Nathan Bransford, Author


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

How Do You Deal With Rejections?

Next up in HTRPITFONBTTLOABTW (or Negativity Week if you're into that whole brevity thing): dealing with rejection.

Everyone in this business has to face rejections. A lot. Everyone talks about how (insert bestseller here) was passed on 27 thousand million times before it became a bestseller, so you know even bestselling authors face it.

So how do you deal with it? How do you move on? What helps?

Any favorite strategies to share with your fellow writers?






227 comments:

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Arjun said...

A writer needs an enormously thick skin and needs to believe in his/her work. Writing is an act of arrogance and a writer needs a healthy amount of it in this game. Arrogance with a chaser of humility.

Sherry Ficklin said...

I've kept a list of helpful rejections I've gotten. The criticisms have helped make my novel that much better. Those people will all get nice than you cards someday!

Tiffany Schmidt said...

I’ve got a multi-part plan.
Step 1 : (Grieving) Go for a run, call a friend, or eat some chocolate

Step 2: (Inspiration) Read something wonderful and reflect on why it’s wonderful

Step 3: (Re-dedication) Get back to work & figure out how I can improve my piece

(sometimes step 1 needs to be revisited…)

Julie Poplawski said...

I read fan messages and try to stay really high level while analyzing the criticism specifically. If I can look at the situation from 10,000 ft. and decide what I can take to make ME stronger I feel really productive. Then ditch the bad feelings and go out for some exercise and move ON!

Michael Pickett said...

Throw the letter away -- that is, if it's just a generic rejection. If it has personalized critique, you obviously should read that and think seriously about its merits. Then, keep writing and submitting. That's the only remedy I've found for the rejection blues.

Steven Cordero said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steven Cordero said...

At first I used to get really depressed, and that had a serious negative impact on my life. Now, I get angry and I use that anger to have an excellent workout running on the treadmill or weight training. I feel refreshed after and go on with my day. I don't know how this will all pan out, but I'm getting a great body because of it. ;)

Luc2 said...

I'll chase the ball down, dribble back into the key and make a running hookshot. Impossible to block.

In other words: I lower my head and send it out again, to another market.

Anonymous said...

A numbing heat burns through something similiar to right before you pass out.I get depressed for a little while, then I try to figure out what to improve. Sometimes I come in from a completely different angle. The problem with this is I really don't know if there was something wrong with my approach or it was simply not the person's cup of tea.

sunna said...

Well, there are five bars within walking distance, so I'm pretty much set.

--Outside of that, and less expensively for my wallet and my liver, I give myself an hour or so to sulk, and then I write a scene or two. Nothing like the determination to prove something to get you motivated.

After that I feel better, and I can read over any criticism that came with the R with enough objectivity to use it and move on.

Writer from Hell said...

I believe the one rejecting must feel awful especially with a new author. May be that's why people are kind and polite in their response. So don't take it personally.

There is no choice but to move on. Sometimes I wish I could ask a person why? but I try to assess that for myself, by reflecting on whether or not I made any goofs or gaffs or just a misfit; I usually think its the former.

I handle it well may be coz I always assume oh he must feel bad doing it to me.

But you know, learn, find new tracks, new doors.. life in all its colours. But ya I do grieve for a while before I feel better and I never fight that phase and make no attempts at being brave or matured..

I finally pull myself up by reading words from people from past that I admire or about people who have coped well or meet new interesting people about me etc. And surely reading funny wise blogs always cheers me up!

Hamish MacDonald said...

Ultimately, I stopped doing what doesn't work -- namely looking for approval or adoption by commercial businesses.

Starting my own press has made the work be about my imagination, the story, and entertaining readers. It's commercial death, but it's been a helluva lot more fun.

Thanks very much for your kind and positive posts of late. This is an extremely rare gesture. I've attended events where agents made fun of query letters in front of an audience of writers, and #queryfail was another instance of this mean-spirited "help". Thank you for not participating, but contributing something better to the creative community.

David said...

Two ways:

Tears.

Beers.

Abby said...

I've yet to experience rejection, at least in connection to my writing. That's only because I haven't submitted anything yet.

On a very positive note - I wrote the last words of my MS last night. I've been procrastinating writing the ending for over a month, because I didn't know how to do it. Then, as I was writing, I stopped and realized I'd just written it without even thinking about it. Yea!

Now for some serious polishing. Then we'll see how I deal with rejection. Scary!

Colorado Writer said...

Rejection doesn't bug me. I keep writing, keep submitting, go to conferences, read a lot of books in my genre, learn from mistakes, read Bird by Bird and First Five Pages, rework, revise, start something new. Rinse and repeat.

And eat copious amounts of chocolate, Red Vines, and Chex Mix.

Tyler said...

After the initial, "Aw, dangit," I just tell myself that this no means I'm one step closer to a yes.

Of course, the severity of my "Aw, dangit" depends on who I submitted to. If it's someone I just did some research on, it's easy to brush off. But if it's someone I met at a conference or had any other factor that might be leaning it in favor, the no is a little more crushing.

Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist! said...

Just keep going, duh.

Carmen Shirkey said...

I have kept all of my rejection letters from agents, so that one day, when I get that "yes" that I know is coming (Janet Evanovich says she has CRATES of them, and look at her success) I can have a rejection to approval party. :)

Bradley Robb said...

First - awesome Lebowski reference.

As for the question at hand, I'm a vet. If my time in Iraq taught me anything, it's that I can compartmentalize as much as I need to in order to get the job done. If it taught me anything else, it's don't vent in public.

So, I do what I can. I take the lessons doled to me like apathetic punches, see what I can gain from them, hitch my thumbs under my ruck straps, and carry on.

Sharon A. Lavy said...

Save them

Josephine Damian said...

*waves to my buddy Luc2*

Every rejection puts you closer to acceptance - one by one you eliminate all the "Mr. Wrongs" till you narrow the field down to "Mr. Right."

When you get how subjective this whole preocess is and how it's much more a matter of one person's taste as opposed to actual quality or merit, you'll stop being hurt by rejection.

The only response to rejection (in publishing as well as romance is): NEXT!

Ulysses said...

My reaction to rejection is here.

The Reader's Digest version is: Rejection is a default state.
1) Say "Ow," and get over it.
2) Send your work out again.
3) Write something else.

Writer from Hell said...

Then there's always the yoga class, spiritual discussions with the trainer, belly dancing, bicycling, walking, loafing about, spending time with my kid and kat, daydreaming etc. my feel good list is endless.

Jen said...

The first one stung because I got it only sixteen hours after I sent the query, but after that they didn't really bug me much. Now when I get one I just shrug it off and go send out another one.

Rick Daley said...

How do I deal with rejections?

I stalk her.

Just kidding, of course. You can go back to the station now, officer.

I deal with rejections politely and professionally. Most of the time this means I do nothing to reply, which is really easy. In some cases I will reply asking for a clarification if I received feedback, but this would relate to a manuscript rejection, not a query rejection.

The tough part is trying to find out what to learn from the experience.

Should I do a better job selecting an agent to query? Should I work on my query letter? Should I work on my manuscript? Or all of the above...

And if that doesn't work, there's always alcohol and/or the loving embrace of my wife, who knows in her heart that my novel rocks.

Vieva said...

Video games.

Yes, I'm a video game junkie. Currently I dismember pirates.

I might not get instant gratification from my letters, but there's something very satisfying about pirate smitification.

Then, y'know, write more etc. But first? PIRATES!

Anonymous said...

Oddly enough, thanks to the internet, knowing how many other writers are facing the same "great mountain" of rejection reminds me I'm not alone. Rejection is part of being in the "club" with those that actually try instead of just think about it. I know I'm not the only writer that has to deal with this aspect of trying to get published.

Before I began to submit my work I read A LOT of blogs and message boards to see what might be ahead for me. So I already knew that rejection was the valley I would have to walk and(sometimes)crawl through before I'd see my work in print.

That said...I get breiefly dissappointed but I don't lose heart and that's the most important thing.

Elizabeth Cota said...

For me it's kind of a business strategy. A rejection is going to happen, so like everyone else, snap my fingers *ah shucks* and move on. If comments come back with it, look into them.

