Trust me, it’s not personal.


Whether you are a new writer or a seasoned pro, chances are the word “rejection” is a very familiar term.

If you aren’t,  the short version: your story was returned to you (or in some cases never responded to) by an agent, publication or editor.

The long version: the story (or novel) did not completely catch the agent or editor’s idea  for the publication or publishing house. The reasons could be numerous such as: story needed work (grammar/plot/character issues), several stories similar to yours have been received, or story did not fit the publication. Other rejections–or non responses–such as receiving the story outside of the submission window or not properly formatting the story aren’t as common but they do sometimes happen.

If a publication or agent has returned your work with a polite decline, you’ve received a rejection. While a rejection can be a blow, it’s really nothing personal.  Trust me.

I work on both sides of the publishing fence. First, as a writer, second as a slush reader and in the past, an editor.

Writers of all skill levels receive rejections all the time.  When you submit a story, most of the time there is only a slim chance that you will be published.  If the publication only has six open slots and they receive 100 submissions, that isn’t great odds. Less than ten percent of those stories are going to be published.  Chances are, unless your story is spectacular it isn’t going to get a thumbs up.

Quite a few writers–especially newer writers–feel this is a direct personal blow.  Some stop writing entirely. Others begin to think that no one appreciates their work. A few get hateful and take out their disappointment on the rest of the publication world.

But these things are so unnecessary and I find it very sad that it happens. A rejection isn’t a rejection of the person or their creative talent. It’s just a rejection of the piece you sent this time. It has no personal correlation to what or who you are as a person.

As a slush reader I see lots of stories that are good, but aren’t great. These are often stories that lack an emotional connection or the plot just doesn’t quite come together. Characters just don’t seem reliable or just aren’t well rounded. These are all elements of writing that are skill related. In other words, they can be learned (to a point).

Yes they can be learned with guess what?

Practice.

But practice means writing and sending out more stories. It means joining writing groups and allowing them to critique your work. It means taking classes and going to workshops. And yes, it means working on your own, writing more stories and reading other people’s work. Then revising your own stories and sending them back out.

After a while, you come to realize that those first stories you felt so good about when you first started writing, aren’t as good as you thought. You might actually be pleased that they were never published at all. (To save you some embarrassment later.) They might even be revised as a much stronger, better story.

And while you may still be racking up rejections,  you are still trying, learning and writing. And that says quite a bit about you.

 

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