In the latest instalment of our Fear & Failure series, here’s a little treatise on REJECTION and how ‘no’ does NOT mean ‘you’re a terrible writer, you might as well give up’…
It is a truth universally acknowledged that every writer, no matter how accomplished, will, at some point, get rejected.
So join the club. Look, you get a free badge and everything:
Look, it happens to the best of us. Some of the most rejected books of all time also happen to be massively successful, award-winning bestsellers – some are even classics in the canon of literature.
Proof in the pudding – here’s award-winning author of The Good Son Paul McVeigh on how he wanted to give up after his AWARD-WINNING novel got turned down by an agent (spoiler: he didn’t give up and ended up winning the Polari Prize ffs):
Also, it’s worth remembering that there’s no one single reason for rejection. It’s totally, utterly, stupendously subjective. But in all cases, the reaction should always be: Try, try again.
Maybe you got rejected because the unique, individual judge or lit mag editor you submitted to happens not to like stories on your particular subject or in your particular style. That doesn’t mean your story is shit, it just means it’s not for them.
The answer? SEND IT TO SOMEONE ELSE.
Don’t believe us? Listen to Sean Pen, editor of Open Pen Magazine, instead, on how ‘rejection is essentially meaningless’:
Maybe you got rejected because you didn’t read the submission guidelines or adhere to the theme of the competition/issue.
The answer? DON’T BE AN IDIOT AND FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS NEXT TIME. (Also, read our advice on submitting to competitions and lit mags for a proper dressing down.)
Maybe you got rejected because the lit mag or anthology you’re submitting to already has a story on the same theme and doesn’t want to double up – or maybe they’re subconsciously picking out stories about cats and yours is about a mutant peacock. Either way, it’s down to subjectivity and/or luck once again.
The answer? FIND ANOTHER OPPORTUNITY, SEND IT OUT AGAIN.
Maybe you got rejected because ‘the market isn’t right’ or your genre ‘isn’t categorisable’ or some other bullshit publishing excuse (okay, it’s not bullshit, it’s a business, but it feels like bullshit when you just want someone to say “Yes! I love your work! Let’s make you rich!”). Again, it’s not you. Sometimes the time just isn’t right. Or the agent isn’t right. Or the approach isn’t right. But that doesn’t mean it’s gonna be wrong forever.
The answer? BOLLOCKS TO THE MARKET – KEEP ON TRYING, OR PUT THIS PROJECT ASIDE AND START SOMETHING NEW.
And maybe, just maybe, you’re getting rejected because your writing isn’t quite there yet. That’s okay too. It really is. No one starts out at the top of their game. Here’s a fab bit of advice from Ira Glass that we share A LOT because it’s just so frickin’ true:
The answer? There’s no magic fix for this one. You just have to DO THE WORK. You have to fail. You have to learn from your mistakes and develop and hone your writing and seek out feedback and take risks and get rejected and try again and on and on until oblivion.
Because no matter how many times you get rejected, the ONLY thing that will stop you from succeeding is giving up. So screw your courage to the sticking post, leave your fear of failure at the door, and keep on submitting.