In the meantime, keep writing, b/c more lessons are likely to be learned there.

Mechelle Avey said...

I agree with Arjun. Aspiring to be published requires thick skin and confidence. I don't have that in spades, not for agents and editors. I self-published. I'm happy. I've made a little money, been invited to speak at a few conferences, and I've learned so much more about publishing than I would have learned had I not presented my writing to those whose rejection really counts -- the readers.

Likari said...

The best rejection I ever got was also the most debilitating.

A well-known, lovely agent read my full. The week she read it she sent me a few emails about how she was enjoying it.

Then I got an email saying she was going to call.

She didn't call. Being a newbie and knowing nothing, I called her.

Being a thoughtful person, she took the call. She talked to me for about 45 minutes about why she decided not to take on the book after all.

I spent the next three years tweaking that book. I love that book. I could not let it go.

I studied all the info I found online, read Miss Snark, et al., and refined my masterpiece. Changed the ending, the beginning, encased it in a whole new frame. My precious.

About a month ago, I saw a call for submissions on Samhain for a shapeshifter anthology and thought, why not? Write something short and fun and get your head out of the precious.

Thank you, Angela James!

So I spent those years polishing a toad, but learning too. This new story has a plot! I found a fantastic critique service (Anne Frasier's First Fifty Pages) and I am treating this book like a piece of business instead of a piece of my heart.

This time, when I get rejected, I won't lick my wounds for three years. I'll move on to the next agent and keep writing, having already started the next project.

Steve Fuller said...

Become angry and blame the query system, spewing bitter poison wherever I go.

Craven said...

I'm okay with it. Right now I'm in the learning phase, and a rejection is communication on the work, and my ability to date.

On my first submitted work, I received requests for more material. That told me I wasn't horrible, although that first novel had problems.

The rejections I love are when the agent has taken the time to give a brief comment. As newbies, we are lost in the dark. A rejection is a clue - you're not there yet, but you don't know why. A comment is a flashlight. I know agents are busy people, and critiques, even one-liners, are not part of the job. But when a writer gets one, it's huge. It beats floundering about wondering what is it about my writing that sucks. What do I need to fix?

Blogs like this one are a help too. Thanks Nathan.

Justus M. Bowman said...

When I receive a rejection from an agent, I assume it's because my writing isn't ready for publication.

Anonymous said...

I go through the submission process with a thick skin and a soft heart.

Morgan

Aubrey said...

CHOCOLATE! Then you just keep going.

I think the important thing is to learn from it and move on. I love the agents that have the time and are able to give a reason (I realize this is not always feasable!) but it helps authors edit and fix the things that might have been stopping representation for the next query.

Carly Tuma said...

I just tell myself that rejections are what make me a real writer. XD I try to keep a good attitude about them, tell myself that something better's out there for that piece, and celebrate the rejection.

Chocolate helps, too. :D

Rachel said...

I love rejection letters, especially the personalized ones that include constructive criticism. Ultimately, they make my writing stronger. Also, sometimes an agent or editor will reject your current work but ask you to consider them for future work. In which case, I love the letters even more!

Anonymous said...

I don't know why, but when I get a rejection, Dory from Finding Nemo pops into my head:

just keep swimming, just keep swimming . . .

Loren Eaton said...

I write something else. Those typically lengthy response times allow plenty of breathing room to do so.

Jenn Johansson said...

I think every writer needs to picture themselves like a contestant on American Idol LOL. The rejections come from the Simon's... take them with a grain of salt and if they have suggestions you should seriously consider taking them.

They also need to make sure they have a steady group of Paula's that tell them they are wonderful no matter what.

Find that balance and believe in yourself, your work, and your ability to improve--then you'll be able to handle the rejections.

Dharma Kelleher said...

I listen to a Sarah McLachlan album and let myself feel the frustration for about an hour. Then I move on.

Earlier this week, I received a rejection letter. Within two hours, I had dropped off a query at the post office.

If I run out of agents and publishers to submit to, I'll podcast the darn thing and use it to increase my following. Meanwhile, I'm hard at work revising novel# 2.

Renee Collins said...

Query rejections roll off my back at this point. Now, full rejections, those sting. I always go through a brief, "I suck" moment, after getting one.

I've discovered the best thing for me is to throw myself into work on my WiP. Writing always makes me feel better.

Merry Monteleone said...

I wallow a little in fantasies like the one Janet Reid posted about here

But mostly, you take anything you can learn from and use it, and just move on to the next thing. If you wallow in every rejection, you'll just drive yourself crazy. I like to keep the ones with some personal message or tip that can help me, just to look back at it and see if I've improved later... otherwise, toss them and move on.

Jaime Theler said...

I go clean something or run a few miles. Kick a small animal (So kidding! Don't come after me, PETA).

Then get back to work. You have to.

a story to tell said...

Everyone's writing about exercise... yech. That would only make it worse, happy little endorphins or not.

It's a part of every writer's life. Knowing that helps for some reason. Reading On Writing and knowing SK went through the myriad of rejections he did and kept writing changed my writer's worldview.

Misery loves good company.

Rebbie Macintyre said...

Stuart Kaminsky--no explanation needed--says he pictures his work as a giant conveyor belt. Sends something out--one of his screenplays, a novel, a short story etc--keeps it out for a while and if there are no bites, brings it back in, takes a look at it again in a few months to see if it needs revision. If yes, he does it and re-sends. If no, he sends it out again to another set of people. He says he has 7 to 8 projects constantly out there, going in and out on the conveyor belt.
My hero.

David Eric Tomlinson said...

I'm actually looking forward to the point where I can start getting some rejections in my in-box. It will mean the manuscript is done ;)

Eric said...

I was a magazine editor for many years, so I know something about rejections from the other side as well. There were as many reasons for rejecting something as I got submissions. Some of the time it was because the submission just plain sucked. Some of the time it wasn't quite good enough. Some of the time it was almost there but I didn't have the time to work on it. Some of the time it was great, but it wasn't right for my publication or what was planned for the coming year of my publication (and so it might have been dated by the time we got around to it.) Sometimes, as much as I hate to admit it, I rejected things, no doubt, because I happened to be in a crappy mood when I read them.

With writers I knew well, I'd let them know why it was rejected. Other writers I'd just politely say that it wasn't for me at this time.

There are a lot of reasons for being rejected, at least some of them have nothing to do with the quality of the work.

At least that's what I tell myself now that I see it from the other side. (Although I've eventually sold every book I've ever written.)

JohnO said...

1) See if rejection has anything to do to you (i.e., agent has a tragic lack of vision, or ridiculous requirement like "all first novels MUST be less than 84,000 words," etc.). If nothing to do to you, ignore. Do not lose sleep. You must knock on doors if you want one to open. That's the process.

2) If rejection is for a reason, learn from reason. Case in point, an agent who passed on one of my projects said, "this was a story in search of a plot, it felt a bit episodic to me."

And ... she was right.

Kristi said...

I'm at the beginning of the whole process so I loved reading others' posts on this. To increase my chances of someone asking for a partial (and hopefully reduce blanket rejections):

I joined writing groups (SCBWI and PPW - Pikes Peak Writers)

I voraciously read blogs like Nathan's and Janet Reid's about things like formatting query letters

I'm in the process of joining a critique group as my beta readers thus far have included my husband and sister (what, don't agents love hearing how brilliant your family thinks you are? :)) Although I swear they do give great editing suggestions!

I think having supportive people around you is so helpful. My husband is a singer/songwriter and I've watched him go through so many rejections (despite one CD review stating he had the best voice they ever heard, which shows how tough the music business is) However, he kept doing it because he loved it and now is having some amazing things happen...I truly think that perseverance is the most important thing. As other people posted here, just keep writing...just keep swimming!

A good glass of red wine never hurts either!

Anonymous said...

I've yet to submit, and so haven't as yet been rejected. But I have a strategy planned which I can't divulge. It includes a clown suit, a rubber, penut butter, and iguanas.

Fred

Martin Willoughby said...

I accept rejection as an occupational hazard.

I don't have a thick skin as I don't think that any editor is persecuting me, or has hired an assassin because I dared to send him/her a short story or MSS.

A rejection, to me, merely means that either they don't think they can get it published, or it doesn't suit their magazine/publishing house/agency.

