Tag Archives: rejection

Rejection, with a side of Acceptance

Believe it or not, rejection is an important part of every writer’s life. No one is immune. I was reminded of this recently when I read the editor’s column in the July 2018 issue of The Writer. Nicki Porter described the reality of writing submissions, whether the submission is to a magazine editor, a literary agent, or an editor at a publishing house, the mathematics are much the same. Each receives hundreds of submissions a week. Porter wrote: “The amount of manuscripts a typical agent receives in a year could fill three train cars, but the amount she accepts will fill a tidy desk drawer — and she’ll successfully sell even less.” Rejection, then, is an important part of every writer’s life no matter if the writer is a beginner, experienced, or an award-winning author.

I tend to look at rejections the same way I look at mistakes: they are opportunities for learning, for improvement. Yes, each rejection hurts initially, but I learned a long time ago that the rejection is never about me personally. In fact, the rejection might not even be about my writing. Sometimes it’s about an editor who has already scheduled to publish a story similar to mine in theme or story. Or it could be that despite my research into the publication, my story just doesn’t fit it. Once, I even encountered the reason that the publication had changed hands and editors with an entire new approach to the magazine.

When I suspect the rejection is about my writing, that’s an opportunity to go through the story with a more objective eye, an editor’s eye, and revise and tighten it as needed. If an editor takes the time to write a note, I pay close attention to what the editor says in that note. There was one time, however, that I dismissed the note — it was from a young literary agent writing about Perceval’s Secret that I’d submitted to his agency for consideration. The agent expressed interest, but wanted me to change Evan Quinn, the protagonist of the novel (and the subsequent 4 novels in the series), to a woman because female protagonists were “hot” and it would be easier for him to sell to a publisher. The agent didn’t say that the character didn’t work as a male, or even ask me anything about my decision to make Evan a male, or any other comment specifically about Evan Quinn or the story. No. It was what I considered an extremely shallow comment that totally ignored the amount of work already put into the book and the amount of work what would be required to change the gender of the protagonist, not to mention how the gender would radically change the story itself. Needless to say, after politely declining to consider the change, I moved on.

Photo: aliyasking.com

So, how can a writer increase his chances that his submission will be accepted for publication or representation? Here are three essential tips I see over and over in articles about gaining acceptance of one’s literary work:

  • Follow submission guidelines to the letter. The guidelines are not there to amuse or frustrate you. The agent or editor has created them to make his or her job easier for processing submissions. I judge scholarship essays every year, and it never fails to astonish me that 25% of the submissions never make it through the first cut because those writers failed to follow the guidelines.
  • Submit polished writing. Never submit first drafts. Just don’t. It takes at a minimum 3 revisions — and often far more — to get a piece of writing into publishable shape. Do ask for help in the form of first readers or members of your writing group to give you relevant and intelligent feedback about your piece. Do not rely on spellcheck or grammar check. Read your piece out loud. That is hands down the best way to catch grammar and syntax issues as well as word choice issues. When you submit polished writing, you are also showing that you are willing to do the work necessary to make your writing the best it can be.
  • Be a respectful professional. Forget the gimmicks. Follow the submission guidelines. Provide a succinct cover letter that includes what the editor or agent requests – nothing more, nothing less. If you receive a rejection, resist the temptation to fire off an angry or derisive e-mail in response. Doing that marks you as a disrespectful amateur. Every submission is like a job interview for your writing.

Each writer possesses a unique view of the world, a unique writing style, and unique stories to tell. Be true to the process and honor your own uniqueness by writing what you are compelled to write in your own voice. And while you’re at it, forget what other writers are producing or how other writers’ careers are progressing and focus on your own writing life and work. After all, that’s where you are.

Where I write



Over the weekend, I received another rejection for my short story The Light Chamber. I plan to send it out again before the end of this week.

The Brick Wall

Rejection: running into it stings at first.  It’s the brick wall that’s a foot thick, impossible to demolish or climb, but there could be ways to get around it.  If only I could read the clues….  I received the results of one of the contests I submitted The Shadow to last fall.   It did not even make the finalists.  Sad.  Well, there’s still a chance with the two others…..

Last Friday, I mailed out the science fiction short story I completed recently.  The publication promises an answer in eight weeks. 

This Friday, I’ll submit an essay to another publication. 

The job search steals time away from writing…..eeeeerrrrrrggggggghhhhh!


This has been a busy week for the writing side of my life:

  • I completed a 500 word essay this past Monday that I’d worked on for the last month.  I e-mailed it to an editor I know.  I thought I’d finally nailed what she was looking for in this type of essay, but alas, the rejection came the next day.  She complimented my essay, but offered no clear, specific problems with it that caused her to pass on it. 
  • Two more essays are in different stages of completion.  I worked on one of them also on Monday.  It has an 8/15/09 deadline.
  • I’ve been working on a publisher query to a specific editor.  When I checked their website today, I discovered that they accept unsolicited submissions, which is quite rare for a publisher.  So, rather than sending only a letter, I’ll include the first 50 pages of Perceval, as requested in their guidelines.  I expect to mail the query tomorrow or Friday.
  • I’ve been generating ideas for mini-essays for a website that $pay$ for them. 

On the job search side of my life, to date I’ve submitted 3 job applications for a medical coder position.  I’ve not seen any new listings this week.  I’m a member of AAPC, the professional association for coders, and talked with the membership officer of the local chapter last week.  She gave me several good tips and ideas for my job search.  I now plan to take the certification exam in about 6 months, and have purchased study guides to help me prepare.  I’ll watch for opportunities to practice taking the exam from my local AAPC chapter.


After waiting ten months for a response, today I finally received a response: a rejection from a literary magazine that I’d sent an excerpt from Perceval.  Disappointment.  And to think I’d just read a quote from Michael Cunningham (The Hours) in the August 2008 issue of The Writer earlier today:  “A novelist is more than anything else someone who refuses to stop writing and who can stand disappointment.”

I don’t think it’s a matter of being able to stand disappointment as it is knowing oneself and how to deal with it.  I will allow myself a little time to feel the disappointment, maybe half an hour.  Then I put the rejection letter away (usually a form letter, by the way) and begin working on where I’ll submit the story next.  Wallowing in the disappointment, or pity, or revenge fantasies serve no productive purpose and definitely will not lead to publication anymore than writing a letter to the editor who sent the rejection.

The only remedy for rejection is to get back to work, whether it’s writing or marketing….