What do you do with rejection? By Syndi Powell


            It takes guts to write something whether it's a letter or a novel. It takes time, patience, but most of all it takes ambition to create it.
            It takes even more courage to send your writing out into the world. If you're sending it to a loved one, a critique partner or an editor, you have to believe in your work and yourself in order to submit it.
            It takes even more nerve to get a rejection and keep writing.
            A year ago, I submitted a proposal to my editor and waited to get her response. Unfortunately, she decided to pass on the project some months later. I then polished it, tailored it to a different romance line, and submitted it again to another editor. Recently, I discovered that they decided to pass on it too.
            So what do I do? Wallow in self pity and eat an entire carton of ice cream? That works for the first day, maybe. However, I'm trying to build a writing career, and wallowing will only take me so far. Instead, I let the pity party go on for a day (or six). Then I took a shower and let the bad rejection feelings slip down the drain. And I continued writing the next project.
            All writers get the dreaded rejection letter when they start out. J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter was rejected twelve times. Stephen King's first novel Carrie was rejected by thirty publishers. Even a classic like Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind got thirty-eight rejection letters. Those writers got published because they didn't give up after one or five or thirty-eight editors didn't think that the manuscript was right for their publication house.
            Even published writers get rejection letters. It's rare that an author will get the green light on every single idea they write down on cocktail napkins. Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and other literary greats had their fair share of novels turned down for publication.
            And yet…
            Rejection still hurts. I spent hours of my free time on writing and editing and honing the proposal, synopses and first three chapters of the trilogy. I poured pieces of myself into the stories and created characters that I loved. My stories are like my babies. And to have anyone say my baby wasn't pretty enough for them, it hurts.
            Rejection can block ideas from flowing. I stared at a blinking cursor for several days before I could let go of my feelings and dig down deep for the story that I did get an acceptance for. Nothing helps me get over rejection more than by writing words that I know will get published.
            Rejection can make you question your career choice. I tend to internalize those rejections so that I question my ability to write. Even though both editors told me they liked the stories but that they weren't appropriate for their respective lines, it still made me question my worth as a writer. Made me ask myself why I put myself and my stories out there when I could be rejected again. Maybe I was meant to be a bank teller for the rest of my life. But after a couple days, characters started talking and plots percolating. If I wasn't a writer, these people talking in my head might become a psychological diagnosis.
            Why am I sharing all this? Because rejection is part of the writer's life. Those who let a rejection turn them away from writing won't create much of a career. And I plan on being a part of this business for a long time.
            So what am I doing with that proposal? It's currently saved in a file and waiting for its turn to be polished and sent off to another publisher. After all, those stories are perfect for another publisher. My job is to keep submitting until I find the one.
            What do you do with rejection? What are your best practices to keep writing?


  1. Rejection really makes us question so many things, Syndi, and is painful. I’ve had so many rejections in my ‘career’ as a writer that the aftermath (dejection, self-doubt) of the most recent one lasted a mere 24 hours! Then it was back to the drawing board so to speak which, as you say, is the most important part of the process. Attitude is as vital as talent and that’s why you’ll succeed.

  2. Not to spout too many platitudes, but no matter how bad we feel over rejection, and it can hit so hard--I know--the fact is we're in the game. No sitting on the sidelines! After feeling lousy for a while, which is allowed, after all, we regroup and figure out next steps. Exactly what you're doing, Syndi. Thanks so much for bringing this up.

  3. Powerful post, Sydni! I think I've racked up more rejections trying to sell a 2nd book than I did my first! It can be very disheartening and make you question everything you thought. Thanks so much for this. I really needed it today!

  4. Publishing is such a brutal business in so many ways, and rejection is just one of those buckets of rocks being dumped on a writer. People also think just because we're already published that we don't suffer rejection. I've had two proposal rejected in the past two years and am getting ready to send another baby out into the world. Syndi, you took the right approach by revising your submission and sending it out again. Good for you! Belief in yourself is what will propel you to succeed. As the great philosopher Taylor Swift once said, "Shake it off." :)

  5. I actually wish they had another name for having a proposal turned down than "rejection" which is such a harsh and debilitating word. Not every story speaks to an editor, similar to not every book is loved by every reader. Maybe we could say a proposal is being passed by an editor instead of saying it is "rejected". Truly mostly it has nothing to do with the writing, but more with something in plot or characterization. I work very hard at not taking something turned down as personal.

  6. I've sometimes thought that getting published was a little like aiming for a particular raindrop in a storm at midnight. And the more editors who've edited your work, the harder it gets. You write one way knowing an editor doesn't like certain things, then the next editor comes along and likes it yet another way. If we love writing, we persist.

  7. It does take guts, and it's harsh when that story you're so excited about doesn't get the response you'd hoped for. I'm crossing my fingers that your baby finds the perfect home soon. I'm waiting to hear on a proposal now, so I'm crossing my fingers for that as well.

  8. I think rejection in creative pursuits feels like such a lonely thing. It helps to read someone else write about it. Thanks for sharing your plan and path to get back in the game. I for one know I couldn't have handled rejection ten or fifteen years ago. It's a good thing I didn't start submitting my writing until the last few years or I might have gotten my feelings hurt and squirreled away my writings. But when you want it, you want it. And, Syndi...you want it!

  9. Thank you for sharing this. I'm waiting, too, and fearful...

  10. something which happened to me a few weeks ago

  11. Thank you for this honest post. It is so hard. I had a proposal last year that I loved and no one else did. I'll be honest, I cried about it! But I was able to find out more about what my Heartwarming editor was looking for through that process and my next proposal was accepted. I try to remind myself that it's all about learning to be a better writer, but that doesn't mean it doesn't feel awful when it happens!

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