Writing Through Rejection

Writing through rejection is so hard!

Almost every writer experiences rejection. Some write for
years before they gain an acceptance. Others find recognition but can show you
a folder of “nos.” We’re all supposed to keep writing with thick skins to
weather the rejections.

Writing Tip for Today: Most writers know about the “thick
skin” and how Stephen King got rejected a bazillion times before their
blockbuster status. Here are some other tips to keep you writing through rejection:

Learn While You Burn (Your rejection slips!)

If you “send out” your work and get repeated rejections, could it be that you still have learning to do to master the writing craft? I’d say that’s true for all writers—even the masters can learn something new. One easy way to learn more is to embrace the old advice to “study our publications.” If you submit to a periodical, study several back issues. If you’re trying for a book deal, research the books a publisher has put out in the past two or three years. If you enter a contest, read last year’s winning entry if the judges are the same.

Getting a feel for a publisher’s tastes will help you better
understand the kinds of material they’re looking for. Always read writer’s
guidelines, and pay attention to their format, word count and query policies.
Most publishers require a literary agent, but some small or regional presses
will accept over-the-transom submissions. Submitting horror to a publisher of
inspirational romance probably won’t work, though. And while you’re papering
your bathroom wall with rejection slips, take a writing class, join a critique
group, hire a writing coach or read as many craft books as you can. Then,
practice. A lot.

Start Small(er)

New writers who submit to the New Yorker can get discouraged
rapidly. I always advise a hierarchical list, beginning with your dream market,
press or agent, all the way down to unpaid gigs. To illustrate, when I started
writing for publication, I too had a thick stack of rejection notices. An
editor counseled me to make a list in descending order, of places where my
material might fit. When one reject came in, I crossed it off the list, made
any necessary adjustments, and resubmitted to the next (smaller) market. You
can do this with presses and agents as well.

Start with your dream, but don’t discount the small pubs.
Any ink is good ink, the saying goes. Even an unpaid filler gets you publishing
credit. And while we’re on the subject, why not use some of your book research
to write short articles, helpful hints or fillers to submit to magazines?

More is Less

That thick skin is pretty basic to the writing life, but while you’re building it, don’t write like a hermit. I know writers who have been writing for decades without ever submitting a single word. If you only surround yourself with a mutual admiration society of a critique group and you never send out, you can’t be disappointed, right? But if you don’t buy a ticket, you can’t win, either. Read more on this HERE.

I advise writers to send out short work while they finish book-length work, and to act like a real writer even if your rejection slips make you feel less than. The more you submit, get acquainted with publishing and how it works, hone your craft and practice, the sooner you will be writing what markets are looking for.

Enter legit contests, write short articles or essays and keep chasing the prize. Instead of feeling like a loser, let every new rejection slip take you one step closer to that first “yes.”

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

2 comments on “Writing Through Rejection

    • Hi Mark,
      A guy by the name of Mike Yorkey was the editor who taught me that tip. Although it’s less fun to send your stuff to Po-dunk Country News, your odds of a “yes” are also better.
      Keep Writing!

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