Handling Rejection like a Professional
By Michelle Liew Tsui-Lin
All Rights Reserved
“Rejections slips, or form letters, however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil – but there is no way around them.” – Isaac Asimov
The science fiction guru ranks among rejected writers. The list is endless, and like the bald truth or not, it includes all of us.
For those of us new to freelance writing, this world is full of rejection. Whether you are a novelist or an article writer, readers or editors will give some of your work the thumbs-down.
The reality is harsh, but no writer is alone. The trick is to
meet rejection with the finesse that characterizes you.
A. Why editors reject authors
With editors sometimes keeping mum about why they turn us down, it is good to know why they do not accept our work.
1. It is not in a popular genre.
Every writer has his own voice and style. We are passionate about it as is, and often, we write from our hearts.
This means that we may not write in a popular genre. Taking myself as an example, my niches are pets, poetry and very often, self-help. Not everyone has interest in reading such articles or finds them useful.
Editors may not want to publish anything not written for the popular market.
2. There are grammatical errors.
Writing with heavy grammatical errors often goes straight to the bin.
Every writer needs to edit his work. Our speech patterns interfere with our writing, making some grammar inaccurate. We write as we think. This makes sentences truncated.
Editing does lessen the likelihood of rejection.
3. Quality is subjective.
And then, quality is subjective. What one editor likes is not the same as what another takes a fancy to. What captures one
reader's attention turns another off.
Quality is highly subjective, so some of your work will not appeal to some.
4. The editor does not agree with the writing style.
Further, the editor may not agree with your writing style. Some of us are more conversational; others, less so.
To each his own. Sadly, one's style may grate on another's perceptions.
5. The content is not unique.
This is perhaps one of the hardest obstacles to climb over as writers.
Research takes us into the hazy realm of content similarity and plagiarism. It sometimes makes some of our work similar to what is on the market.
This is why writers should always offer their unique perspectives on topics.
B. What to know about rejection
There is still more to know about rejection, but I hope these facts will console anyone who needs to read it.
1. It hits all writers.
Rejection hits all writers, in one way or another. Some may have manuscripts revised several times. Others hear a few harsh words. Some articles that we write may have no comments.
No matter how we receive rejection, we are not alone. It is a rogue wave that hits us all.
2. It is a painful evolutionary process.
Rejection is a painful, growing process for all of us. We hate failure, but it alerts us to the shortcomings that all of us have.
If we choose to learn from it, it helps to take our writing to the next level.
3. Not every rejection has value.
Remember that not every rejection has value. Freelance writers know that some clients are very arbitrary, make ambiguous requests and turn it down if it does not meet their requirements.
Some publishers, sadly, behave in the same way. It is important to remember that rejection, no matter how harsh, is never personal.
4. You go through the 5 stages of grief.
We go through the 5 stages of grief quickly as writers. We deny it, get angry, bargain, become depressed and finally accept it.
Get to the last stage quickly, for it is only then that you can move on to the next writing task.
5. You will meet with Stark Cruelty.
Once in a while, we meet with those who make cutting remarks.
We may receive a negative comment or two about our work.
Again, remember to accept this as quickly as possible and more importantly, ignore it. It is never indicative of your ability as a writer.
6. At times, it is our fault.
At times, it really is our fault. We may not have read submission guidelines carefully, or written on the correct topic. I plead guilty to this.
7. Do not try to convince the editor to accept your work.
If an editor has closed the door, do not knock until, perhaps, a new one takes his place.
As he has already made his mind up, doing so is a waste of the time you can use to write other material and get the recognition you deserve.
Besides, it is not professional etiquette.
How to deal with rejection
C. Famous writers and rejections
With no offense meant to these literary greats, it warms the heart to know that they have face rejection, some many more times than we have. They fully understand that attaining writing success simply means keeping at it, and constantly improving.
Publishers treated William Golding's Lord of the Flies with scorn, and turned it down 20 times.
Margaret Mitchell must have sighed at least 38 times, for that is how often Gone With The Wind met with rejection.
On a more modern note, publishers turned down J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone 14 times.
Carrie, by the prolific Stephen King, did not mesmerize readers immediately. Some editors felt that there was no market for apocalyptic fiction.
Editors recommended that Louisa May Alcott, the creator of Little Women, stuck to teaching.
We will have to simply keep going, no matter how many rejections we have. It is the only way to succeed.
On that note, Colonel Saunders lived out of his car and had his Southern Fried Chicken recipe rejected over 270 times.
How do you handle rejection?
D. How to handle rejection like a professional
How then, do we handle the rejection monster and shake his hand?
1. Remember humility.
Practice humility. No one writes perfectly, so if people do not take to your work straight away, offer a thanks and accept your errors.
2. Mail a harsh rejection letter to yourself.
You.know your weaknesses best, so try mailing a harsh rejection letter to yourself.
List all your weaknesses and learn them by heart. It presses you to grow and not repeat them.
3. Try self-publishing.
Your novel may not sit well with an editor, but why waste it?
Publish it yourself. You may already have a ready pool of readers waiting for you.
4. Take a break.
If you need time away to regroup, take it. You will return with a fresh perspective.
5. Compare your writing with others.
Compare your writing with others in a similar genre. Assess what makes their work ring with readers.
Take care not to compromise or discard what are your own strengths.
6. Write about your love for writing.
Write about your love for writing on a blog post. Remind yourself about why you became a writer, and why you must sustain that passion.
7. Find support.
Other writers feel this too, so consult them. They may offer advice that you really need to hear.
8. Revise your work.
Look at your work again and edit it based on the points offered in the harsh comment or rejection letter.
You may get positive reviews for it after that.
9. Write on other topics.
If you have always written in one genre, write in another for a change.
A change of pace gives you a fresh perspective on your work.
10. Remember the times you succeeded.
Lastly, remember the times you succeeded. Some, if not all of your writing is surely popular.
With that, remind yourself that success is in your hands.