My Story
5 Ways for Writers to Deal with Rejection
September 30, 2015
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rejectionRejection isn’t easy, especially in writing. Having completed your manuscript, edited it, polished it off and then finally submitted it, you’re hopeful. Then you get the rejections. They start to trickle in and at first you say, “It’s ok, it’s only one” but bit by bit they mount up and the months of effort, sometimes years, that you’ve put in feels like it was all for nothing. The end.

But it doesn’t have to feel like that and now I’m going to provide you with some of the ways and methods I’ve used to come to terms with rejection.


Don’t Live in Denial

Or don’t live in any other river for that matter…right I’ll stop with the puns. On a serious note, if it happens, it happens. One of the beautiful things about rejection (yeah, I said beautiful and rejection in the same sentence) is that it’s evidence that you tried. That’s a lot further than other people get. When people ask me how my writing is going I’m quite happy to tell them that I’ve written four books, submitted three of them and come out of it with more rejection slips than I can count. I’m just happy in the knowledge that every rejection slip is evidence of my attempts. It’s progress, even if it doesn’t seem like it.

But the heading was “Don’t Live in Denial” because if you deny your rejections and your failures, you limit yourself. The successes are great in life, but we learn nothing from them other than perhaps how to act in success. It’s the failures that will really shape our lives, our personalities and how we react in situations of adversity. Failure is the groundwork for success, the foundation, the building blocks and without it no one would ever make it.

This begs the question, why deny? Why go through all this effort and then not disclose the result? Shame, fear, anger or maybe it’s a romantic idea that you’re the special one and that you can produce a piece of quality work that will set the world on fire off the top of your head. If that’s the reason forget it.

Accepting failure is, I believe, fundamental to being successful.


Don’t take it personally

I’ve read stories about people who get rejected and then send emails to the agents/publishers who rejected them wondering what the hell was wrong with them. “How dare they reject my work,” they say while shaking their fist in the air.

Piece of advice, don’t do that. The amount of unsolicited manuscripts received each year by agencies and publishing houses is simply massive. These people don’t have time to go through every submission in great detail, never mind actually represent everyone who submits. They have to make snappy judgment calls and if they decide not to take your work on, it’s nothing personal. They aren’t doing it because they don’t like you or they don’t want to represent someone like you, it’s simply because they don’t feel your submission was right for them based on the quality and subject matter of the work.


Learn from it

Let’s do what we are all told when we’re about five years old.

Learn from your mistakes.

It’s incredible how the advice given to us in our youth could actually be important, isn’t it! Anyway, if you are rejected, and I’m talking about a fairly comprehensive rejection by a number of agents, then the overwhelming likelihood is that your work is flawed. Your style is lacking. You might have the greatest story in the world but if you can’t communicate it properly then it’s not going to work. Or perhaps maybe the story isn’t right. It could be boring. What means a lot to you may mean nothing to someone else. Go back, analyse, be tough on yourself when editing and figure out why it’s not working. Maybe the story isn’t interesting, but maybe it’s something simple and only requires a minor tweak.

Hey, even J.K Rowling didn’t make it on her first try!

So learn from it. Take a class. Don’t be proud and don’t think that you’re wrong and the world is right because if that’s the case and you want to become a commercial author, then you’re going to have to be wrong too. If you’re lucky enough and an agent rejects you but does give advice, take it on board. Break down the advice, apply it to your text, and use it to create the very best piece of work you can. If you don’t get feedback after a rejection, then take action. Join a writing class, hire an editor. Just don’t sit there thinking you’re the best thing since sliced pan (Irish saying!) and that everyone else is beneath you.


Don’t get disillusioned

Immediately after getting rejection I used to go onto the internet and play a song. It helped me deal with the barrage of Apologies but we just feel that at this point in time your work isn’t right for my client list messages. The song was “Another One Bites the Dust” by the timeless Queen. Don’t get me wrong, at the end of it I hated Freddie Mercury and his voice but it did a lot to help me because while I realised what the rejections meant, I also was able to see the funny side of it, take a light-hearted approach and laugh.

And when it comes down to it, it’s just writing. It’s not the end of the world and there are more important things in life. A bit of context goes a long way.


Never Give Up

Rejection in anything, be it love, life or work, can be extremely difficult to deal with and can unfortunately lead to us getting down on ourselves and a lot of self-doubt. What makes writing doubly difficult is the amount of time you spend alone, constantly allowing that doubt to fester and grow. It’s an occupation that breeds doubt and spending that much time in one’s own head isn’t healthy.

Don’t give up.

That’s the thing. When I eventually do get my first book published, whenever that may be, along with whatever successes and failures I may have in my life, I want one thing in particular to be said about me…that I had an interminable spirit.

I have quit in the past. I won’t deny it. I have given up because whatever task at hand became too difficult. Now, even though I might doubt my ability sometimes, I won’t be able to forgive myself if I give up. Sometimes it takes time to build up a resolve but if you’re focused on succeeding, if you truly want to make it in the industry of your choice, then you will keep trying. And what’s more, you’ll be a success. If you get the right advice, put in the hard work then you will make it.

And you know what, failure is always the first step.


Thanks for reading. I hope that if anyone is feeling a bit down on themselves due to rejections then this might offer them a bit of encouragement, advice, but most importantly hope. If I have the ability to believe in myself then you definitely have the ability to believe in yourself.

Good luck with your writing!


Ian Brooks

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