Rejection: A thorn by any other name still stings…


I don’t care who you are, rejection hurts. But as writers, we all experience it, so it behooves us to learn to deal with it.

It’s tempting to pitch a fit, sulk, or even threaten to quit writing altogether. But when we take a look at these responses, it’s clear they are self-sabotaging…and ultimately ego driven.

This is what I’ve learned about rejection. It’s not about me. It’s about the needs of the publisher, or timing, or the quality of the writing – but it’s never about me, the author (unless I’ve made such an @$$ of myself that no one wants to work with me, no matter how brilliantly I write. But you’re too professional for that!)

Some factors that lead to rejection are out of our control. If a publisher just signed a contract for a story involving a blind golfer, and my story is about a blind golfer, it’s unlikely they’ll buy mine, even if it’s more brilliantly written. Or the editor hates stories about blind golfers. Or the editor just got sued by a blind golfer. Or… Well, you get the idea. None of these are within our control, so we cannot take the rejection personally, even when it’s unlikely we’ll ever find out the underlying why.

The other two reasons are within our control. Maybe I’ve pitched my epic poem about a blind golfer to a house that doesn’t publish poetry. Do your homework. Use Writer’s Digest or other resources to see what a specific publisher is looking for. Read your target publisher, then tweak your work to fit their needs and style.

Finally, maybe the quality of the work is an issue. (Ouch, again!) I look back on my initial submissions and cringe at the amateurish mistakes I made. Yet, at the time, I thought my work was brilliant! We all need to continually work on improving our craft, no matter our level of experience. Read books on craft. Check your local library. Take online classes, get involved in the CWG forums, the CWG online conference, or a writing group. Volunteer to judge contests. (That’s a real eye-opener, a glimpse into an editor’s life.) Find or create a critique group; it’s much easier to see someone else’s blunders, and eventually you’ll learn to recognize and fix those weaknesses in your own work.

If you’ve done all those things and still get rejected, what next? Bounce back. Is there is a lesson in a particular rejection? Learn it. Don’t give up. Keep writing. Keep submitting – but don’t beat a dead horse. If a project doesn’t sell, either re-work it or move on. Keep a positive attitude. Thomas Edison invented the light bulb on his 1000th try. He did not view the first 999 attempts as failures, rather as the 999 ways to not make a light bulb. Each step was necessary for his eventual success. Each rejection we receive brings us one step closer to our success.

What are your favorite ways to deal with rejection? How do you turn rejection into a positive element in your writing life?

About Leslie Lynch

Leslie Lynch writes women's fiction, giving voice to characters who struggle to find healing for their brokenness – and discover unconventional solutions to life’s unexpected twists. She is an occasional contributor to the Archdiocese of Indianapolis’s weekly paper, The Criterion. She can be found at and is on facebook and Twitter@Leslie_Lynch_
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4 Responses to Rejection: A thorn by any other name still stings…

  1. Leslie Lynch says:

    As I re-read my own post this morning, I realized I left out the most important point of all, for faith based writers. Which is: Keeping our focus on our purpose in life (being Christ centered and other oriented) helps keep rejection in perspective. It’s a tool, best used for learning and discerning our next step – not an obstacle.

  2. Leslie — this is so true!

    As I write and submit, I *think* I’m getting the right work to the right publishers. But I remind myself: The goal is not my amazing fame and commercial success. It’s to share a message. If God wants that message shared some other way, He’ll work it out. I do my end of the job, leave the rest to His discretion.