Advice for Writers: Rejection is Just a ‘No’

rejection as a writer

By Kathleen Marple Kalb

Rejection is bad, but the fear of it is worse. Too many good writers are afraid to put their work out for consideration because they’re afraid of what will happen. Or they’ve received a few rejections, and they fear the pain of more.

Well, as a multi-published author with about 200 hundred rejections in my files, let me tell you the dirty little secret:

It’s just a ‘no’.

That’s all.

Rejection means ‘No, today,’ on one piece of work.

Nothing more, nothing less. No cosmic judgment on your writing skills, your future and certainly not you as a person.

Don’t give a rejection any more power than it deserves.

Unfortunately, we’re in a business where ‘no’ is the default setting, and you just can’t let it get you down.

The agent, editor or publisher doesn’t know you as a person, and they don’t have any special divine skill to determine where your publishing career will go. All they know is that for whatever reason, the one piece of work you offered does not meet their needs. Today.

That’s truly all.

What I’m saying is like that scene in the gangster movie where the guy whacks Joe Pesci with a shovel…and says, ‘It’s just business.’ It really IS just business.

I’m not saying it doesn’t hurt. I had more than 200 rejections over three failed projects before my wonderful agent signed me, and ultimately found my first mystery series a home at Kensington. Rejection is awful. It’s a little bite out of your soul every time.

The trick is to take that negative energy and turn it into something positive.

Of course, you’re going to take a few hours, or maybe a night, to mourn, with your soothing treat of choice. And then you’re going to pick yourself up, straighten yourself up and get back to it.

You may be able to learn something from the rejection. If there’s any feedback, consider it carefully. It’s unusual to get specific responses, and they may be useful. If it’s just a flat ‘no’, take one more look at the query or your work, and make sure it’s the best it can be and says exactly what you want it to say.

If not, you may want to take some time to rethink or revise.

Remember though, rejection doesn’t have to be because of an aspect of your writing, and you shouldn’t automatically assume that it is. You can do everything right, and still get rejected – a lot. It’s tough, but it’s part of the deal.

So don’t get too caught up in this part of the process. It’s important to know that you’re following the rules and hitting your marks, but it’s also important not to obsess and stall because you’re looking for some horrible flaw that isn’t there.

In the end, though, the best cure for rejections in writing is really simple: more writing. Working on the next project is good for your writer’s soul: you’re using everything you’re learning right now to make the next one better.

Not to mention the sheer joy of writing itself.

We all got into this crazy game because we love to write, and it’s too easy to forget that when you’re in the trenches. You can’t allow the ugly part to pull you away from the joy. Take time to remember – and enjoy – why you’re doing this.

We write because we love it, so don’t let a rejection or two – or 200 – make you forget that!  

About the Author

Kathleen Marple Kalb is the author of the historical Ella Shane Mystery series set in Gilded Age New York, which includes A Fatal Finale and A Fatal First Night. Her next book, A Fatal Overture is coming out soon.  She is also Nikki Knight: author of Live, Local and Dead, A Vermont Radio Mystery, and also writes for Crooked Lane Books. Bad Apples by Nikki Knight has won an Honourable Mention in the 2021 Black Orchid Novella Contest!

Find out more about her writing here:

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