Thursday, January 28

It's Not You, Really: Handling Story Rejection

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

If I took a poll, I'd bet the top two writer fears would be fear your writing wasn't good enough, and fear of rejection. They go hand in hand since we all worry were not good enough and will be rejected.Let's talk about the first one first.

What if you're not good enough?

This is something that is totally in your control, so there's no need to worry about it. If you're reading this blog, you're already taking steps to improve your writing. And truth is, no one is good enough when they start.

Publishing isn't a one-chance-only deal, either. If you're not good enough today, you might be good enough next year. It's scary, but there have been tons of things we weren't good enough for all our lives, and then we learned, practiced, and got better.

When the "no" comes in (and let's face it, for 99.9% of us we'll get a lot of those before we get a yes), don't say, "I'm not good enough." Say, "I"m not good enough, yet." You're not out, you're just still in the warm up phase. I can't tell you how many rough rejections this phrase got me through. Eventually, I did get good enough.

And then there's rejection.

They suck. It doesn't matter who or when or why, they still hurt. But take some comfort in the fact that this is beyond your control. If you've written the very best novel you can, there's nothing more you can do. People will either like it or not, and not everyone will, even if you're the top-selling author on the planet.

Take this a step further...

When you don't like a book, it isn't personal, right? You have nothing against the author or even the book. It just wasn't for you. Try to remember that when you get rejections, and it'll help them wash over you a little easier.

And if you do find yourself thinking, "Gee, if only this author had done X Y and Z, it would have made the book so much better," (and come on, we're writers, who hasn't done this?) start thinking about your own work that way. Consider if X Y and Z would make your book better, too.

You can also think about those early rejections as training. Even after you publish, you will still be rejected. I've gotten great feedback on my Healing Wars trilogy, but there are still reviewers out there who didn't like it. Sure, I pout for a moment when I encounter these, but you can't win over everyone. Build up the right attitude toward them now, and you'll make it that much easier when you do publish.

Then there's the double whammy, "people won't like it" fear of rejection, which works on both these levels. This is also common, and you have both total control, and total lack of control over it. You control who you show your work to. You can start out by showing it to people who you know aren't going to hate it. Build your confidence and your skills until you feel more comfortable showing it to people who will offer you advice on how to make it better.

The lack of control part comes in here. You can't control how they will feel. You can't even control how they will tell you how they feel. But this is a good step toward learning how to handle professional rejection and feedback, and if your dream is to be a published writer one day, these are skills you'll need. Good news is, you get to decide how you build those skills, and you can take all the time you need to develop them.

Rejection has to be the worst aspect of writing, but having someone say, "I totally loved this story!" makes up for it. So make sure you keep those folks around, too, for the days when you need that pick me up.

How do you handle rejection? 


  1. My wonderful husband is the one who will tell me how great the story is, and I need that support for the instances where I will be told no! Great post, I always love stopping in to see what's new!

  2. No matter how many times writers go over this, there's always someone else who still needs to hear it. Keep it up.

  3. Just found your blog from hopping around a bit, you've got some really great advice! I am in the writing/editing stages of my manuscripts, and this is exactly the kind of direction and focus I need. Thanks for taking the time to share your methods!

  4. Thanks for the great advice. The fears and the rejections are so hard but we've got to plod through them or we'll never get a yes. Thanks for giving us a sense of how to have some control over the process.

  5. Dealing with rejection is always a learning process. It's great to hear a published author address the issue. Thanks!

  6. Most welcome. If we can handle this, we can handle almost anything, right?

  7. Thanks for this! Needed it today! :)