There is nothing worse than a hard kick in the guts. That’s generally what rejection feels like.
After working hard writing, drafting and editing your masterpiece, and especially after having the courage to submit it to an agent or publisher, you get the summary rejection. And it does deflate you, no matter how experienced a writer you are.
There is a misconception that rejections represent failure. But while rejections do hurt – we feel they do because we automatically interpret a rejection as a personal rejection, when in fact it is nothing of the sort – they should be treated as a positive rather than the epitome of failure.
Firstly, rejections happen for many reasons, not just the obvious “my story must be rubbish, that’s why it was rejected”. For instance, there are other reasons:-
- Not right for the target market
- Agents/publishers are not taking on new authors for the moment
- Not what the agent/publisher is looking for right now
- Needs more work/editing on plot/storyline
- Not enough characterisation – characters were not strong enough
- Implausible plot
- The story wasn’t quite strong enough.
- The quality of writing is lacking, and needs more work.
The reasons for rejection will either make you throw your manuscript into the nearest corner while you retreat to your cave to sulk, or it will make you sit up, take notice and work towards improvement by taking the feedback given to you and reworking your story.
Rejections are a valuable way for you to understand the strengths and weaknesses in your writing, and you as a writer, so you should take the time process the rejection and the reasons why. Once it is processed, you can dust yourself off and get on with improving the story. There is no need to give up.
Any notes from an editor will help you see where improvements can be made – on the whole they tend to be very constructive. Things like grammar, better sentence structures, more characterisation and more “showing” rather than “telling” are staples of many rejections. And with a bit of thought and hard work, these things are easily improved.
You may be lucky to get a more in depth response from an editor, detailing problem areas such a dialogue or lack of description. Or they may have spotted much bigger problem areas such as plot flaws or far-fetched storyline.
As the writer, you should take the comments on board and go back to your work with an objective eye to see how right they are. Are there really plot flaws? Is the storyline really far-fetched? If so, work harder to improve them.
Really good, constructive rejections won’t just highlight those shady areas that could be made better; they also tell you the positive points, the things that do work. Getting things right is what we all want, and to receive that affirmation makes you feel better, but it also motivates us become better writers, who write quality stories.
Rejections are not the end of the world (only for about a day, maybe), before the clouds of doom clear and we see things differently. The realisation that, actually, your story does need to be re-worked.
Essentially, rejections are a good thing, they make us better writers. They tell us that we have to do better; they tell us where we’ve gone awry. They are our headmistresses, lurking in the classroom, making sure we do well.
- They highlight strengths and weaknesses in our writing
- They pick out flaws in our writing
- They challenge the often inflated opinions we have of ourselves as writers, and bring us down a peg or two.
- They highlight various areas for improvement
- Some are quite constructive, highlighting our good points
- They are not about failure, but about putting in more work.
With the exception of those who choose to self-publish (and thus bypass the rejection process), every writer has experienced rejection. I could paper a wall with all my rejections. But without those rejections, I would not have become published.
Love them or loathe them, rejections are more valuable than writers realise.
Next week: Top writing tips.