think timing is a huge factor

Mina Lobo said...

Excellent advice, Chris. It's super hard to pick yourself up after this kind of a "fall" and carry on, but that's just what we've gots ta do. :-)
Some Dark Romantic

Tonja said...

I especially agree with point 5. I am confident that if we keep writing and then revisit our current work in five years, we'll know how to make it better.

Every submission is a reason to celebrate.

Julia Munroe Martin said...

I feel your pain.... same here. But I'm sticking to it, and hoping for the best!

Dianne K. Salerni said...

All very good points and good advice. Myself, I kept tweaking my manuscript throughout the querying process. If I heard more than once "I couldn't connect with your MC," then I worked hard to figure out what the narrative voice was lacking and fix it.

And I cannot stress enough the importance of behaving professionally. If someone is the slightest bit interested, they WILL look you up. And if you rant and rave and foam at the mouth on your blog ... you may just be shooting yourself in the foot.

Chris Fries said...

@Precy: Thanks, and you're right: There's nowhere but up to go!

@Elise: Thank you! And don't worry or take it to heart. It's just a normal part of the process.

@Susan: Thank you! I appreciate it. I just keep writing and subbing...

@Heather: Thanks and I agree -- a lot of it depends on lucky timing.

@Mina: I hear ya! I try to not look at rejection as a 'fail' -- it's just a 'not right now' ;^)

@Tonja: Absolutely! But I don't think it takes five years... I revisit (lightly) every time it comes around on the submission/rejection wheel, lol.

@Julia: Hi! That's the way to do it! Hang in there -- it'll happen for you!

@Dianne: Thanks and you are absolutely right! I've ran across a few writers blogs where they do take that "tell-all-and-vent' approach and I just think it's a huge mistake. Maintain your professionalism, shake it off, and keep it to yourself. For one thing, all that negativity just eats at you, but also, it makes much less likely that anyone (editors AND everyone else) will want to read your work.

Cherie Reich said...

Wonderful tips about rejection. The first one is really important too. Writing is so subjective. Just because one editor didn't like a piece doesn't mean the next one won't. :)

Tara Tyler said...

thanks for the positive words!

i just wish they could be a little more creative with the rejection. you are an awesome person, for another agency...ha!

Jillian Karger said...

4 definitely goes for agents too. I've been querying for kind of a while and it does get pretty tough. But I've brought up another story I've been working on to agents interested in my future work and have gotten interest in that as a result.

That's why it's important to never build those but-they REJECTED-me grudges. They're never rejecting YOU--they're rejecting individual projects. And you can always make more of those.

Milo James Fowler said...

Excellent post, Chris! Rejections are proof that your work is out there making the rounds instead of hiding in a drawer/file folder. Keep on keepin' on. I print all of my rejections out (sorry, trees) just so I can file them all with the acceptance letter once it finally rolls in -- sometimes after 20 rejections. "Never give up. Never surrender." - Galaxy Quest

Nicole said...

You've got a great attitude and lots of good advice! I agree - you've gotta push through the rejections to get to the "yes."

Nancy Thompson said...

One more thing: keep in mind, it's all very subjective and that could mean the difference between a yes & a no. Never give up, but never stop learning! You'll get there!!

Chris Fries said...

@Cherie: Thank you, and yep -- submitting the rejected piece elsewhere only improves the odds of getting it published.

@Tara: You're more than wlecome! And I like your idea, maybe a few "Really, it's not you -- it's me" lines into the rejection letter would add some laughs too. ;^)

@Jillian: You're completely right! Thanks so much for the comment.

@Milo: Thanks! Great idea about the folder of rejections, and -- ultimately -- the acceptance! I think I'm going to do that.

@Nicole: Thank you so much!

@Nancy: Thank you very much for the support! And I'm doing both -- not quitting and never stopping the learning!

...or should I say I'm NOT doing either -- quitting or stopping the learning? Well, however the double- and triple- negatives work out, I AM doing the good stuff and NOT doing the bad stuff, lol! ;^)

Arlee Bird said...

Excellent tips on how to handle rejection. Those generic form letters are not too encouraging, but the ones with the specific advice are a step in the right direction. Keep at it!

Wrote By Rote

Simon Kewin said...

That's the spirit. Never, ever give up!

Chris Fries said...

@Arlee: Thank you very much, Lee!

@Simon: Absolutely not! Thank your for the visit and support!

Jennee Thompson said...

I've always prepared myself for rejection and haven't really prepared myself for success. And sadly, succeeding scares me a lot more than rejection! Great post!