The Positive Side of Rejection

I bet a few eyebrows jumped up at reading the title of this post. In fact, right now people are crossing their arms and expelling a bitter laugh or two as they recall the soul-eating, BP-oil-spill darkness that accompanied their last rejection. Something positive? What, it came in an email so no trees had to die to deliver it? Come on, Angela, get real.

Okay, first of all, saving trees is a good thing. :) But that's not what I mean. All rejections, paper or otherwise, have a positive side.

1) A rejection means you're in the game.

Lots of people talk about getting a novel published...someday. They cite the dream of holding a book in their hands (or on kindle) that will touch other people's lives. Well, talk is cheap. You, my friend, are not content with talking--you are a DOER. Getting an R means you worked your ass off to learn to write well and then took the leap to submit...something that should be celebrated!

2) A rejection means you believe in yourself and your work.

Unless you're a masochist, a rejection's cheese-grater-on-brain feeling isn't something one braves just for giggles. Everyone in this business knows publication is not for the faint of heart. When on submission, you lay yourself bare and say, "This is my work. I believe in it, and so should you." The fact that you are willing to take the rejection hit SHOWS how much passion you have. How many other people can say they feel passion for their jobs?

3) A rejection is an opportunity to learn.

Each rejection, even a form, is a chance to re-evaluate what you're presenting. Look at the materials sent to this agent or editor and put yourself in their shoes. Why did they pass on this? Is the query streamlined and voice-y? Does it contain a compelling hook? Is the writing solid in the sample you sent along--strong characterization, interesting premise, hooks to inspire the reader to keep reading through those first pages? Or are you relying on description or nice writing to pull them in and keep them going until you get to the good part on page 10?

Let's say you decide the query is solid and the writing sample's a shining monument to awesome. Ask yourself then if you targeted this person effectively. How much research did you do before hitting send? How well did you know their interests, their recent projects and authors' work? Did you see they take YA in a forum somewhere and so fired off a query, without checking current websites/blogs/interviews to really understand what projects they want most?

4) A rejection is a challenge to do better.

Writers are fighters. If we weren't, we'd choose some other profession with friendlier odds. Take the frustration over a rejection and challenge yourself to prove the Rejecter wrong. Turn a critical, honest eye to the material, evaluate, and PAY ATTENTION. Is there an above question that makes you feel a momentary flutter of doubt? If there is, chances are this is an area to focus on before sending your work out again. Let the fire of wanting to prove yourself be the motivation to strive for your very best. Don't settle for 'feeling pretty good about' any aspect of your work or query. Be satisfied only when you feel you have done everything in your power to ensure success.

Final thoughts

Rejections come with the territory, so try not to take them personally. Quality work and careful targeting are key, but it still comes down to a personal preference, something out of the writer's control. Submission is like marriage, and it takes time to find the right person who will fall in love with your work.

Make it your goal to feel confident about your work and the rest will take care of itself!

38 comments:

middle grade ninja said...

Fantastic post. This is exactly the way we should view rejection. Thanks for sharing and let's all stay positive.

Andrea Mack said...

Excellent points, Angela. Getting rejected is part of the process. Each one shows you are working towards your goal, improving your writing and meeting that challenge. I'm going to have to print out this post and stick it up on my writing bulletin board!

Corey Schwartz said...

Great post, Angela!

I was looking up reviews of The Writer's Book of Hope by Ralph Keyes, and I found this interesting analogy from Ron Atkins on Amazon:

Years ago I had a basketball coach who taught "if you're not getting at least four fouls in a game, you're not playing defense." He didn't like fouls, but his point was, in the process of playing the game aggressively, fouls are going to happen. Fouls are not necessarily indicators of defeat, they are indicators of effort. Likewise, Keyes' approach to rejection is that all successful writers deal with rejection.

Renae said...

Great post. Though no one in their right mind wants to get rejected...it is a process and each rejection leads us closer to our dream agent.

Marcia said...

I think a lot of work goes out that writers "feel pretty good about." Good reminder that that's not enough.

ElegantSnobbery said...

Absolutely fantastic, Angela!! All very true points! I look forward to my first rejection - not as much as I look forward to my acceptance letter, obviously, but I just can't wait to be done with my book and ready to send it out in the the big bad world!!

Eli Ross, Writer said...

So true, but often so hard to remember. Thanks for the gentle nudge. I plan to print it to post above my computer, as inspiration, with critical lines highlighted!

Matthew Rush said...

You make an EXCELLENT point here. I was crushed at first by rejections but now I think of them as a badge of honor. If I'm still getting rejected it means I still believe in myself.
If you don't, or if you give up, that's the only way to guarantee you'll fail.

If you're doing it right you'll achieve a kind of Zen.

Of course that's only the first step. Publishing is so subjective that you can't assume you're doing anything wrong but after a while if you have the wisdom and strength to accept the possibility of change it can make all the difference ...

Thanks Angela!

Melissa Gill said...

Oh Angela, you're singing my song.

I just got a rejection that was so nice and hopeful that I almost felt bad about consoling myself with a pint of pistachio ice cream.

I've always led a rejection averse live and I have a lot of nothing to show for it. But writing has forced me to deal with rejection in a more healthy way. Hopefully this will touch all area of my life.

Bluestocking said...