My next one may suit them, so I try again with a different piece of work.

abouttothunder said...

My most recent rejection arrived about two weeks ago. I realized that handling rejection well is a skill that needs to be practiced, and that practice will hurt.

1. I allowed myself to feel the hurt for just a little while.

2. Music, exercise, movies, and good food are all helpful to recovery.

3. I re-read the rejection to to see if it contained anything helpful. In a way, it did. The agent didn't like the writing, but did like the character interaction. If I'm honest, I think the writing can be improved.

4. To bolster my ego, I re-read positive feedback that I have received about other pieces. I must be able to maintain my belief in my ability. If I can't do that, I'm finished.

5. I renew my commitment to learning the craft.

6. I try to make sure that I don't let daily life get in the way of writing. My creativity could so easily be crippled by fear of failure, that I must make the effort every day.

7. I file the rejection. Hopefully someday, I will have a success to file too.

Janet said...

It would be much easier to deal with rejection if there were more agents repping Christian fantasy. I can't get 25 rejections, there aren't that many to reject.

So I have Plan B, C, D, and even E.

Melissa said...

Wow! Something I'm an expert in!

I don't mind so much the query-level rejections, but when I get a partial or a full rejected I always get myself a Slurpee (no, I'm not a little kid, but I love those things) and go and buy some music on iTunes. It sets up a win/win situation, either I get some great news or I get myself a treat, either way I have something to look forward to.

Also, when I get rejected, I try to do something to cool down, usually take the dog for a nice long walk, then I can think more clearly.

Scott said...

My personal philosophy: that agent just wasn't right for me.

Hey, the philosophy works for me, as does wine and margaritas . . .

In the end, it's all about the perfect fit between writer and agent. I know quite a few of the agent blogs I follow have mentioned how an agent passed on a bestseller. It's all part of life. A frustrating part of life, but stil a part of life.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

24 hour rule: I send that puppy right back out there.

There is ALWAYS another market, another agent.

word ver: anting: Industrious little critters, ain't they?

David said...

A friend once invited me to go target shooting with him. I hit five clay pigeons in a row, and he said, "Great job! You've got talent!" I couldn't hit anything after that.

Same thing with my book. Almost at once I got an agent, and the agent sent the proposal to a Knopf editor, who liked the writing but proposed some changes. I made the changes, and it was so bad I lost the agent, too.

That was more than ten years ago--and the decade included about twenty-five queries, several different proposals, two agents and six more houses.

I should be crushed, but I'm as hopeful as ever, and I reconsider and revise whenever I get turned down. I keep thinking of what Camus said of Sisyphus in The Rebel: he considers him happy.

Gotta be.

Patrick said...

Rejection is part of the process. Why dwell on it? They're not passing judgment on you as a human being. They're not even necessarily saying your writing is bad. The "present needs" it doesn't suit may be due to length, or topic, or the backlog of similar stuff they've got, or the backlog of totally dissimilar stuff. It's not all about you.

So when I get rejected, I send it back out again somewhere else, preferably the same day. Why not, right?

Think of it this way - did you ever ask somebody out and get turned down? Did you ever go for the kiss and get the cheek? Did you ever break up with anybody? Did any of that permanently stop you from trying again?

To paraphrase Wooderson from Dazed and Confused, just keep submittin', man. S-U-B-M-I-T-T-I-N.

Nixy Valentine said...

Depends where it's coming from. Typically I cope by sending out another query or two IMMEDIATELY.

If it's an agent I had my heart set on, then I might have a little sulk, take a shower, write a pity-party letter to a writer friend, THEN I send out another query or two.

It helped when I realised one day that it's not that I WANT to be a writer, it's that I can't be anything else. Rejection is just part of the game. I do try not to get attached to agents I'm querying though. :)

Scott said...

Not much to add, really, except maybe recommending Patron for those who look to alcohol to soften the landing.

Basically, if the rejection is to a query, I'm just mildly annoyed. So far, I've not had any other kind but I've got a full MS out, so I spend a lot of my time failing to not care what happens next.

In the end, the learned response to a "no" always kicks in, but it's eventually supplanted with taking stock and getting back to it. Luckily, I have at least a dozen ideas waiting that I'm excited about, and even more fortunately, I find the writing (and learning) process wonderful, which helps.

heman (hee-man) n. 1. that which one becomes when one successfully harnesses the Power of Greystoke.

Vegas Linda Lou said...

I handle rejection by slowly shaking my head at their regrettable lack of insight. This goes for both agents and boyfriends.

Margaret Yang said...

I let my agent handle it. ;-)

Claudette said...

It helps to know I'm a talented writer. I write because I must. Nobody's opinion, at this point, can seriously influence my own.

Liz said...

You use them. If you're getting a wave of rejections with only a little interest, something's out of whack. Figure it out. Research, read, revisit everything with a freshly critical eye. Rejections are feedback. No one's trying to hurt me personally; it doesn't do me any good to take it personally. If I veer into taking it personally, I'll miss the point - it's important data. Rejections warrant my attention, but not my tears.

ash-krafton said...

Rejection is a simple statement: keep looking for an acceptance. That's all.

Mandy Hubbard said...

I focus on the next opportunity. No sooner has the rejection sunk in than I have already shifted to the next place to send it.

My book PRADA & PREJUDICE got 26 rejections and two offers. Around rejection 20, I feared my agent would run out of places to send it, so I started digging around, watching for new imprints to open up to subs, editors to be promoted from assistants, etc. I focused on the ever-moving-carrot on the stick.

It took 18 months and way too many rewrites, but it sold, didn't it? And now it comes out in June. :-)

Anonymous said...

I don't take it personally, look carefully at any personal notes or critique, and determine whether I'll use the criticism the same way I would with someone in my writing group. Then I cry a little. Then I get over it.

nomadshan said...

I already had a 1st draft of novel 2 finished and novel 3 begun when I starting querying novel 1. It helped a lot to be invested in other projects as the rejections splashed into my inbox (Nathan's was my fastest at 10 minutes - you should be in the Olympics, Nathan!).

Luckily (truly, for I found just the right person), my querying ended well - I signed with Firebrand about 10 weeks into the process.

I feel like finding the right match was the key. Keep your chins up, and keep querying!

Mark Terry said...

The best way to deal with rejection is to be regularly published. Once you're regularly published--whether it's magazines, newspapers, online publishers, short stories, novels, screenplays, etc--then you can realize that a rejection doesn't mean: YOU SUCK. YOU'RE WORTHLESS. YOU CAN'T WRITE WORTH SOUR OWL POOP.

You learn that a rejection means: on this particular day, this particular project doesn't meet my needs.

Period.

scusteister said...

I don't have any tips for dealing with regection (denial's good), but thanks for the Lebowski reference.

terryd said...

The odds of a story being published are much better than the odds of any given sperm having its way.

Damn the rejections! Full speed ahead!

Kathleen said...

Here are my three steps.

1) I DON'T take it personally. It's a rejection of my writing, not me.

2) If my writing was rejected, there is a reason. So the next order of business is to see if I can discover if it's a) simply because of personal taste, or b) because of a lack in my skill.

3) If it's (a) then I let it roll off my back. I don't like everyone in the world's writing. Why should I expect everyone to love mine? If it's (b) then it's time to see what I can learn. Whomever criticized it is a reader, and readers are my customers. If I can't figure out how to explain my story well enough, that's MY fault, not theirs. So what can I learn from their rejection? If I can learn something, then the rejection becomes a good thing.

Anonymous said...

I'm a happy person, but when I started to write seriously, I realized I was internalizing the rejection, so I started breaking plates in my backyard - incredibly cathartic; I highly recommend it.

All you need's a few big rocks and a supply of cheap dinner plates (big ones) from clearance racks. Word's out and friends now come over when someone loses a job or boyfriend or whatever.

In keeping with your positivity campaign, I'm saving the pieces to make pavers for my garden - appropriate since all those rejections helped me "grow" (forgive the rotten pun)to the point of recently snagging a terrific agent - yay! I can honestly say every rejection forced me to take a harder look at what I was doing wrong and to find a way to correct the problem.

Kevin Hisel said...

