Rejection: There is never a good day to get bad news.

In the spirit of All Hallows Eve, I was asked to share something that scares me about publishing.  I chose my least favorite thing:  REJECTION.

Here is how I define REJECTION:  The email of doom, the sound of silence.  You’re still not good enough to be in the club.  Better luck next time, you wannabe.  Are you ready to quit yet?

Here are some of the things contest judges have told me about my writing:

“You write like Ben Stein talks, which you should not take as a compliment.”

“I hate your hero!!!!  He humiliated the heroine by reading her private fantasies and then making them come true.”

“There are books on writing.  You should invest in a few of them.”

“That could never happen.”  (It was based on a true life story.)

I’ve had a lot of rejection in the five years I’ve been writing.  I’ve learned my skin will never be thick enough and next to a perfect score sheet or a gushing compliment, a pitiful score sheet or a harsh word will always be the one that is remembered.

I accept and understand that wallowing in the bad news is a pity party for one.  And sometimes, I’m okay with that, but it isn’t proactive or helpful unless I see the same critique over and over again.  If I do, I take it under consideration and I try not to it take it to heart.

Rejection is like anything you don’t like: a root canal, killing a big gnarly spider dangling over your head, speaking to five hundred people, driving on ice, etc.  You do it enough and maybe you start to get past the initial knee jerk reaction.  When that bad news comes there are things that I do to immediately lift my spirits.  I’ll have a cocktail, call a friend, take a walk or grab a can of Raid, because this publishing journey isn’t for the weak of heart or spirit.

In the wake of rejection, I always challenge myself to take positive action.  I’ll read a book on grammar or read another author’s book who has published in my genre.  I look at the books on my shelf and know that there is a real human behind each and every one of those tangible objects.  Last winter I listened to twenty-three audiobooks by Pulitzer Winning Author, John Sandford because I liked the way he writes dialogue.  It took a couple of months, but I learned the cadence of his dialogue and found it paid off in my writing.

Most of all, it is imperative to send out another email to an agent or enter a contest that has a final judge you’d like to meet.

I face my fears with the unwavering confidence that good things come to those who work hard, show tenacity and define patience.  Remember, every day has just as much potential for good news as bad.

To quote Nora Roberts:  “Butt in the chair, eyes on the screen and your head in the story.”

Anything else isn’t writing.

Now get out there and do something good for your career!


Posted on October 14, 2013, in General and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. Oy, Mary. Why is it so much easier to believe the worst about ourselves before the best? Here’s to coping mechanisms!


  2. I once got a comment back from a contest where a judge spent three pages describing why a scene where my main character was fired could never happen. The judge had worked in HR for 10 years. The scene was based on what happened to a cube neighbor of mine at a high tech company. So, I knew it could happen. The judge had nothing to say about my writing, but she was very nice about how she said my plot wouldn’t work.

    I love receiving critique, but only listen to the ones that resonates with what I want to do with my story. And I investigate areas of a manuscript that several people have pointed out as problematic.

    Rejection letters always suck though, but I prefer a rejection from a publishing professional than the dreaded black hole of sending out requested partials or fulls and never ever hearing from that person again. It’s like the worst rejection ever. It says, “You were so bad, it’s not even worth my time to tell you about it.”


    • I heard back after two years from an editor. It was so long that I was almost more offended I’d been taking up real estate in her office for two years!!! Not an editor I’d want to work with!

      Sometimes the best stories come from real life events. It always floors me when a judge doesn’t think something is authentic, when it came from a real world event!



  3. There’s only one rejection that actually feels good and that’s going PRO. Other than that, they all BLOW.


    • When I found out what the qualifications were for PRO I was so excited. Of course I still had the rejection letter that told me I should buy a book on how to write romance novels! (Still have that letter.) I should fire up the BBQ and have myself a little fire! In the end, I’m thankful I didn’t sign with that agent. Her office is like in Kansas. Not that there’s anything wrong with that….


  4. “This… Just not this.” What useful feedback, Jamie! It perfectly describes why rejection — like accolades — is best viewed side eye 🙂


  5. Even though I have no writing rejection examples to share with the group, I have had my fair share of rejection and your words of encouragement are appreciated!

    PS – I like that both of our posts had a shout-out to Nora 🙂


  6. Excellent advice. Your positive approach works well for you 🙂
    My own worst-fav rejection was, “This is exactly what we’re looking for, just not this.” With no explanation beyond that sentence.


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