Rejections, of any kind, leave wounds. While some merely graze the surface, others cut deeply. Two of the hardest forms of rejection are those that blindside and those without explanation.
Both are common in the writing industry.
When you meet with an agent or editor to pitch your story, and feel you’ve made a connection with them, their rejection is the hardest to take. It feels personal. Like a love affair so right that the shock of “no” slices straight through your ego, your heart and your muse. You feel numb, cheated and confused.
The bad news is this person didn’t see the beauty in your baby. The good news is YOU have not been rejected. The connection you made remains – as long as you remain professional – and you can submit future work to this dream agent or editor.
If you receive a personal rejection, with advice or explanation, frame it. Read it – repeatedly. Follow the advice. Consider making the suggested changes. Polish your story until it shines, then send it out again. A personal rejection means something in your work sparked an interest. Yes, it’s still a rejection, but it’s a nice rejection. And those are rare treasures.
Receipt of the dreaded form letter, however, is a common occurrence. You’ll know immediately if the rejection you receive is one of these. Just skim past the first sentence to the second and you‟ll likely see one of two words: “unfortunately” or “however”.
As I learned from my first experience at RWA’s 2011 Conference, those words can crush even the most seasoned writer.
The bad news is you’re forever left to wonder why. While it’s probably not the case, it could be that your writing sucked – that’s always my first thought. But it could also be that a story similar to what you submitted had just been accepted or that your story didn’t fit the needs of the agent or editor you queried. It could be any number of reasons. Since writing, like any art, is subjective, the reason for one rejection may be the same reason for another request.
The good news is that an editor or agent rejection is not a rejection of you. Still, no matter what form a rejection takes, it hurts. Know you’re allowed to feel crappy. You’re allowed the doubt. You’re allowed extra chocolate. However, you are not allowed to wallow for more than a day.
Lick those wounds and remember the best in the industry have had their work rejected at some point. They’ve had the same aches and doubts, and have persevered despite them.
In his book, On Writing, Stephen King said he impaled his rejection slips on a nail in his wall. When there were too many rejections for the nail to support them, he “replaced the nail with a spike and kept on writing”.
Keep on writing. It’s not you… unless you allow it to be.