In the face of rejection I simply remind myself that I am right and everyone else is wrong.

No, seriously though, to me it is a matter of looking at what they have to say and trying to grow from it.

Mean criticism is never easy and those I mostly ignore and chop up to blind hatred.

Writer from Hell said...

Good question Mr.Brown and I see that you have left us bereaved souls alone to soothe and comfort each other. How about another haiku for us?

This is the 1st time I've read ALL the comments and the one by David (9:51am) is so heart breaking. I so wish sir that you get the success u desire x x

Nancy Coffelt said...

Keep busy.
Keep working.

I have a stuffed-full accordion file of rejections. My favorite ones have fuzzy kitty stickers on them.
Some of them are 5th generation Xeroxes on half a sheet of paper - as if I actually thought I was worth a full sheet - shuh.

I play tennis and even though I WISH I won all my matches - I don't. To me it's all pretty much the same thing - whether it's a rejection or a game loss, that's the time to put on your big girl pants and move on. If that means revising, fine. If that means chucking the rejection in the recyle, fine. If that means a ice cold martini and tears, double fine.

Bane of Anubis said...

I'm w/ Renee - query rejections roll off the back - it's the partial and full rejections that sting - particularly if it's a partial to a full...

That being said, I most appreciate the agents w/ quick response times (even if it is rejection) - for some reason, in my experience, except for once, those have all been male agents.

lizB said...

I scan them for any helpful suggestions, take notes if applicable, then toss them in the wood burner. It's 12 degrees outside right now, but toasty warm in my house. Helps to have warm toes while I'm writing the next novel. I figure when I come to the point that I can heat the house all winter long on rejections alone, I'll send out a couple hundred more, then call it good.

Roland said...

I put "These Dreams" by Heart on repeat and crawl beneath my bed where I weep until a cat comes and licks the tears from my cheeks.

Marilyn Peake said...

That is an awesome question! Basically, every time I get a rejection, I vow to quit writing...Quit! Quit! Quit!...And then, the very next day, I go back to writing. (Sometimes, I actually return to writing within the hour.)

This has worked well for me. I’ve become as stubborn as a mule with a protective shell tougher than an armadillo, and surprising things have come from it.

When I first started writing seriously, I wrote three rather schlocky novels. When they got rejected, I sent them places for feedback and realized that they really weren’t ready for publication and that, if I self-published them, I’d probably get bad reviews. So I stuck the manuscripts in a drawer and took a few writing courses. Then I wrote another novel and self-published it after being represented for a time by an agent who was very nice but turned out to have a reputation with the big publishing houses for mailing them so many manuscripts without ever contacting them, they just threw them in the garbage. Sigh.

After entering my self-published novel into a contest run by a publishing house and not winning, I worked up the courage to ask if the judges had left any comments. To my great surprise, it turned out that the judges had recommended the publisher consider my book for publication, the publisher agreed immediately to read the book, and then published several books of mine. I did this for two more contests. Both agreed to send me sheets with judges’ comments. In both cases, the comments were so positive, I asked if I could use them in my book promotions and received permission to do so. I also studied the judges’ criticisms, including a comment that I had repeated the same word too many times on the same page. That was an extremely valuable lesson for me. I started concentrating on varying words as I wrote, and eventually started winning contests, even in competition with books from university presses.

I followed the same armadillo policy in regard to other areas of publishing. Out of many reviews, I only received one negative review of my children’s fantasy adventure novel, The Fisherman’s Son, and I didn’t agree with the reviewer’s interpretation of children’s literature. I was so upset! I wrote to the reviewer, discussed the review with her, kept my cool and continued to send her new publications. (I only send new work to reviewers if they seem basically fair. I wouldn’t recommend this approach for reviewers who specialize in sarcastic reviews.) Her future reviews were awesome. She liked my adult works better than my children’s book, and eventually asked me to be interviewed for the E-Author Spotlight on NightsAndWeekends.com, referring to me in her introduction as "one of the best e-authors on the Internet". She also mentioned her earlier review of my children’s novel. Here’s the interview.

So, now my approach is to promise to quit writing at least several times a year due to all kinds of writing-related frustrations, then roll like an armadillo and just keep on writing. :)

Anonymous said...

1. I think to myself, "Wow! They actually got my query!"

2. I drop a few f-bombs (mentally, so my toddler doesn't hear me).

3. I file it away and review the query, looking for ways to improve it.

4. I do a shot of bourbon.

Wide Lawns said...

I just keep writing and revising and enjoying the process!

Scott said...

Heh, Roland wins!

I feel like finding the right match was the key.

Was this a subtle reference to Firebrand, shan? ;)

Keep your chins up, and keep querying!

And are you saying I'm fat?

Seriously, I can't believe that so many here react to rejections with perfectly balanced tidbits of intellectual rationalization. It may become that, but I find it a little hard to believe that the first thing everyone feels isn't "Ah, crap."

Thomas Burchfield said...

David at 9:51. Same story here, except it was in the mid-1980s. With me, they liked the writing, but in truth the book was a bad one, no matter how stylish I made it. I got so discouraged, I quit novel-writing and ran off to write screenplays. Wrote some pretty decent ones in fact, but screenplays are even harder to sell (In that business it really doesn't matter whether it's good or not because of the economics involved.) I finally became too old to sell screenplays (yes, ageism is rampant and actors are not the only victims), so, putting aside my neurosis, I returned to novel writing . . . and well, I just learned patience, strength and tolerance and lean on that Nietzschean adage: "Whatever doesn't kill me, makes me stronger." (Though it still hurts like hell).

Bane of Anubis said...

Sure - it's "ah, crap", but try not to brood over it... avoid the dark places as much as possible.

Jael said...

Never take it personally because they never mean it personally. Period.

RW said...

Don't put yourself in a position of waiting for someone's response--even the very positive response you're 100% sure you'll get. As soon as you send out the work or the inquiry, start working on the next project or inquiry. When the response comes, positive or negative, being busy with something else and having other irons in the fire will help keep it all in perspective either way.

Bane of Anubis said...

And just a general shout out to agents that do respond (even if it takes 3 months to say "not for me") - employers could learn a lesson...

Right now, I'm applying for jobs and agents - I'm not sure which is more frustrating, but I appreciate being told "no" over being left hung out to dry on a withering thread of hope.

Anonymous said...

Scott,

Did you miss my near passing out heat and numbness, and then depression. Occasionally I drop the SOB words and get yelled at. Luckily I've only been rejected four times. I hate that feeling.

Marilyn Peake said...

Scott,
My first reaction is similar to, "Ah, crap". It's actually, "Aaaaaaaaaagh!!!!! Crap!!!!!" Seriously.

It's interesting how many writers here mentioned the soothing effect of chocolate. I've become a huge fan of mocha lattes with two shots of espresso. :)

DCS said...

To quote from "The Godfather" (reportedly rejected by many publishes because no one wanted to read about gangsters): "This is BUSINESS! Not personal!"

T. Anne said...

*big sigh* Nathan are you trying to tell me something? Between your blog and Rachelle G's, I've surmised greater forces must be at work preparing me for an entire string of rejections. Just my luck with all those partials floating around all haphazard. I'm not really hyped for quarterfinals anymore either.

Off to down the last of the positivity Kool-Aid

Writer from Hell said...

thomas Burchfield 11:05, that is equally heart breaking. if that didn't kill u .. u are amazing. I wd have been a quitter!

Anonymous said...

Bane of Anubis,
When I was considering resumes and applications, it always made me pay more attention to one if someone gave a follow up call. Unfortunately you can't do that with agents; but I would call so that my personality came into play. A piece of paper fails to show that very important aspect just like it sometimes hard to see peoples tones when blogging.

Anonymous said...

Marilyn,

Dove chocolate is the bomb. Just ask my waist line!!!!

Lady Glamis said...

I'm not sure yet. I have only been rejected a few times because I've only sent out a few queries. I shrugged and tried harder. I'm still trying harder. It's life. If we didn't learn from rejections, what would be the point?

Marilyn Peake said...

anon @ 11:25 AM:

I love Dove chocolate. Drool.

Ink said...

