Rejections Won’t Kill You

th5Although I have been writing since I can remember, I have only recently started to submit my own work to publishers. I am focusing on short stories and flash fiction because that is where I am the most comfortable, so I have been submitting to small magazines and publishers.

Out of three stories submitted in the last couple of months, the first I submitted was accepted immediately and the other two were rejected. I have read that a lot of writers face rejection with a bout of disappointment and a feeling of inadequacy, however, I did not. When you are submitting your work, here a a few things to remember that might help take the sting from a rejection:

-Every piece that has ever been published has been picked for a reason. Every book or story that you don’t like that exists happened because someone saw something in it. If one person rejects your work, that doesn’t mean that it was bad, it just means that they don’t have the same reading interests as you do. We all like different things.

-Your style is your style, but that doesn’t mean that it will resonate with everyone. I love Tolkien, but I know a lot of people who do not share my enthusiasm. I have heard that he is too detailed, the books too long, and the story too slow. I don’t find it so, but I realize that even the best of stories are not meant for every single person on the planet.

-When you get a rejection, you are then free to send it to someone else. It might feel like you are starting the whole process over again, but you aren’t. You’ve already written, edited, and formatted the story. Find another publisher and send it along again.

-Rejections can let you know when you should rework a story. I’ve made a “two rejections” rule for myself. If I submit a pieceΒ to two different publishers, and it is rejected both times, then I need to do something differently. I need to go in and make some changes. I need to have someone read my story and tell me where it falls flat and then I need to figure out how to improve it. Generally, I find that the bones of most stories are good, it’s the guts that need either filling or trimming.

-The fact that you are writing and submitting makes you a writer. It doesn’t matter if you get rejected, you are writing and you are submitting. Rejections are part of being a writer, and if you can’t handle them, then you need to rethink your goals. We aren’t all going to become bestselling authors, but we can become writers in our own right. Be proud that you have the gall to spend your free time making something that means so muchΒ to you, and that you actually send it in to be shown publicly.

-Be realistic. You know your strengths and weaknesses as a writer. If you aren’t where you want to be yet, work at it and get better. Publishers like good writing, so if you find you are getting too many rejections, don’t ask “why” no one has accepted your piece, ask “how” you can write a story that will be accepted. If you see weaknesses in your own story, expect them to be even more glaring to others.

And most of all, don’t be upset because one or two editors out of millions didn’t see what you were trying to do. Take your rejections and use them as a badge for yourself. They might not be what you were anticipating, but they prove that you are on the journey of being a writer. They show that you made the effort and that you are on your way. You might not make it as far as you would like, but you took the first steps.

And last of all, remember this:

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

-J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring, Chapter 1.


53 thoughts on “Rejections Won’t Kill You

  1. Love this! When I first started submitting I was a nervous wreck, but I found that it wasn’t so bad as other writers made it seem. I never took a rejection email personally. They tend to be encouraging, and friendly. They aren’t burning red howlers (a la Harry Potter) sent to your inbox.

    But, we’ll see how I feel when I start submitting manuscripts. Somehow I think that could be way more stressful.

    Good luck with your submissions! Hope to hear you get more work published!

    • Thanks! You are right, it will probably be harder with full manuscripts. I took Publishing in school so that I would understand the inner workings of a publishing house and perhaps become a better writer because of it.

      I’ve been published in a number of things, but most were not from submissions. I thought I would feel worse after receiving a rejection, but it just makes me proud that I actually sent something in. Stories don’t do much when they’re just sitting in a folder on your computer!

  2. Encouraging post! I’ve learned to be PROUD of my rejections. It means I did something. It means I tried, and I was brave enough to have put myself out there.

  3. Thank you for writing this. I’ve been rejected four times by different romance publishers and it p*sses me the heck off! They seem to be interested, the read the entire manuscript and come back with different reasons why they won’t accept it. Mostly because the story line doesn’t fit their editorial guidelines–whatever that means???!!! Very frustrating! I want more than anything to be an Author! I will persist though! Thank you for posting!!!

    • Ah, the editorial guidelines! One thing I would suggest is to really research the publishers you want to submit to, and check out things that they have published before. Some even include editorial guidelines on their websites for you to look over prior to submitting.

      Another option would be to have an editor look over it with you and have a substantive edit done, if you haven’t already. They might be able to help you figure out where the publishers are having issues.

      I wish you the best of luck getting your book published, though. Like I said, just because a few editors have rejected your story doesn’t mean that it’s not good. It just means that it wasn’t for them.

