Rejection letters are the bane of a writer’s existence, and many writers fall into the trap of using their rejection letters as a measurement of what their writing is worth.
All writers, no matter their level of experience, will face rejection – the more you submit, the more rejection letters you’ll potentially receive.
On the flipside, the more you submit, the more acceptance letters you’ll potentially receive.
It’s Not You, It’s Me
Most rejections are sent as a form letter (if you’re submitting to high-end magazines, you may not receive a response at all), making it difficult for you to gauge exactly why your work wasn’t accepted, which is why you tend to think the worst.
Here are just some of the reasons your writing might be rejected, and how to write anyway:
1. A SIMILAR IDEA HAS ALREADY BEEN ASSIGNED, OR PUBLISHED WITHIN THE LAST FEW YEARS.
Regardless of how fabulous your idea is, a writer may have already beaten you to the punch, or a similar article may have been published in a past issue.
Especially if the article can still be viewed in the publication’s online archives, this would be just cause for your submission not being accepted.
2. THE STYLE OF YOUR SUBMISSION DIDN’T MESH WELL WITH THE EDITOR(S) WHO READ YOUR WORK.
This doesn’t mean your idea or submission was poor in quality, it just means your piece doesn’t meet the publication’s current editorial needs.
It also doesn’t mean your idea or submission isn’t perfect for another market!
3. THE VOLUME OF SUBMISSIONS VERSUS THE AMOUNT ACCEPTED FOR PUBLICATION IS NEVER IN A WRITER’S FAVOUR.
Room Magazine, a fabulous women’s literary magazine, receives over 700 submissions per year, and roughly 10% are accepted.
That’s approximately 630 submissions per year they’re not able to accept, and it’s not because those that aren’t accepted are poor quality.
How to Keep Writing in the Face of Rejection
As they say, feel the fear, but do it anyway.
The only thing worse than having your writing rejected is not submitting your writing at all.
At least when you submit your writing to a publication, you’re giving yourself a chance at success – you’ll never have to wonder “what if?”
You can go to bed each night knowing you’re doing everything you can to go after your writing goals.
1. DON’T TAKE REJECTION PERSONALLY.
I know. You’re sighing. You’ve heard this a million times before (and now, a million and one).
The reason this piece of advice is given more than any other is because our writing is personal, and when our emotions get the best of us we forget the business of writing isn’t.
The hours we put into our writing is astounding, so when someone rejects our writing, it’s like they’re also rejecting all of the labour we’ve put into creating our article, short story, poem, or script.
Instead of taking it personally, respect the publication’s editors for going cross-eyed sifting through so many submissions, and the fact they took the time to consider yours.
It’s only one rejection, and there are plenty of publications available to submit to, so why worry?
2. SUBMIT YOUR WRITING WITH NO EXPECTATIONS OF THE OUTCOME.
We have full control over what we write and when, as well as who we submit our writing to, but we have no control over who will accept it.
Submit your work, and let it go.
It doesn’t matter how strong you feel the piece is, or how badly you want to be published in enter-name-of-publication-here, or how targeted a market you’ve chosen. Once you’ve submitted your writing, the outcome is completely in the editor’s hands.
This is something you’ll never have control over. If your work isn’t accepted for publication, simply move onto the next market you feel would be a good fit, and submit your work as if you’re submitting it for the first time.
This will keep your perspective fresh, and your anticipation for success will instantly be revived.
3. HOPE FOR THE BEST, PREPARE FOR THE WORST.
It’s always important to a) hold out hope your submission will be accepted, and b) act as if your submission will be rejected.
There’s a fine line between being realistic and being negative, so this step will take quite a bit of practice.
Accomplishing A will keep your motivation level high, and B will ensure your emotions won’t stifle you from submitting your work elsewhere.
Your submission could be the one they’re waiting for, so it’s crucial to have a plan B publication in place if plan A doesn’t pan out the way you’d hoped.
4. YOU ARE YOU, YOUR WRITING IS YOUR WRITING – BOTH REQUIRE TRUST.
The one thing that’s difficult, especially when we love writing as much as we do, is treating our writing like a business once we’ve begun the submission process.
Once your piece is finished, you have to disconnect yourself from it. It’s no longer a part of you. It’s a product you’re ready to sell.
Use the rejection as a time to reflect and grow as a writer. Why do you think your piece was rejected?
Look over past issues of the publication you submitted to, taking note of what’s been accepted in the past, and ideas you come across for improving your writing.
Scan the rejected piece and figure out what you can do to improve it before submitting elsewhere.
This is a time to trust your instincts, and trust the fact that your hard work will pay off over time, and not fall into the trap of feeling like a failure.
5. CELEBRATE THE GOOD REJECTION LETTERS.
A few weeks ago, I received my first response from an editor about an article pitch I’d submitted. She asked questions about my query, and I answered as soon as I stopped hyperventilating.
In the end, she decided not to accept my pitch, but offered me thoughtful insights into the types of articles they look for, which I will carry forward with my next pitch.
It’s very rare to receive a rejection letter that actually provides feedback as to why your submission was rejected, so when you do, seize the moment.
Editors are ridiculously busy, so take this opportunity to kick things up a notch: up the ante. Work hard to put together a new pitch that incorporates their suggestions, and shows you respect their hard work as much as they respect yours.
Editors can tell how much effort you’ve put into your submission. Amp up your effort level, and lessen your chances of rejection with each new pitch.
Take that rejection!
How do you deal with rejection?
Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. - Samuel Beckett
“Going toe-to-toe with rejection (and how to keep writing)” by Krissy Brady was originally published on the “The Writing Life Simplified” blog.