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Accepting Rejection



If you want to be a published writer, you must find a way to get your head around the fact that you will be rejected, likely many, many times. Every successful writer has found a way to accept and deal with rejection. You must find yours.
My method vacillates between two positions. The first is much like this quote from Poisonwood Bible author Barbara Kingsolver, “This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it ‘to the editor who can appreciate my work’ and it has simply come back stamped ‘Not at this address’. Just keep looking for the right address.”
Sometimes the work is fine, it was the publisher or the market or the contest that was not for it. They didn’t match. They were not right for each other. If this is the case, I immediately go back to looking for a publisher who is the right match for my book. It’s a disappointment, but not the end of the world. The list of agents and publishers is very long, as you likely know already having purchased your copy of The Writer’s Handbook.
On the other hand, sometimes I get a rejection and I think, “Okay Book- you have a problem.” As Canadian author Margaret Atwood said, “A ratio of failures is built into the process of writing. The wastebasket has evolved for a reason.”
Sometimes what you wrote is crap, or at least seriously flawed. I have two complete 70,000 + word novels that fit this category. They have tried their best out there in submission land, but they have serious flaws that my endless attempts at fixing have not managed to mend. They are in the proverbial wastebasket.
There are people who are so afraid of rejection they can’t move forward. I know a writer who writes beautifully. Her prose is like poetry. I’ve read her work and I’ve gasped at the freshness of it. But she never sends anything out. She got a rejection (a single rejection) for a novel and that was the end of it. She writes, and that’s it. She can’t take that next step.
One thing I always tell myself is that every novel on average gets 16 rejections. I read that somewhere and it has stuck in my head. So each rejection I get for a book deducts from that 16. It makes me feel a bit like I’m climbing some sort of ladder with rungs made out of rejections and at the top is my prize- an acceptance.
You’ve put your heart into that book; the rejection feels so personal and close to the bone. The closer it cuts, the quicker you must throw that rejection in the bin, delete it from your inbox, and get that manuscript back out there. I’ve never understood people who keep rejections. I keep track of them so I don’t resubmit to the same publisher (it can happen- believe me), but I don’t hang them up on the wall or store them stabbed on a nail as Stephen King did. But if it works for you- do it, it’s just not my way.
I’ve found the best way for me to keep rejection at arm’s length is to have many pots on the stove. As I write this, I have a book and a story at two different contests, I’m waiting for a book to come out in three months, and I have three books accepted and waiting for contracts to be signed. In this way, if I lose a contest or get a book rejected, I can accept that rejection because I have so many things to look forward to. That’s my way of coping. If you intend to be a success at this writing business you will need to find your own way.