Rejection as a Writer: How to Deal with It

Dealing with rejection as a writer

Here are 8 ways to turn rejection into a triumph.

It’s all very well to be told not to take it personally when you’ve had a manuscript, article or screenplay rejected. But how can you not? As with all creative fields, you pour your heart and soul into creating your work. You see your work as a reflection of your personality, thoughts and dreams – so when the ‘not interested’ email lands in your inbox, it takes strength to pick yourself up and carry on.

But try again you must, because if it weren’t for resilience, we would not be blessed with the fantasy world of Harry Potter created by J.K. Rowling, the thrilling science fiction of Steven King, or the murder mysteries of Agatha Christie. Yes, all of these literary greats faced multiple rejections before being published.

So what should you do if the publisher or editor has rejected your submission? There’s a lot to be learnt from rejection letters – what you choose to do with the information is up to you. You either crawl into a ball and give up, or you can take it as free mentorship advice from a field expert.

Here are eight tips for how to handle the rejection:

Firstly, accept the fact that it was your work that was rejected, not YOU. To move forward, you need to separate the two. Rejection should be considered a part of the writing process.

2. If you’ve received a more detailed response, analyse whether it’s been constructive criticism or useless criticism. Decide whether to take it seriously or not.

3. If you’ve been given a reason why your work was not accepted, then have a good, hard look at it, and thank the editor or publisher for their feedback and time. Perhaps, it just didn’t match the style of the publication. In this case, spend more time researching the style and content of a publication, so that you target your writing specifically to that publication and its audience in the future. If you can’t take the time to research the style and content of the publication, don’t expect a detailed response from the editor. However, your article is not wasted and can be submitted for consideration to a different publication more in line with what you have written.

4. If the feedback mentions a weak plot or storyline – then that’s excellent advice, and you know what to work on. We have many valuable articles on creative writing, and even better, you can hone your skills with one of our creative writing courses.

5. Be brutally honest with yourself when reading the feedback rather than being defensive. Edit, edit, and edit again. Does the opening need to be more of an attention grabber? Does your main character need a more robust personality? Is your storyline clichéd?

6. The hard truth is that writing is an art. As with visual art or music, it’s subjective and not everyone will like your story. In many cases, a specific publisher’s opinion is not the common one, and thank goodness for thick-skinned authors – as in this case: ‘You’d have a decent book if you’d get rid of that Gatsby character.’ This ill-advised suggestion was made to F. Scott Fitzgerald about no other than The Great Gatsby.

7. Join a writing community, either online or in person. Get feedback from fellow writers and mentors before you submit your next piece. Maybe the problem is glaringly obvious, but because you are so entrenched in the story, you haven’t noticed the gap, contradiction or inconsistency in the storyline?

8. Editors and publishers seldom have the time to respond with detailed feedback. If you’ve just been told ‘no’ without reason, do respond with a polite email asking why your submission was rejected. While they may not have time to respond to all submissions, most would take the time to offer advice if the author has taken the time to ask for it.

Rejection is an unavoidable part of the writing journey. The only way to guarantee that you won’t get rejected is never to submit anything, and well, then what’s the point of following your dream? Very few successful writers had their first attempt published.

Most successful business people failed several times before their success. They all had in common that they did not give up; they learnt from their mistakes, accepted constructive criticism, adapted their plan, and moved forward to try again.

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