I curse, spit, burn the rejector in effigy while lacerating a specially made voodoo doll with a cheese grater and planning the one-man online flame war and massive e-mail release that will reduce the offender's name and reputation to a negative number far below zero which in turn will drive them mad and feed their emotional crash into moral bankruptcy and thus lead to their subsequent death and consignment to the furthest and most bitter reaches of Hell.

I sometimes think about taking a more negative path, but I'm all about the positivity.

Chocolate is good, too. Or donuts (I'm Canadian, obviously). Or going for a run, depending on how many chocolate donuts I've eaten. It's a delicate balance. Failure to correctly compute that balance is... ah, well, it's a little messy, I admit. Donut saturation point is a delicate business, not to be handled by amateurs.

Anonymous said...

Marilyn,

I think you and I have a lot of the same chemical makeup. We are always answering similiarly or making the same point.

anon @ 11:25 AM
JO

Kimber An said...

Hmm, it really depends, because I receive rejections at the query, partial, and full stages now.

If I receive one for a query, I just shrug my shoulders and pitch it. I know it's a matter of taste, because I'm receiving requests on the same story.

A rejected partial, well, I think, hmm, maybe they realized there aren't any blood-sucking dead guys in this one and, therefore, it will never sell or whatever, shrug my shoulders and move on. Wish I'd get personalized feedback at that point because it would really help. Almost never do. So, I continue blindly on with my critique partners who are all in the same boat. There's little we can do to improve at this stage in our development if we can't afford to pay for a professional critique. We just have to wing it.

Rejections on Fulls are almost always hard, because they all came as form rejections, except one. Once I get to the Full stage, I have put in an extrordinary amount of time and energy into that story and to make it all that way without even a, "Put a blood-sucking dead guy in this and it might sell," is very frustrating. However, I have received one personalized rejection on a Full and it is worth more than it's weight in gold and I shall treasure it always! It's been hugely helpful.

I have a hard time motivating myself to query with future projects an agent who rejects a Full with a form letter. I have a hard time believing they'll like anything else I write if they got that far and said nothing.

I'm very good at shrugging my shoulders. Form rejections on Fulls require dark chocolate before my shoulders will budge, of course.

Actually, the only rejection letter I absolutely hate is the one which never comes. I don't query agents who do not respond to all query letters, regardless. If they send an automated response saying they received it and will respond in X amount of weeks if interested, I'm fine with that because I know, for certain, they received it. However, an agent who doesn't respond at all unless interested is not the agent for me. His or her business style is incompatible with mine.

Stuff said...

Here is my ultimate rejection story as a writer and how I dealt with it. You will not be disappointed (but you may feel bad for me...)

http://thecorner33.blogspot.com/2008/09/15-seconds-of-fame.html

DebraLSchubert said...

Wine.

Brian Spaeth said...

I like rejection, because it's one less person to follow-up with.

I'm pretty objective about my own work, so if I have something being read, I know it has merit in the way I intended. I also know it's not for everyone, and that's fine.

So I guess I don't deal with it as a writer. Now in my personal life, I'm big on cutting so far in 2009!

Tulafel Applebuns said...

I throw a party because I'm a firm believer that each "No" is one step closer to a "Yes."

Dana said...

Though I haven't had to deal with writing rejections yet, still working on that novel, in general my response to rejection is this:
McDonald's cheeseburger. Cheap, yummy and I'm pretty sure they have a little bit of vallium in them. :)

T. Anne said...

Stuff,
I am sorry for you, but it was highly entertaining. Keep writing!

E.M.Alexander said...

Useful information gets applied. Useless information gets tossed.
Kind or encouraging comments get remembered and a proper thank you sent.
Bland commentary gets tossed.

The "no-response-even-though-you-requested-to-look-at-my-work-and-six-months-have-passed-rejection" -- those require dipping into my wine stash.

Griffin Asher said...

Chocolate and wine.

Wes said...

I worked in sales of big ticket intangibles many years before moving to finance. One of the primary requirements for being in sales is the ability to accept rejection. People deal with it in various ways. For me, I viewed it as a numbers game. What you are selling is not going to appropriate for every prospect. (Wouldn't that be nice?) So let's assume what you are selling is only a fit for 5% of prospects. Ninety-five percent of the time you won't make the sale. Are you being rejected personally? Not really. The product is just not right for the customer. So shrug it off because you were trying to sell to one of the 95%, and start looking for that allusive 5%.

Thomas Burchfield said...

Thanks Writer from Heck.

While everyone is singing the psalm of chocolate, let me put in a word for a shot of fine single malt scotch served by a friendly bartender (but not too many--gotta back to work the next morning).

Nikki Hootman said...

I once had to write an article for a really tough, picky editor. Her reasons for rejecting the first version (and the next four) were based not on quality or lack thereof, but on her personal idea of what format an article ought to be - completely subjective.

About the second complete rewrite, I got really upset. At that point my husband, rather than patting my back and giving me sympathy, sat me down and said: "You have two choices. One, give up and let her win. Two, write the best damn article in the world and give her no choice but to accept it."

I chose option two.

Anonymous said...

Griffin,
Your picture freaks me out in a good way and I like you remedy.

Lupina said...

Also chocolate first, dark and bitter as I can find.

Then, I dream up a self-indulgent fantasy of xxx weeping in sorrow when she/he sees my book on the NYT best-seller list and recalls sending the form letter. Oh, the anguish upon his/her face!

Then, I look at my query/proposal and try to make it better for the next one.

Heidi C. Vlach said...

I stick rejection letters on the fridge and tamper with their wording with Magnetic Poetry words. It's hard to stay unhappy when the agency regrets that they can't [incubate] my [sausage], but wish me future success in placing my [butt].

McMama said...

How do I respond to rejections? I've responded in every way possible. I've smiled and said perkily, Ooh, now I'm a real writer! I've mailed the next query. I've rewritten sections of books. I've rewritten queries. I've sulked. I've stayed in bed. I've gone on chocolate binges. I've gone on hunger strikes. I've written rejections of the rejections: Dear agent, your rejection does not meet my needs at this time, and beside that, you're a jerk... I've created alphabetical lists of agents who've rejected me, and then rated them by their comments: 1=very encouraging, 2=form letter, 3=obvious (cheap) Xerox of form letter, 4=soulless creep and so on.

Upshot: I deal with rejections badly.

Cathy

Chatty Kelly said...

I have a "yay me!" file. In this file I put wonderful letters of encouragement I have received in the past. Then when I feel discouraged, I pull out my file and read my "yay" letters.

Countrymouse said...

I personally am taking a Zen like approach to my writing, publishing and life in general--

Either I'll land agent, get published, become the next JKR (okay maybe not that),

OR. . .
I won't. May not work for everyone, but it sure works for me.

Cheers!

Court said...

I stuck my very first rejection letter in a lovely, golden frame, and when I get my first acceptance letter, I intend to point at the framed reject letter and laugh.

;oD

Word verfication: "depsi." I guess that just about covers it.

Adaora A. said...

Listen to some good head thrashing music (Re: Aneurysm by Nirvana, Frances Farmer will have her revenge on Seattle by Nirvana, Pass the buck by Stereophonics), or write a melancholy song on your acoustic guitar. Sing it to yourself as you strum the chords, even if you have a musically deaf voice.

Adaora A. said...

To add:

Then continue working on the next one.

Vancouver Dame said...

Rejections? You can't take it personally, and you have to be tenacious. Keep trying and chalk it up to a bad fit, or not what they (the agents or editors) had in mind. Actors, singers, artists and writers all need thick skin to protect our creative hearts. If it's a good story, then eventually there will be someone who will see that.

I don't like every book I read either, but some will resonate with me for my own subjective reasons. I'm currently reading Cormac McCarthy's 'The Road' and it hits me in the gut. He seems to break all the rules about writing, except the main one - write a damn good story.

So I'll keep trying to perfect my own stories without tailoring them to some ideal or trend. It's tougher on some days of course, but I have other things to cheer me up - music, painting, etc.

I started reading Cormac McCarthy's book since you mentioned him before as one of your favorites, Nathan, and I haven't been disappointed. I wonder if he went through many rejections?

Anonymous said...

I just say "Bummer" definitely eat chocolate, then I go read the 'Good News' section of a board I belong to. It lifts my spirits and then I get back to work.

