Ways to Make Rejections Easier on Yourself

Monday, September 05, 2022

Ah, rejection. It's the bane of the life of a writer and often what leads us to feel miserable about our writing future. However, I have a few techniques I use to make it easier for me to get rejected and move on from it. I hope by sharing it with you, the sting of rejection becomes less painful.

1. Keep tweaking and revising.

After a few handfuls of rejections, I'll usually go back to a story and look it over for any minor (and often major) tweaking that needs to happen. In fact, there have been times I realized I need to pull the story out of the submission process completely for an even bigger overhaul of changes. 

As a result, no matter how minor my changes are, I feel a greater sense of peace when my next rejection comes. I'll look at my submission sheet and realize that I had submitted the story before my latest changes. This enables me to say to myself, "Well, no surprise it got rejected. Those [fill in the blank of my edits] hadn't been made yet."

2. Use RejectionWiki.com to assess your rejection letter.

There's both good and bad to the Rejection Wiki site. If you've never heard of it, it's a collection of rejection letters that people have received from various literary magazines that show you tiers of rejection. A higher tier means you were that much closer to getting accepted, a lower tier means it's a more standard rejection letter that gets sent out. Check it out for yourself if you've recently been rejected.

So, while it helps to read this for any signs I've gotten a personalized rejection, it also reeks of my teenage years when I wanted to assess the nonverbal (or verbal or written) behaviors of some crush of mine to determine if he "liked" me or "like-liked" me. Even so, it can still be helpful to understand the nuances of a rejection.

3. Continue submitting.

I'm a huge fan of simultaneous submissions and often bypass any magazine that demands otherwise. Mostly, because there are so many opportunities out there, why limit my chances to one magazine? Luckily, each time I submit, I feel an even greater chance of getting accepted, especially if it's a new magazine for me.

When a rejection comes and I already have my story re-sent to somewhere new, the sting feels a bit less. I'm able to look ahead and feel hopeful that maybe my newest submission is the right one for my story.

4. Limit how much fees you pay.

I must say it feels downright awful to get an impersonalized rejection when I've paid a fee. However, I do understand not every magazine or contest can actually give me that kind of response. So, with that in mind, I limit how often I pay submission fees. I do appreciate the ones (like WOW!) that allow you to get feedback for a bit more than the original fee, and at times, have taken advantage of that in my submission process.

5. Accept it's part of the process.

I know, I know. It doesn't always help to hear this, but it's a truth: rejection happens to us all. Even the most famous writers (J.K. Rowling, Agatha Christie, Dr. Suess...and more!) faced rejection. In fact, go look up the reviews of any famous novel or novelist, and read some of the 1-star reviews. Why? Because there's plenty of them.

What this tells me is that we're either not where we need to be in our writing or we haven't found our audience yet that "gets" us. So, just know, if you are a writer, you will be rejected. But know, you're alone.

How do you handle rejections? 


Sioux Roslawski said...

Nicole--When I wouldn't hear anything from my queries, I'd fantasize that a couple of big publishers were battling each other over my manuscript. They were arguing about how my huge my advance was going to be--and that's why I wasn't hearing from anyone.

The rivers Denial and Delusion... They're lovely to float on.

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

When I was new to writing and rejection REALLY bothered me, I kept a rejection jar. Inside were 20 slips of paper, each with a treat written on it. "Spend an hour knitting." "Go to a movie." Whenever I got a rejection, I pulled a slip out of the jar and rewarded myself.

I've also set goals like "Earn 5 rejections/month." That keeps me querying so that I can get up to those 5 rejections.

Nicole Pyles said...

Oh denial is wonderfully helpful sometimes!

Nicole Pyles said...

That's a good goal! It's a way of taking charge.

Linda Strader said...

After the sting wore off, I'd look over the rejection to see if there was anything of value in there. And at times, there was. I am convinced that if it hadn't have been for all of the rejections I received, I never would have made the necessary revisions that eventually landed me a book deal for both of my memoirs.

Angela Mackintosh said...

Great tips! I've used Rejection Wiki before but unfortunately they don't cover creative nonfiction, only fiction rejections, and all the journals that publish nonfiction aren't on there. I wish they had one of these for CNF. I loved your crush metaphor. Lol

I eat a carton of Haagen-Daz, of course! I've only gotten one rejection that provided amazing rejection feedback on my essays, and that was from the fab journal Under the Sun. I try and think of rejections as being one step closer to publication. I look at it as a blessing in disguise because the piece probably wasn't ready. Then I either revise it again or consider if it's something I really want to have published. I'm terrible at submitting and only submit a piece maybe three or four times, so one of my goals now is flinging my pieces wildly to many different places.

Nicole Pyles said...

So true! Any small tidbit of feedback in a rejection helps me learn, even if it stings a bit at first.

Nicole Pyles said...

Oh bummer, I had no idea that was only for fiction that site! Ha, I love the idea of an ice cream treat. And it's very true, after a certain amount of rejections, I do some reflection on whether I feel this piece is really really ready or if I just needed a revision break.

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

I love this visual of a writer flinging her work into submission.

Cathy C. Hall said...

I love that Rejection Wiki site, Nicole! I would've spent way too much time there back in the day when I was submitting flash and short stories...

I just realized it's been a minute since I've been rejected. So clearly, the secret to dealing with rejection is not to submit! Hahahahaha!

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