  4. Great post. We all get rejected time and time again. Anyone can write something and post it off to an editor. It’s picking yourself up and ploughing on ahead that makes you a writer.

  5. Rejection means… overcoming fear and taking chances, right? Nothing happens without those things. So thank you for reminding me. As a fan of LOTR I enjoyed your homage at the end and beginning of this post.

  6. This appears to be the advice of successful writers, since I have heard pieces of advice from people that had managed to be published. All the same, when I start thinking about submitting my work and how I’ll probably be rejected and I’ll probably be unable to keep from despair and maybe tears, it’s hard not to hyperventilate in anxiety…but because I DO know these tips, I hope that it’s just me psyching myself out thinking about it, and not how it’ll actually all happen. Maybe I’m just more scared of the concept of rejection than actual rejection. Anxiety over what it’ll be like, fear of what I’ll feel – but it probably won’t be so bad when it really happens.

    • Ah, don’t think that you will probably be rejected. You might be, but you might not. I’m not an overly optimistic person, but I am confident in my writing, so I get a little cocky when I submit, which is bad, but it keeps me from thinking it’s my story that has a problem and makes me believe that it just wasn’t a fit for the editor. Like I said, rework when you need to, but take rejections as either an opportunity to polish your work, or that the editor just wasn’t partial to your style. Neither are negative things, they just provide guidance as we traverse the murky waters of becoming published. πŸ™‚

  7. I definitely needed to read this! I had mentally prepared myself for the onset of rejections when I started submitting to agents and publishers a couple of years ago, but I had no idea just how hard it can be. Sometimes I start to question my abilities and my stories. But the points you made are a great reminder to keep going. I’m going to implement that two-rejections rule for myself now πŸ™‚

    • It’s never a bad idea to try out some beta readers too. I haven’t done that before, but I think I might try it out sometime soon. I hope the submission (and even rejection) process works out well for you!

      • Thank you! Yeah, I’ve enlisted some trusted friends to serve as Beta readers, and it’s definitely something I recommend. They’ve caught things I would have never noticed myself. I’m also looking into writing critique groups, just to get some feedback from fellow writers who are familiar with the process. Good luck to you as as well!

  8. What’s that Beckett quote? Oh, yes. Here it is: β€œEver tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” It may seem pessimistic, but I guess if you leave behind your expectations of what “should” happen, it kind of frees you to the might-happens. Sound advice here, Brittany; work from a point of comfort, keep plugging at it persistently, don’t take it personally when others kill your darlings or attempt to assassinate you with words (I’m embellishing your point here!), and realize that your words and characters have a life beyond you that even you can’t comprehend (and hope that an editor[s] and then readers grab onto something that makes them care about what you’ve given them to read).

    • I like that quote, especially the “Fail better” part. As an editor myself, I try not to kill any darlings or assassinate any writers with words. It saddens me that some do that. I have come across bad writing, and bad stories, but I also realize that those are simply my feelings, not necessarily everyone else’s. It’s a fine line between being honest with an author and trying not to crush their dreams. I guess it all comes down to tact!

  9. I’ve faced plenty of rejections over the years. The trick is not to get depressed. Just keep writing, keep sending stories out, and whatever you do, don’t think you’re inadequate. Just remember no writer is perfect and that you always have room to improve.

  10. I tend to learn from my mistakes so rejection is another form of encouragement for me. The first time isn’t easy though, its actually the toughest.

  11. I am looking to begin submitting my writing to various publications so this post couldn’t have come at a better time for me. This is some excellent advice that I will aim to remind myself of when my rejection letters start flooding in πŸ™‚

    • Best of luck to you! Please do let me know how it goes! I’m glad that you enjoyed the post and I hope it helps if you do get a rejection, but I’m sure they won’t be *flooding* in. πŸ™‚

      • Well, I hope they won’t be flooding in!

        It is one thing to write for oneself but to put your work out there to be judged (and quite possibly rejected) by others is a pretty daunting prospect. I’ll be starting that journey soon, so I best be prepared for a bumpy ride πŸ™‚

      • You’ll have lots of support on here! I’ve worked on the other side of the table for a few years now and it’s been interesting from the author’s perspective. I’ve had the luck of submitting to some really kind people, though, so I’ve found it to be quite enjoyable and much less daunting than I had expected.

  12. Pingback: Submitting Shorts | Quoth The Wordsmith

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