If you don't keep going, you'll never get there :)

Scott said...

I see you, Anon 11:14 and Marilyn. A few have said something similar. I was just reacting to all those who projected a perfectly legitimate, but highly intellectual response. I find that, no matter how well I can deconstruct the rejection beforehand, I still react emotionally first--kind of like the logic behind the Voight-Kampff Test, if anyone is familiar with the movie Blade Runner. Not overwhelmingly so, but there's an initial blush reaction followed by a lingering dissatisfaction that eventually dissipates, with help from the intellectual side of the brain.

Could just be me, but no matter how prepared I am, I still have to take a deep breath before opening a return letter or email.

Anonymous said...

When I get rejected, I take a deep breath, set the letter aside, and then I put on my iPOD and select Fall Out Boy's "I Don't Care."

I pick up my hairbrush and pretend I'm a rockstar dancing around on a brightly lit stage with a crowd of millions of would-be readers cheering me on.

After I've jumped around and danced like an idiot for three renditions of this song, I feel so, so, so much better. By this point, I can throw myself into my desk chair and start writing, revising, and proving all my critics wrong.

Of course, after the high wears off, I have to listen to the song again. And sometimes, I just crawl under the bed and cry for a day or two before I pull out my iPOD. But the song always works...at least for an hour or two.

Vancouver Dame said...

Scott, you're right about how the initial feeling knocks the wind out of your sails. I feel deflated at first, a little pissed off, but when I'm like that I feel like I'm going back to my inner child. Don't want to stay there too long.

And I loved Blade Runner, one of my all time favorite movies.

Anonymous said...

So Scott,
Are you saying you get that heat feeling too? Is that what you mean by blush? I hate that feeling but I can't seem to keep it from happening. Maybe we store up too many emotions, and they come flooding out. Too bad ther isn't some kind of warning system that let's you know you are about to get a response, and you could take a swig of tequilia or something to kill it.

Heather said...

I don't take rejections personally. It's not saying I'm a bad writer, it's just saying that the concept of the project doesn't intrigue the agent or editor. Or that my writing doesn't connect to them.

I just keep sending them out and I keep working on my next project. So, if this one doesn't get a hit, I have a new project to query.

MaLanie said...

1. Lots and lots of chocolate!

2. Then pick up Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth, and learn how to get rid of the ego. It is the ego that is hurt not the real you.

Read the book and you will understand what I mean, if you still do not understand email me and I will explain it.

Jean said...

I drink.
;)

Anonymous said...

I have only gone through one experience of sending queries so far, and my reaction to my rejections was something like, "EEEE! An agent actually looked at my book!! EEE!!! This is so exciting! EEEEE!!" I taped them up on my refrigerator, too. But I doubt that outlook will stick with me forever. Heehee.

----
SF Writer
To God be the glory

Scott said...

Anon, I liken it to a learned response. Who hasn't felt the pang of rejection over and over in their life? It could be anything from not being picked for kick ball, to that girl saying "no", to someone thanking you for your book, reading some of it, and putting it down. There are many levels, and I think it's just human nature to bristle a little.

One week I received about five rejections via email. Each one pushed me down a little lower, even though I knew they were just rejecting my "idea" and not how I'd executed it. Wrong agent, wrong time, wrong economy, maybe. But they stuck around a little in my subconscious, and I finally had to shake them off.

I think it's a good thing to feel them and use those feelings. It means we're still in touch. Of course, we can't let rejection stop us, but without experiencing it to some degree, I wonder how good we would become?

Arjay said...

I figured the book wasn't ready and have gone through heavy changes including changing from 1st person to 3rd. I think it's closer now, especially after having an editor comment on the first 50 pages.

Cary Louisa said...

Actually, rejections don't bother me much. I can't figure out if it's because I'm just generally not bothered by things or if it's because I know that if someone rejected me, it was probably for the best and I don't want someone who isn't completely dedicated to my project representing anyway or whatever.

Normally I just shrug, put it in my rejection folder and find another agent to query :)

Jo said...

With my first book, I handled it very badly. Every letter was an arrow to the gut, but I wadded them up and recently looked at them. And you know what? There were few form rejections in the pack. They were almost all personal. I feel so blessed now.
With my current manuscript, I think it's a combination of a thicker skin and the experience to know that it's not personal, it's just not a good fit, and I'm more likely these days to keep trying (whether it's sending out more queries or working on something completely new) than to crawl under a rock and damn the world.

Marilyn Peake said...

Scott @ 1:04 PM:

Love your reference to the Voight-Kampff Test in Blade Runner. Loved that part of Philip K. Dick's novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Good to know we're not androids. :)

As an aside, every time I think of Philip K. Dick's work, I feel sad. I heard a well-known literary agent say that his novels would never be published today and, alas, I think that's true - although a small publishing house specializing in sci fi would probably pick him up.

Marilyn Peake said...

Stuff @ 11:52 AM:

That is horrible. Geez. Just keep on writing! That kind of rejection isn't personal, just terribly thoughtless.

Brian Buckley said...

I take the GalaxyQuest approach: "Never give up! Never surrender!"

Just keep trying, simple as that.

Kaz Augustin said...

Scotch. (Even blended is okay at a time like this.)

Anonymous said...

Stuff,

I just read your blog and felt your pain. You have the stuff, keep writing, and look at it this way- at least you talked to someone big in the business and he had your number down. You were one step closer than a lot of people. He had you number, Man, that counts for something. You are at least a little bit of somebody!!!!

Bane of Anubis said...

Anon - 11:24 - yeah, calling is definitely right up there, but most of the positions I've been looking at have been for the giant machine companies where phone numbers don't usually get you to real people or anybody who can do anything about it.

As for 'The Road' and CM, I think I may be one of the few that do not like (euphemism) that book and find the writing within pretentious and overwrought... {my negative comment for today :)}

Gabrielle Faust said...

I try never to take it personally, which helps tremendously. Hopefully, the rejection has some creative criticism from which I can take away something to improve the piece. But, if it doesn't, I just remember the stories of Stephen King and his piles of initial rejection letters and I'm able to let it go. It's all part of the process. Besides, without the rejections, the acceptance letters wouldn't be nearly as rewarding and exciting. :)

KLRomo said...

Well.....I decided the first rejection just had to be framed - for posterity - you know, something to look back at after winning the Nobel Prize. (Of course, I'd have to show it to the agent who wrote it as well). The next 80 or so rejections were pretty tough. Depression, anger - the whole pity party. But the last 25 just rolled off the back!! I finally decided to take matters into my own hands. "Is Harvey Dunne?" will be published - just by me. It's a good book and deserves to be read. The publishing process and planning of my marketing campaign have empowered me. I now laugh at rejection! Ha!Ha!Ha!

Gail Goetz said...

When I finished my first novel, I thought I would send it right to a publisher and an editor would like it and agree to help me get it ready for publication and then the book would come out and sit on shelves in bookstores and people would buy it and love it.
When I got my first rejection, it was instant wake-up time. I was devastated.
I still do the same things most days, write like crazy, go to my writer's group, make corrections, write some more, but when I send my novels in to agents (oh, I wised up and realized that an agent comes before a publisher) I don't expect so much so wholeheartedly, so when a rejection comes in, I have a cup of coffee and get back to work. The optimist in me thinks that someday I will be published. My books will be put on those shelves in bookstores, people will buy and enjoy them. Until then, the Virgo in me keeps perfecting my writing, going to my writer's group, making corrections, and writing some more.

Phil Ruggiero said...

No matter how politely written, a no is still a no. You get excited when they ask to see a bit more, and then get a bit deflated when their expectations were not met and they say no. Why would we ever submit ourselves to the rejection?

Because we think what we have to say, or the story we have to tell is important. So we continue to submit and submit. the successful submit until they get a contract and publication.

And, since I am an optimist, I know every rejection I receive brings me one step closer to yes. I know it's lurking out there, just around the corner. I just have to find the right corner to turn.

Taire said...

I guess I just don't mind. I do really like to have more than one project going at a time, though, and that might be a coping mechanism.

Hope Clark said...

Nathan, I'm all about positive. If a rejection isn't constructive for me, I shred it. I file the positive ones that help and move on. I have no time to wallow in the negative, because all that does is stall the time between now and my success.

