Some Tips for Dealing with Rejection
© 2001 Laraine Anne Barker
Rejections hurt--and every editor knows this. They all try to be tactful, but with their workloads increasing every year they no longer have time to help a writer whose manuscript would take up months of their time to get right. So these days the chances are that, instead of a personal letter, you'll receive a photocopied rejection that isn't dated and doesn't address you by name or mention the title of the rejected manuscript, let alone have a proper signature at the end of it. I'm not sure whether this will increase your hurt or lessen it. I had been receiving rejections for years before I started receiving this type of thing.
First, don't take it personally. I know I'm wasting my time here. OF COURSE you are going to take it personally! But it might help to remember that the editor isn't rejecting you, isn't telling you that your manuscript stinks and she doesn't want to hear from you again. It's simply that your story didn't happen to be what she wanted. Maybe she (most editors, particularly for children's books, are women, so I'll stick with 'she') already has a title too similar to yours. There are many reasons why an editor might reject a book, including the fact that she just didn't happen to be feeling all that well when your book landed on her desk. It happens!
It might help to remember that Watership Down went through about 26 rejections before the late (and much lamented) Kaye Webb saw its potential. Veterinary surgeon James Herriott threw his manuscript into a bottom drawer, telling his wife he was obviously no good at writing so he supposed he'd better stick to something at which he WAS good. But for his wife's stubborn belief in him, the world would have been robbed of some of the most enjoyable best-sellers ever written, not to mention the television spin-offs. Even Stephen King had to battle against rejection. Imagine how the editors who rejected his manuscripts must have felt when those manuscripts went on to become best-sellers and blockbuster movies!
There really is only one way to overcome the hurt of rejection: send out more submissions. Submit! Submit! Submit! The more you send out the quicker you will come to the stage when rejections don't hurt any more--and that's one reason why writing short stories rather than novels is a better idea. It doesn't need to take years for rejections not to hurt, as it did with me. Honestly!
I know you're probably shaking your head in disagreement (and that you most likely wanted an easier, magical answer) but trust me: as long as you keep on submitting there will come a time when all you'll do on opening a rejection is give a sniff and a shrug and file it away with all the others. And that's another thing: never ever throw away a rejection letter. I even print out and file email rejections--without fixing any typographic errors, I might add!
There are many things you can do to help turn rejection into submission. First, you should ensure your work is the best you can make it. If you are 'grammatically challenged' or have poor spelling, and don't bother to do anything about it, you will continue to receive rejections. If the first thing an editor sees on looking at your manuscript is an incorrectly used word or other examples of bad grammar, you will definitely receive a rejection! But help is at hand. If you have trouble working out the difference between its and it's, draft and draught, for instance, take a look at my Words That Are Often Confused page where you will find over 90 pairs/groups of such words, together with their correct meanings and, in many cases, some sample sentences.
Other things you can do to turn rejection into acceptance:
- Read as many books about writing as you can.
- Take a course on writing if you can find a suitable one and can afford the fee.
- Join a writers' critique group. The biggest problem with writers' groups is that jealousy can rear its ugly head, leading to criticism that's calculated not to help you but to tear you apart. You need to find a group whose members are on a similar writing level to yourself.
All the best of luck with your submissions. In the meantime you might like to visit a site about rejection. Try Rejection Collection at www.rejectioncollection.com, where you can read other writers' rejection letters and post your own.
Copyright © 2001 L A Barker Enterprises.
Laraine Anne Barker writes fantasy for young people. Visit her web site at http://www.authorsden.com/laraineannebarker for FREE stories and novel excerpts. Sign up for the NOVELLA OF THE MONTH CLUB, absolutely FREE!