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Ah, my old enemy - Rejection.

Writers get rejected.

All of the time.

I’m an author with ten years and almost forty books under my belt, and I still get rejected regularly. It’s a sad fact of our craft that no matter how much talent and experience we have, sometimes what we offer is not what people want.

The important thing in this painful, crummy scenario is how we respond to rejection – internally and externally.


No matter how far we are into our writing or publication journey, the moment we get rejected, our brains start telling us all sorts of lies, “This is it! This is the end! We’ll never sell another piece! (or) We’ll never sell a piece in the first place! Everybody has figured out we’re frauds and we suck at writing! We should never open a Word document again.”

This is one instance in which I will advocate for you not listening to your brain.

Rejection in writing is a lot like rejection in dating. There’s probably nothing wrong with you personally, you/your writing is simply not compatible with the other person’s needs. It doesn’t mean your work sucks or that your idea sucks or that you suck at promoting yourself. It just means that you weren't a match.

And to borrow another clumsy metaphor, just like falling off a horse, the best way to get over your internalized rejection is to write something. Channel that angst into an emotionally difficult scene in your work-in-progress. Hand write a response to the person who rejected you. Be as snarky as you want to be. DO NOT SEND IT. EVER. Shred the paper if that's what it takes to prevent mailing.

And the immediately recycle the shreds.

Accept the rejection as an opportunity that was not for you and begin looking for the next opportunity.


Remember when I mentioned not sending the snarky response? Let’s just make that the mission statement of all external responses to rejection – DON’T SEND IT. If I was better at graphic design, I would create some sort of family crest thing featuring an email icon on fire to express how badly I don't want you to send those responses.

In fact, I would consider not replying to rejection emails, at all, unless it's a brief, polite "thank you." If you get a form rejection, you might not even send that. An agent or editor's rejection tends to be the final word they want to have in the conversation, unless they say otherwise. As in, "This isn't for me, but let me see future projects from you that might better fit my needs."

As tempting as it may be, you cannot lash out at the person rejecting you. When I speak at schools and book clubs on “Advice for Writers,” I do a whole subsection entitled, “Don’t Act Like A Jerk." Which always makes the kids laugh. But I'm quite serious when I say, DO NOT send the snarky email or letter containing all your hurt feelings. Let's just say this covers all written forms of communication, including telegrams, greeting cards and legal notices. DO NOT talk badly about the agent/editor on social media. DO NOT send the agent/editor a decapitated stuffed animal. Publishing is a remarkably small world and word travels quickly. If you get a reputation for behaving badly, the people you want to work with will hear about it.

Stay polite. Stay calm. Stay professional.

I’m not going to pretend rejection doesn’t suck. It really, really does. But when a door that gets shut in your face, you look for another one. Or a window. Or a cat flap. You keep trying. The only way to fail as a writer is to stop writing.


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