Hope Clark
FundsforWriters.com

Elizabeth said...

I keep in mind this quote:

Thought for the Day: ....
"This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor/agent is a precious package. Don't consider it rejected. Consider that you've addressed it 'to the editor/agent who can appreciate my work' and it has simply come
back stamped 'not at this address.'"
~~Barbara Kingsolver,
Best-selling author of The Poisonwood Bible....

Lara said...

Nathan, you rejected me today after requesting a partial! But it was a timely rejection with a personal note, so I don't even really feel bad. Actually I felt lucky to get such a clear, and professional, and even encouraging response in such a short time. It was awesome.

As for bad rejections, I handle them by putting my head in my hands and sobbing and going "ARRRGH." I allow myself about ten minutes to do that. Then I fix my mascara and start over.

irishoma said...

After I get over the initial sting of rejection, I read what the editor has to say and take it to heart.
Earlier this week, after receiving an e-mail rejection from an editor (who included suggestions for expanding my article), I wrote back to thank him for his time and suggestions. I also invited him or a member of his staff to be interviewed on my blog to talk about the what the editorial staff is looking for in magazine articles.
No response yet to the follow-up request, but I'm hopeful.

Jen said...

Wes said...
I worked in sales of big ticket intangibles many years before moving to finance. One of the primary requirements for being in sales is the ability to accept rejection


I've worked in both retail and sales for my most my career (but currently adore my cushy office job with free tea and bickies!). You learn to get over rejection pretty fast in those jobs. Didn't make the sale? What can you do, sitting around sulking isn't going to pay your rent next week, you just have to shrug it off and keep going.

I eat rejection for breakfast. And, also, Weet Bix.

Courtney said...

I generally split my pool of beta-readers into two groups: the critical ones and the blindly adoring ones. Whenever I get a rejection, I first call up one of the second group and ask them to tell me what they specifically loved about my book: "What's your favorite character", "What's your favorite line", etc.

Then, once I've been pumped up anew, I go to the first group and ask what needs improving. By then, I can ask them to be as blunt and as caustic as necessary. After that... revise. It makes me feel like I've done something constructive toward "fixing" the rejection.

Eva Ulian said...

Apart from the occasional generic rejection slip, I found most left me feeling elated.

When you get penciled remarks or otherwise scribbled in the margins or at the bottom such as "love your characters" "...Depth" "If I had had my way..." I don't think agents are just being "nice" when they reject you but add something personal as if they were the executioner saying "I don't want to do this but I have to."

There are hundreds of reasons why a manuscript gets rejected and the last of these is because the writing is not good, that can always be fixed.

J. Louise Larson said...

If it's a form letter that's amusingly polite, I save it for the day I start a Twitter called rejects#.

If there's advice, I take any that seems helpful and informed.

Having experienced some rejection when pitching magazine pieces, I feel fairly toughened to it.

Taking comfort in awards, acceptances, kudos, or even bits of praise on my work helps shore up bruised ego.

Working daily in print journalism keeps me published - at some level - which helps.

magolla said...

When you first start submitting, it hurts alot--even the form rejections. Writers think the R is personal rejection instead of realizing that it's simply a not right for us. After awhile the form rejections don't hurt, but the full manuscript rejections accompanied by the form rejection slips take their place.
We want to know WHY? But the wny is different for everyone.
Save the rejection and move on. I know it is easier said than done.
Chocolate helps.

Allegory19 said...

Read blogs like this one, laugh, and then keep writing.

Wanda B. Ontheshelves said...

Here's a related topic I think is worth exploring - how do you handle it when you flub something? Like, say, an editor invites you for lunch and you don't even pick up on it until you're off the phone, and you realize, you know, that editor just invited me for lunch. I had a friend who had lunch with editors a couple of times - of course, she wasn't a "flubber."

Sometimes a yes is worse than a no, when you flub it.

burgy61 said...

I have only got one so far for a short essay I submitted for an anthology. I never heard back from them after an email letting me know they had received it. I felt indifferent about it, there was nothing I could learn from it so I forgot it.

Anonymous said...

That's like asking a leading NFL running back how they deal with getting tackled!

jimnduncan said...

I expect them, so honestly they don't really sting that much. It's a pleasant surprise then when I get a request for pages. I try to take to heart any positive comments that get passed along, which doesn't generally happen (let's face it, agents don't have time to personalize these things), and then I file it away in a folder on my computer. Out of sight, out of mind.

Anonymous said...

Actually, it's like asking ANY running back how they deal with getting tackeld. They do their best to avoid it, but it's part of the job.

Theophagous Monkey said...

I don't think you ever get used to rejection, but you do get to really appreciate the nicer rejection letters. Sort of like getting hit in the head with a softer two-by-four. I think, though, that editors and agents have to learn to expect the occasional outburst or negative reaction. I send out a lot of short stories and I realize that markets are really tight, so I receive a lot of rejections. Most of the time these days, I'm pretty sanguine about it. But once in while it just gets to you, especially with a particularly blithe rejection or where the editor just didn't get the thing. Once in a while I do pop off at an editor. Not very often, and I always regret it, but I think it's part of the process. You have to believe in what your producing or you shouldn't be writing, and if you believe in it, it's only natural to defend it from time to time. That said, I've had editors really trash a piece and then the next editor praise it and print it without revision. I've had agents really look at my longer work but eventually turn it down. I always thank them if I know they had a good look. In any case, although I agree that a writer needs a carapace of cold rolled steel, I think it's only to be expected that once in a while there be an adverse reaction. To paraphrase Jean de Crevecoeur, the writing community is a big, strange, perpetually dysfunctional family. As such, it will be calamitous from time to time.

Regards,

Theo

Scott said...

That is sad, isn't it Marilyn? It's kind of the same in music. I often wonder what would happen to the Bob Dylans, Paul Simons and Janis Joplins if they were to try to make it today? Replaced by some cookie cutter WB lip-syncers with a team of producers, probably.

other lisa said...

You mean, aside from questioning my talent, self-worth and fundamental purpose in the universe?

Truthfully, rejections don't hurt as much as they used to, and sometimes I even find them kind of funny, because along with showing me what I might need to improve, the range of reasons for the rejections is so broad and at times contradictory that I realize how arbitrary and subjective the process can be. And that the only thing I can control is what I write.

Anonymous said...

The NFL analogy is exactly right. When the running back is standing in the end zone spiking the ball after scoring a touchdown, nobody's thinking about all the times he got tackled leading up to the score. It's just about that moment.

And in the long term, it's about how many times he can achieve that moment. How long he can keep going and keep scoring, through all the tackles. That is the true essence of it. Because there will be tackles. Oh, yes, there will be tackles. But for some, all the tackles aren't enough to keep them from scoring.

Marilyn Peake said...

Scott,

I totally agree with you about Janis Joplin. I love her music and doubt she'd make it in music today with the current emphasis on a certain look. Have you seen the movie, Across the Universe? I love how it revolved around Beatles' songs, but played such great homage to Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. I love that movie - the visuals are astounding!

Laura D said...

Sometimes being loony-tunes helps. If you build it, they will come. If you build it, they will come. Don't listen to anyone who says different!

Grrr.... said...

Two things help:

First, take any specific criticisms and use them to make your work stronger. If, for example, the rejector claims that she cannot connect to your characters, rewrite to make them more accessible.

Second, hope. I wouldn't keep submitting if I didn't have the hope that eventually someone will say "yes." If that means I have to go through my 40th rewrite to get there, I'll do it. If I didn't think my book was worth it, I wouldn't bother.

I keep scanned copies of all my rejections, and throw the paper away. Someday, I will want to count them, so I can tell people that Bagastana was rejected X times before it became the beloved classic we all know (notice the generous application of hope that I have applied in the last sentence).

Serendipity said...

In one specific instance, the agent had his 'apprentice' send me the rejection letter. I figured the agent was too busy washing his mom's laundry to send it himself...well, it made me laugh...

ryan field said...

Scott said...

"Of course, we can't let rejection stop us..."

You're right. So don't :)

Virginia said...

Chocolate. And booze.

After I've had my fill of those, and of the slight depression they accompany, I get off my ass and get back to work.

