5 Ways to Face Down Rejection

I take rejection as someone blowing a bugle in my ear to wake me up and get going, rather than retreat.” Sylvester Stallone

I don’t have any statistics on creative writing rejections. I do know that many best-selling authors often boast of how many rejections they received before they got their first work published. And almost every how-to writing book includes a chapter on accepting rejection. This is as part of the writing process as editing. Successful writers all say the same thing. You must survive the rejection process to succeed. This is part of the writer’s life.

Yet for many writers, one rejection can be the end of the submission process. They continue writing but tell anyone that will listen about the horrific way their literary masterpiece was rejected.

Here are five ways to keep ahead of the “not right for our publication” rejection, without losing your desire to be published.


1. Make a Game of It. In my writing group, we award prizes quarterly for the most rejections, the quickest rejection, and the most interesting or funniest rejection. Some writing groups stipulate that you can’t join without twenty-five rejections. Their theory is that you’re not a real writer if you haven’t been rejected twenty-five times.

2. Don’t take it Personal. Although it hurt when my query was rejected in six minutes (email query, email rejection) I kept my personal feelings out of the equation and re-submitted, and submitted and submitted. It might be rejected by twenty publications before being perfect for one or at some point, it might need to be scrapped. Either way, if you treat your writing as a business product instead of an extension of you; you can move ahead instead of giving up.

make your next submission an acceptance

3. Don’t Do the Editor’s Job. Don’t reject your own work before you send it out. It might never be “good enough” in your eyes. Like the lottery, you can’t win if you don’t play. Let your queries, articles, poems, and fiction pieces into the world. See what lays beyond your pile of musings. Many smaller publications will even give you constructive criticism along with the rejection.

4. Find your niche. What comes easy to some is like strolling through waist-high oatmeal to others. If you’ve tried for years to write literary fiction but everyone thinks your writing is hilarious you might want to try chick-lit. Trying on new genres might just be the spark your writing needs to get noticed and published. A site like www.duotrope.com makes it easy to search for markets for your short fiction, poetry, or novel-length work. It also offers interesting stats on the slowest and quickest response times for publications.

5. Learn from your mistakes. If most of the editors are telling you the same thing or your writing buddies are telling you “you need to take a class”. Don’t be stubborn. A refresher class in grammar, or a writing workshop could make a big difference.

Consider that collecting rejection slips is like going to “safety meetings” in the corporate world. A necessary part of the job. Enjoy them while you can and then you can brag about all the rejections you received when your book hits the best-seller list.

Now get back to collecting those rejection slips!
The Writing Nag

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3 Replies to “5 Ways to Face Down Rejection”

  1. When I was much younger and just sending out poems so often they’d come back with nothing more than a rejection slip. Other times – very rarely I have to stress – I’d get a note, a couple of times even a whole letter, from an editor with his thoughts on the pieces and where – for him – I’d gone wrong. I had no idea how busy editors were until my wife became one. It’s just a wall of unending submissions most of which are dire SO if any editor takes the time to write you a note no matter what they say they must think you have something worth spending the time on. It’s not an acceptance but rejections result from so many different reasons and the quality of your poem is only one factor. Take some comfort in that.

  2. Thanks for the kind words Jim, I’m going to take this time (between semesters) to send out some new work. And hoping for some acceptances as well as the rejections!

  3. You know, I knew that… but I still need to be told once in a while. So, thank you for your laid back look at our craft!

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