Dealing with Rejection

If you’ve come here looking for advice on your latest romantic disaster I’m afraid you’re in the wrong place – this is about rejection in writing! While I have experienced rejection in both, the only useful perspective I have is in the latter.

So you just got an email from your dream agent or Clarkesworld, or Beneath Ceaseless Skies or…wherever really. And it’s a ‘no’. You are devastated. It was your best piece. You felt it was perfect for the market. You were sure this would be a ‘yes’ and you begin to doubt everything about yourself, and your writing, and don’t know where to go from here (sometimes it hurts even more when it’s not a top market saying no, as then you really question yourself). Worse, it sucks all motivation from you for writing. Don’t let it. That ‘no’ in your inbox was not a judgment of your life. It does not mean you will never be a successful author, and nothing you write will ever be published. What it means is that this one piece, at this one time, for this one other person, was not a match.

There’s a lot to unpack there. Let’s look at all the reasons the person may have said ‘no’. The piece was in the wrong genre or the wrong length. This shouldn’t be the reason if you’ve paid any attention to your market, but at least if it is, it means it’s fixable. Either edit your piece (eg for length) or just in the future only submit to markets where that’s what they are looking for. One person’s opinion is just one person’s opinion. It may be that they are a fan of fantasy, or science fiction or whatever you have written, but they like upbeat and you have written grimdark or dystopian. It might be the best dystopian fiction ever written but if they’re more into Terry Pratchett, they’re not going to relate to your piece. Maybe they like dystopian, but they already accepted 4 awesome dystopian for their magazine, and last month, or next month, this would have been great, but the context of what’s in their inbox has ruled you out. Maybe they have a migraine, their dog bit them, or their kids are talking back, and they just weren’t in a receptive mood when they read your piece. I know this sounds like a stretch, but we’re all human, and our non-writing lives affect us as human beings and when things are happening in the environment of our lives they affect our work and our openness, and, well, everything.

Remember: yesterday you were (fill in the blank) unpublished/published but unpaid/published but not prestigiously enough/blank and this email is just informing you that nothing has changed. You are certainly no worse off than you were yesterday. Unless you choose not to submit this story elsewhere, or you allow someone else’s validation to determine whether you are a writer or will continue to write. Don’t do that.

So keep moving forward. There’s another agent out there, another magazine, another outlet. Or you have another short story or another novel inside you. At least, if what you really want is to succeed at writing. I hope this has helped you in some way with rejection. We all get rejections. There are a lot of pieces out there talking about what is most important in becoming a writer. People say creativity, lush prose skills, originality, the ability to plot, making your characters sympathetic, etc. Those are great, but those are writing skills. What you really need if you are going to succeed as a writer is the ability to handle rejection. If rejection is going to knock you out, you will not make it to the end. Or at the very least you will have a single lucky strike and that will be your writing career. So learn not to take every rejection as a judgment of your life. And if you came here for advice of the romantic kind, then I apologize for not being helpful. But there is one piece of advice I would give for either type of rejection. In either case, remember to be kind to yourself.

2 thoughts on “Dealing with Rejection

  1. Great reminder. I did some revisions to my query and first pages for a new batch in January. I got quite a few very fast rejections. I panicked a little that my changes weren’t an improvement, but I think it might be agents starting their new year off being efficient and on top of their workload.

    I’ll let it roll off and keep working on my new WIP. Thanks for the post to help me deal with rejection.


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