Really want I needed to hear right now. Recasting a rejection as a challenge for your next submission is a great strategy. Thanks!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Landing a rejection on my full was the best thing that could have happened to my wip. That and the feedback (as little as it was) that the agent gave me. She suggested I hone my skill some more, so I spent months doing that and heavily editing the novel. And now, thank's to a brilliant critter, the story is better than it's ever been--and very different to the original version.

Of course, once I've finished the revisions (and my beta readers have read it), I have to find the courage to query it again. But when the time is right, I know I'll be ready to jump into the game again. It helps, though, that I have two new stories dying to be written. :)

Have a great trip, Angela. :D

Botanist said...

Wonderful thoughts, Angela.

If I can suggest another positive to add to the list without appearing too presumptuous :-) ...

A rejection is a battle scar, to be displayed proudly to proclaim to the world "I am a writer". I didn't feel entitled to lay claim to that title in polite company until my first rejection.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Excellent advice. I should put this list somewhere handy when I finally query.

Merc said...

Great post, Angela! :D

Shannon O'Donnell said...

What a wonderful and uplifting post, Angela! I think we all need to hear stuff like this more often - at least I do. Thanks for the encouragement. :-)

Karin said...

I do struggle with rejections. I guess until you get accepted you see your work as "not good enough!"
Wonderful post. It's nice to know that others are so positive and you showed us all how to look at something most find rejecting, as something important and good.

Jan Markley said...

Great Post Angela. I totally agree, if you're not getting rejected you're not in the game. You're probably sitting at home watching re-runs of Sienfeld episodes (not that there's anything wrong with that). ;-j

Bradmouth said...

I'll try and keep these in mind. Need some motivation to start a third manny. Perhaps I should hire someone to put a gun to my head.

Works for Stephen King, I think.

theBrad (verla tag)
bradmouth.com

Vegetarian Cannibal said...

Rejections only bother me when the editor/publisher is rude. I actually had someone say my short story "sucked"! *shock* Regardless if it sucked or not, a professional publishing press should NEVER say that to their submitters.

That same story he said that "sucked" later got published somewhere else. So boo on them! :D

Ann Finkelstein said...

I'll read this again, the next time I get rejected. Thanks, Angela.

Marthz Ramirez said...

Awesome post, Angela! Def will be sharing this one:)
Thanks for posting.

Henya said...

Yes...a great way to view rejection. Love this post.

Sheryl Gwyther said...

Brilliant post, Angela. Very uplifting! I'm going to print it out and stick it up on my whiteboard to read when the rejections come in. Thank you! :)

kathrynjankowski said...

Great perspective, Angela! Thanks.

Taryn Kincaid said...

I love this, as you already know, and with your permission, I'm stealing it for my HVRWA chapter newsletter!

Most of us have been there, done that, and it bears repeating. Some of my writing pals are going through particularly hard times right now, and I'm hoping this will, if not exactly lift their spirits, at least let them focus their perspective.

Thanks again!

CJ Barbre said...

Writers are fighters, despite our shy, retiring ways, at least here in the backcountry. Thanks for the great post Angela. I'm happy to be a new subscriber.

Deb Salisbury said...

Love your POV, Angela!

Heather said...

Excellent points! I'm especially fond of #3 and #4. There is always something we can learn and always ways to improve. Each rejection is just fuel to the fire for me.

Robin Mellom said...

Aww, I love this. Excellent post!!! :-)

Mikki said...

I can add a few suggestions for the rejections, Angela.
1. Crinkle them up into balls for the puppy to chase and tear up. It saves wear and tear on furniture and shoes.

2. Take them on your dog walks to use as potty papers. Saves the money you would spend at the pet store for the colorful poop baggies.

3. Paper the guest room with them, particularly before those you'd prefer to not come, arrive. They'll be so discouraged by reading all of them, they won't want to stay for long in the home of such a loser.

4. Use them to light up the barbeque, or the gas lamps when the electricity goes out.

5. Clip them with clothes pins to the bars of your parrot's cage. They love to shred them, particularly if you turn a fan on so they flutter. ( My parrots can't wait until I get another one.)

Just some ideas to relieve that old file drawer of some of its burden. :)

Angela said...

I have, unfortunatelly, learned more from rejection than I have from success.

Chelle Cordero said...

Terrific post! - Like the NY Lottery ads say, "You gotta be in it to win it" - so if you've sent out a query/submission, even if it gets rejected, you are that much closer to the ultimate prize, publication.
~Chelle
http://ChelleCordero.com

Holly Ruggiero, Southpaw said...

That's the perfect perspective. Rejection is tough but you can’t be rejected if you never put yourself out there (which means you’ll never be accepted either).

out of the wordwork said...

Great post! The power of positive thinking can not be underestimated. Way to turn around what all writers think of as a negative thing to a positive one. YAY!
Nelsa

Angela Ackerman said...

WOW! Great to see this post resonates with so many people. Rejection is a really tough part of this business, but I really do think that all things have positives to them, and everything that happens to us, good or bad is just another opportunity to learn.

Keep your chin up and those shoulders straight, because as others have said, rejection is the badge of the writer. Wear it with pride!

Angela

Posey said...

Well said. :)

Julie Musil said...

Angela, this is the awesomest post EVER! What a positive spin on the yucky part of writing. My favorite? "you're in the game"

Melissa said...

Seeing as how I received a rejection for a requested full today, I'm feeling a little pouty. But I am definitely of the I'll-show-you and shaking-fist-in-air mindset.

I can't quit. I just can't.

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