Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A to Z of Things Writers Should Know About Writing: Rejection

Hi all! Welcome back to another installment of A to Z of Things Writers Should Know About Writing. Today I'm writing about something that all writers must get used to.


It's totally a thing.

And it can be devastating. I mean, we create our stories. We spend weeks, months -- even years -- to write them, edit them and polish them until they're practically begging to be published. Or so we think.

Until we keep hearing the same thing again and again: No.





Oh, these "no's" take a million different forms when we're querying. Anything from a form rejection (which can and has come in in less than a minute from sending) to personalized rejections that can and do make us feel like we missed it by a tiny fraction -- which might be worse than a form rejection.

Even when we finally get a yes and get published, or if we decided to go the self-publishing way, there is still rejection to be found.

Readers might not like our stories. After everything we went through to put a story before them, they might simply not like it. And that really hurts. Arguably, even more than the agent and publisher rejection.

Readers are, after all, the reason why we publish. (Not why we write, mind you, but publishing's another animal entirely.)

We publish because we want people to read our work. More than that, we want people to like our work. And getting a "no" in any form (even if it really wasn't meant that way), it hurts.

So what do we do? People always speak about writers needing thick skins. But as I thought of this post, I realized that a thick skin really isn't the thing. See, when we write, we actually revealed our souls in our writing. Our stories are part of us. So having them rejected in any way just won't stop stinging any more than a slap to a face would.

No. I think we really just learn how to breathe through the pain. We feel it. We learn how to deal with it.

And you can learn how to do it too. Start by accepting critiques on your work without letting yourself feel personally insulted. Cultivate a habit of learning what you can and knowing when a rejection means something.

Yeah, I know that this might sound stupid, but it really isn't. Really, it comes down to realizing that, although our stories are personal, differing opinions about those stories really aren't. It might feel that every person who doesn't like our story that much is really insulting us as much as it.

That's just not true. Honestly, I don't even think the reader ever thinks of the writer when he/she reads. Which is how it should be.

So learn to realize that although the story is part of you, the rejection isn't aimed at you. You'll be a much better writer that way.

Anyone want to share war stories from querying/publishing trenches? Got tips?


  1. This is quite a useful post, I like the advice you offer here. I guess we never think of the reader rejection. Maybe because it is the most painful, and harder to move on from. But it probably is more valid than the agent rejection in terms of gleaning stuff to improve on, as long as they didn't just totally slate your book.

  2. This is a great post to prepare many writers just starting out what to expect. I wish I could've read this when I was younger. I do feel that the rejections I've received have given me thicker skin and although they still sting, I can handle them better than I used to.

  3. I think having a thick skin is appropriate. You cannot let the rejections, or the bad reviews once you're published, get to you.

    It's similar to sports. You can practice and train and try out for the team. You might make it and you might get cut. Even if you make the team, you might sit the bench. Or, if you get your chance on the field, you might not meet expectations.

    What can you do? Train (or study and write) harder, improve skills and go back at it. The only other viable option would seem to be to give up and try something else.

  4. I don't think it's reasonable to aspect all readers to like your story. If you think it is, try it. Walk into your local bookstore and library and try to read every book on the shelf. I think you'll soon discover that it's not possible. So instead of wanting every reader or every publisher to say 'yes' to my story I've rephrased that. Now I want the reader or publisher who will truly appreciate my story to say yes to it.

  5. I recently read somewhere that you aren't a product of your stories, your stories are a product of you. I feel like as writers we get super invested in our stories, and it's hard to realize that they're independent of us. It's nothing personal, it's really the story's faults.

  6. Breathing through the pain is perhaps the most beautiful (and most accurate) way that I've heard it put. I spent many years refusing to show my writing to anyone and only dreamed of querying because I feared rejection so badly. Luckily, I've been able to overcome that in recent years, and it's definitely an art of learning how to handle that rejection.

  7. Great post Misha.

    When ever I read a review, I remind myself 'you can't please everyone' and accept that while some will love the world and characters I create, others will find is lacking. In an ideal world, everyone would love it and want to read everything I write, but that will only ever happen in my imagination. :(

  8. I have no war stories, but your words are encouraging, nonetheless.

  9. Even Jane Yolen still gets rejections. Just cause your a famous author doesn't mean everything you write is going to get published.

    Besides, we simply cannot please EVERYbody ALL of the time.

  10. That is a good distinction to make. I like to think of publishing --and querying too ---as a form of letting go of a story. Once you release it into the world it isn't yours anymore. It belongs to your readers and they can do whatever they like with it. That includes disliking it.

  11. I totally agree with Taryn on reader rejection: once your story is out there it stops being yours and becomes the readers'. They might not like it, or they might like it but not at all get out of it what you'd planned. It's hard to let go of something so personal but it has to be done.

  12. I like the breathing through the pain. Deep breathing in itself is a helpful tool. My skin has not thickened as much as I hoped. I can take the less than glowing reviews, it's the down-right nasty ones that get me.

    Maybe I'm too new to the writing business. Still plugging along though...

    I love the fact J. K. Rowling received 9 rejections before the Harry Potter series came to life:)

    Enjoyed your post!

  13. Nick, sometimes I think people don't think of reader rejection because people forget that readers all have their own tastes.

    I hope that this post does help new writers, Chrys, but sometimes I think the only thing that'll help them is going through it.

    That's true, Terry. The thing we're doing (like writing) must be worth the heartache of rejection or the frustration of not doing as well as we'd wanted. If we don't love it enough to do it again even when things don't work out, it might be the case that we should be doing something else.

    Leanne, I love the way you've explained your goal. I see it the same way. To get to my readers, I have to get the book in front of people who might not be my audience, so I might as well just accept that I'll be getting a bunch of "no's".

    Madeline, that's true. Although the stories come from deep within us, they're never as perfect as we'd like to believe. And sometimes, it's not even a fault that a reader doesn't like. Some readers hate some things that other readers love.

    Hi Caitlin! Yeah I agree. Learning to handle rejection is definitely an art.

    Shah, I loved Finding Esta, though. :-)

    Thanks, Loni.

    Bish I agree. Sometimes, I think famous writers have it tougher than us non-famous ones. They have a million completely unrealistic expectations to satisfy.

    Taryn, that's a great way of looking at it. I've been watching some fandoms from the sidelines. And boy, do they take stories and run with them. I just hope that one day, people want to interact with my stories like that.

    Celine, that's true. Letting go is the sacrifice we must make in order to share our stories.

    Terry, I try to keep myself reminded that no one wins from reacting to a bad review. But yeah, it does hurt.


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