Jen said...

Marilyn Peake said...
Scott,

I totally agree with you about Janis Joplin. I love her music and doubt she'd make it in music today with the current emphasis on a certain look. Have you seen the movie, Across the Universe? I love how it revolved around Beatles' songs, but played such great homage to Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. I love that movie - the visuals are astounding!


That's only my second favourite movie of all time! LOVE it! I wish I could sing like Sadie..

However, I do think that Janis Joplin and other talented singers would be able to make it in today's industry. One thing I've noticed with Aussie Idol, for example, is that the token hot blonde has NEVER won. All of the females who have won have been larger girls, and the guys are normally "interesting" looking.

I don't think there's as much expectation from the public that people have to look like one of those Pussycat Doll things as you might think. I think the general public still wants substance.

I think Janis would probably be a MySpace hit if she was around today, publishing her own music and taking control of her own career. A voice like that, and passion like that, transcends eras.

Anonymous said...

What rejections?

I self publish.

Linda said...

I write. Then write some more.

Peace, Linda

Robin Constantine said...

I have almost always received rejections on Fridays. Not a great way to start a weekend.

Chocolate helps. Margaritas do too. :) Making my husband take me out somewhere. Or something non food related like playing with my kids or going to the movies. Anything to distance myself from it for a little while.

If it's a form rejection, I just get back on the horse. If it's one of those "positive" personalized rejections I give it some (or a lot) of thought. When I'm ready to really talk about it in a constructive way, chatting with my writer buddies always puts things in perspective.

It's easy to forget that rejection isn't personal. There could be so many reasons why a manuscript gets rejected, even though most of the time it feels like there should be big red letters across the first page that say "You stink!"

At the end of the day though, getting back to work is really the only thing to do. Perseverance.

gem said...

I've just had my ms rejected by nine straight publishers. How do I keep rejection in perspective? I have a job. I can pay my mortgage. I have clothes and a wood stove. I have food to eat. I have my health and a good marriage. Those things are important. Getting published or not getting published is a heart ache. But it's not going to kill me. In the grand scheme of things, it's really unimportant.

Annalee said...

I think applying for jobs is giving me a lot of perspective. When someone rejects your novel, you are an email address to them. They will not remember you half an hour later. It really isn't personal. When someone rejects you for a job, on the other hand? They see your whole life story on one well-formatted page. They meet you. They shake your hand. Waaay more personal. On top of all that, the stakes are higher. If I can deal with that and still manage to keep sending my resume out until Hell won't have it, it's absurd to be afraid of sending out an MS.

Carey_Corp said...

Most rejections are pretty gentle -usually it is nothing personal. Rejections are a numbers game. If you have any kind of sales background, you realize that every "no" gets you closer to that one "yes". To me rejections mean solid forward progress. So I say, "Thank you, Sir. May I have another?" The other thing that really helps is sending out another query each time I get a rejection. Right away! That way I am always nurturing that spark of hope...and continuing the forward momentum of my career.

Sarah said...

If the letter has any comments on the submission, I pay attention to them. Even if I think they're stupid, I'll at least start a new document and play with it to see what it looks like.

I also show the rejection letter to my critique group, the Slushbusters. They're great. At first, they'll remind me of any praise in the rejection letter. I swear, if the only good thing the agent/editor said was that I followed submission guidelines, they'd praise that.

Then, once I've had time to process everything, they help me make my story better. It's great: encouragement when I need it, but not so much that I'm not pushed to improve.

Moose said...

I go on a kickboxing rampage.

BronzeWord said...

Betty Lerner's book The Forest for the Trees is a must read for any writer, beginning writer or thinking about writing. She has a chapter on rejection that was inspiring. Frank, honest and brutal with compassion. She told it like it is. No pulling punches. Yet there was a sense that you could still come out ahead. There was hope in her words. All an author needs to keep going. Excellent read. A Must Read. for sure
Jo Ann Hernandez
http://bronzeword.wordpress.com

Susan Cushman said...

I pay close attention to the ones that include constructive criticism, and when more than one agent expresses the same concern about my work, I make use of their comments as I continue revising. And I always send a thank you note (usually by email)to the ones who spend a lot of time with my manuscript and write such helpful, personal replies.

Madison said...

I think of rejections postitivly. After all, it's visible proof that I'm trying to achieve my dream! :D

Megoblocks said...

At some point I realized I'm already rejected if I don't send the query. Once that sank in, nothing bothered me.

Jan said...

Well, as someone who just received a very nice rejection from Nathan, I dealt with it the same way I've dealt with all the others - I accept again that I am not J.K. Rowling. I look at it with new eyes, change what I think needs changed, and send it out again. Getting published will be nice, if it happens, but the pure act of writing, the creation of worlds and people by the arrangement of nouns, verbs, and adjectives on a blank sheet of paper, is the joy.

Mira said...

I have a really tough time with rejection. Not query rejection, but critique about my writing. I'm a new writer, since I've only been writing about a year, and I'm just not confident enough yet.

Some humor I wrote got totally trashed in a writing workshop earlier this year. I mean really trashed. As in, don't have children and pass on your genes trashed. I've had trouble writing on that piece since, even though I know it was much more about this 80 year old man, and his adversion to anything new.....but I'm still vulnerable.

Julia Cameron wrote about this - being very gentle with an emerging artist. It's really easy to injure them, and make them go back into hiding.

I'm looking forward to when I'm more confident in my writing. Some of the humor I've written here, oddly enough, has helped to rebuild my confidence.

I think writing, when I'm feeling more fragile, in places where the stakes are lower - just messing around - is good.

Knowing when I need to protect myself from rejection - when I need to build my strength and focus on the work - is very important.

Mira said...

Oh, I want to add that I've really enjoyed reading everyone's comments. Some were really touching. I also learned some things

abc said...

Nathan, I wish you could be on Goodread.com and then maybe you could let me be your friend and I could keep up with what you are reading. Cause that would be cool. Fo shizzle. Ah, dreams.

Rejection makes me cry. And then I move on.

abc said...

I mean Goodreads.com Not Goodread. doi.

clindsay said...

Y'all may find this blog entertaining, then. A guy who randomly posts his rejection letters and then rants on them.

Enjoy!

Colleen

Anonymous said...

Colleen,

Seems a bit unprofessional to me. Not a great idea, IMHO.

rightonmom said...

I'm blessed to belong to a small but mighty group of writers. We support each other through the highs and lows of the writing life. They understand.
Then I have my own cosmic explanation, which does soften the blow: It wasn't meant to be. Yet.
Then I move on. And on. And on....

Anonymous said...

I keep a running list of all the places where I have sent out my queries. I save all my rejection notices in a file, taking note of those who taken the time to write a note. I get back into the fray, but not before I send a THANK YOU note to the agent. Being polite counts even when it hurts.

Jenn said...

I remember the law of large numbers. I figure at the average rates of acceptance, an average query could be sent around 2500 times before getting a request for a full. So if you've sent your query to less than 2500 agents and publishers and you've gotten a request for a full, you're ahead of the game, statistically speaking.

Sheryl said...

Gotta get back on the horse!

Whirlochre said...

We can't all like each other so rejection is a mandatory life event, be it in fiction writing or squishing slugs in your ears to commune with Cthulhu (if anyone else is into that).

So, though rejection always hurts and always feels personal, it's no indication that you're in any way special. Comes with the zillionfold replication of the whole homo sapiens thang.

So, decide how many valuable minutes of your time you're prepared to stand in a corner bawling, then get on with it. The Gods have got more deserving wretches to save.

(As humans, however, we are allowed to be sympathetic from time to time...)

Anonymous said...

wail in the mail
what if there was no fail
send all the agents to jail
but there may be no sale
wail to wail
it all returns
this ship doesn't sail
O! tis poem too a fail

gabriellel66 said...

Same way I deal with/celebrate everything: margaritas.

austere said...

With Cadbury's Dairy Milk.
And hurt silence.

Olivia said...

It's 7:45am in my world. I just received my e-mail notification of this blog, immediately came here, and there are already 200 comments ahead of me. That fact alone reminds me that this is an extremely tough business.

There's about a million of us playing musical chairs with only five seats available.

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