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The Eight R’s of Responding to Rejection

Creative writers must learn to deal with rejection as a normal part of submitting their fiction to editors and literary agents. When you take into account that it can take up to a hundred submissions to garner one acceptance, writers simply must develop a thick skin.

Rejection slips from agents and editors can provide useful information that can help writers fine-tune their work, and rejection letters are a natural part of the submission process. The following article is excerpted from our Rejoice in Rejection: The Art of Surviving the Submission Process.

Not sure what your rejection letters are telling you? Learn More: How To Interpret Rejection Letters.

Reaction: First, take a look at how you react to rejection. Do you wail and thrash about? Do you fall limply into bed, vowing never to write again? Do you snarl and immediately blame the stupid editor who failed to see talent when it fell right into his or her mediocre lap? Or do you go back to look at your work and see if you followed the instructions carefully? Was your cover letter error-free? If all your “i’s” were dotted and “t’s” crossed, the all-important SASE included, and you cannot find anything wrong with your submission, then accept the gift of rejection from the editor-gods and go to the next step.

Release: Do find a way to release your first reaction. There is no need to suppress hurt or anger. Once you foam, scream, and/or eat a pint of ice cream, it’s time to get on with your writing life. Best is to find a constructive way to release your rejection-reaction: exercise, talk it out with another writer or a writing group, paper your bathroom wall with rejection letters, or throw darts at a picture of the editor or the front cover of the magazine from whence came the rejection.

Resist: Resist the temptation to stay stuck in the awful feeling of rejection. Resist the temptation to avoid sitting down at the keyboard. Once you’ve allowed yourself to go through the emotion of rejection and release it, it’s crucial to move past the grief at the letdown and see what you can do to increase your odds of acceptance. Find a mentor or a writing group if you don’t already have one. Even if your work doesn’t need anything more, it’s always good to have the support of someone who understands the writing life to lift you up when those rejections come. It’s not a bad thing to commiserate with other writers before stepping back out into the cold submission world or the lonely writing world again.

Recap: Take a look at how far you’ve come. Going over your list of past successes can help soften the blows of rejection. If you don’t have a list of your past victories, make one. If you are not yet published, review your piece and see if you can rearrange it or expand it for a new market. Go back to earlier manuscripts to review your own growth as a writer. If you don’t see a difference in your writing, you might consider improving your skills by taking some writing workshops. And, don’t be afraid to rework a piece. It’s also a good idea to step back from your work a bit. Take a few days away. Don’t stop writing; work on a new piece. Taking a break may give you fresh perspective and allow you to see your work with new eyes. At the very least, it gives your emotions time to cool down so you can get a better perspective of what you already have and of what may need revising.

Revisit the Market: Take another look at the market in which you are trying to publish. Is it already saturated with your topic? What will make your piece or proposal stand out in the crowd? How can you adjust your piece so it’s more unique and less the same old stuff?

Reach for Help: Consider help from an editing service or a writing group. Writer’s Relief has the expertise to help you ensure your work is grammatically accurate and well-proofed. We provide samples of cover letters, queries, and proposals. We know industry standards for your genre. The majority of rejections are based solely on presentation. Do your homework, and if you don’t have time, pay someone else who knows what agents and editors require in order to take your work seriously.

Repeat: Submit extensively and on a regular basis. Again, a good assistant or submission service can help with this. Writer’s Relief clients have work circulating to over 60 markets at a time. If you make one submission at a time and wait six months for a form rejection, it will hurt. Our clients find that making extensive submissions helps take the sting out of the process. Find the best markets, make sure your submissions follow industry standards, send your best work, and keep submitting. Don’t get caught like a deer in headlights with the shock of rejection. Go through whatever steps it takes to get your work out there. There is no substitute for a writer’s virtues of persistence and patience.

Resilience: Using the steps above will help you develop the ability to recover and adjust easily to the rejection that is a necessary part of your writing life.

Dealing with rejection is hard, and so is the business of submitting your writing. If you find the submission process to be frustrating and tedious, Writer’s Relief can help ease that burden. We tackle the many time-consuming tasks of the submission process for you. And we have a literary submission service for every budget.

One Response to The Eight R’s of Responding to Rejection

  1. Kathy,

    Please share this with dad and the group at your weekly writer’s group meeting. This site has a LOT of great information and useful tips for getting published. Also includes a section on famous authors’ rejection letters. I believe it says that John Grisham’s first novel was rejected 25 times. Includes too rejections for Ernest Hemmingway.


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