Saturday, January 30, 2010


Nobody likes rejections, but we all get them. If you're a writer, you get them by the truckload. You get them from your critique group. Readers and judges of contests give you low scores or write mean-spirited or positive, but disheartening comments. When you start querying out your manuscript, you get rejected by agents. If you finally get an agent, then you get the pleasure of being rejected by editors. Your book gets published, and then it seems like the critics are out for blood. Even with good reviews, readers reject you, sometimes on world-wide bulletin boards or chat services, sometimes when you're sitting at a table in a store and hardly anyone even makes eye contact, let alone comes over. Book stores reject you--they don't want you for a signing, or you show up for a signing and they forgot to order copies of your book. And on and on. Constant, never-ending rejection.

Why Do We Do This To Ourselves?

Excuse me. Did I say that aloud? What I meant to say was: Rejection is good for building character.

If that's the case, then I've got more characters than Jim Carrey.

But, I will say this, and it's something you already know: If you let rejection get to you, if you give up because it hurts too much, if you lose faith in yourself and in your talent, then you won't succeed.

You can learn from rejection:

1) Figure out what you did wrong, and correct it.

2) Remember, the rejection is not of you personally.

3) Sometimes the problem is not with you or your writing; it's with the person doing the rejecting.

4) Every critique, every comment, whether it's from a reader, an agent, an editor, a contest judge, or a critic, is subjective.

5) If you labor over every rejection or negative comment, you'll make yourself crazy. Let it go and move on.

Pick yourself up off the floor, file away the rejection, and write some more. Okay, I'll let you have some private time to cry, or eat a half-gallon of ice cream, or take a nap, or call a friend -- but then you have to sit your behind back in your chair and write.

Remember, there is a recipe for getting published:
Half is talent.
Half is luck.
Half is meeting the right people, networking.
Half is rewriting and rewriting and rewriting.
Half is perseverance.

Yes, I know, that's too many halves. You've got all that character built up from being rejected. You've got more than enough halves to go around.
Helen Ginger is a freelance editor, book consultant, blogger, and writer. She teaches public speaking as well as writing and marketing workshops. In addition, her free ezine, Doing It Write, which goes out to subscribers around the globe, is now in its eleventh year of publication. You can follow Helen on Twitter or catch her on February 6th at Story Circle Network’s national conference, Stories from the Heart V, where she’ll be moderating the panel on “Getting Published.”

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  1. Your analysis makes me want to jump off a bridge :(

    I need Disney-like stories about easy it is to get published and become a huge success ;)

  2. Aman, Helen. This is so spot on. And so what I needed to hear. I was not writing anything new because of some of these things. Thanks fort the reminders.

  3. That made me feel a whole lot better! If I send my work off I won't be too disheartened if it is rejected, or at least I'll try not to be. After all we don't all like to read the same things..... My friend gave me a book to read recently. It is by Daneielle Steel, a very popular authoress. I have tried to read it because my friend loved it so and recommended it, but I really don't like it. I will probably have to give up on it and hope she doesn't want to discuss the story...! So, I suppose it would be with my writing, some will like it, some will not.
    Good advice Helen, thank you.
    Blessings, Star

  4. I love all those halves. Nice way to silence my inner mathematician and stop me from trying to calculate probabilities.

  5. Thanks for the push to keep on going!

  6. All so true, Helen. When I was very young and vulnerable, a mean lady critiqued my work at a weekend workshop and left my ego and my confidence in a puddle on the floor. It was months before I wrote anything new, and years before I dared submit my work. Now my old crocodile skin serves me well. My favorite response? "Whatever."

  7. Indeed why do we do it? Why? Because we cannot stop. Here's how I deal with rejection: I made a Rejection Box-to pay myself for rejections!

    Query Rejected? $5
    Partial Rejected? $10
    Full Rejected? $20

    But now I believe I will add another category.

    Contest Fail? $1 (cause I pay to enter them)

    At the end of the year? A wonderful shopping spree for having TRIED and failed. The road to success is paved with stones of failure.


  8. I LOVE Christine's idea! I am going to start doing this ASAP.

  9. Great inspirational piece, Helen. I'll pick up my "halves" and get over the latest agent turn-down. I've started shying away from thinking in terms of rejection as that is so harsh. "Get out of my life your horrid piece of writing." A turn-down is so much easier to take. "Not tonight, dear, I have a headache." That means there is always hope for tomorrow.

  10. Helen,

    I love your math—all those halves are important.

    Lillie Ammann
    A Writer's Words, An Editor's Eye

  11. Christine, I love your way of rewarding yourself for trying. Great idea.

  12. Everything you said is so true. It is tough to stick it out in this business, and we all need this type of encouragement at one time or another to keep chugging away at it. If we didn't love the writing, we probably wouldn't grow such thick skins.

  13. Sometimes it's hard to be tough enough, but you've got to if you want to succeed as an author.

    Rejections are a learning experience.

    Morgan Mandel

  14. I don't mind rejection letters. What I do mind are those form rejection letters, that don't tell me why it was rejected. It makes me feel like no one actually read what I sent them. I want to improve my writing, but if you don't tell me what I did wrong, how can I do that?


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