How you deal with rejection will ultimately decide how far you progress as a writer because, whether you like to admit it or not, you are going to have to deal with it at some point. It can be one of the most heartbreakingly painful experiences, but you have to be able to dust yourself off and carry on if you are ever likely to succeed.
There are hundreds upon thousands of great stories out there, and just as many great writers, who may be honing their skills, gathering their research or simply staring at a blinking cursor right now. The secret – and a lot of it has to do with luck – is getting those stories onto the page and into the hands of agents, publishers and ultimately, into the hands or Kindles of the reader.
The word ‘rejection’ often makes writers grimace at the mere mention of it, but it can be trigger for some truly great writing, or give you that extra push to ensure that the next person who reads it will be the one that accepts it. There are lots of examples of writers whose great works were initially rejected – C.S Lewis, Ernest Hemingway, George Orwell, amongst others – whether that was for the page, the stage, film or art. The fact of the matter is they didn’t give up, and neither should you.
Don’t Take It Personally
It is often overlooked that when a writer decides that he/she is ready to put themselves out into the world, allowing for criticism, praise – both of which can be equally terrifying – and everything in between, that in itself deserves a great deal of respect. Writing is a very personal experience, and writers can become very precious over their work, and understandably so. When you hand over the finished product, something that was an abstract thing in your head that has grown over time and flowed through you onto the page, it can be just as difficult as any rejection can ever be. But rejection will always be the most painful process that a writer will come across.
The important fact to remember is that no publisher or agent will ever be rejecting your work on a personal basis. This just doesn’t happen. A decision will be made over what is written on the page, and as much as it will hurt when the rejection comes, it shouldn’t be seen as a personal attack or even an attack of your writing.
A number of agents and publishers will send a personal response to your submission, detailing why they haven’t decided to take your work or represent you. It is important to take a deep breath and read this very carefully. There could be some important advice or key factors that held your work back, and swallowing your pride and considering these responses could have a dramatic and positive effect on your writing.
Be Honest With Yourself
The Playwright Martin McDonagh said in an interview with Creative Screenwriting Magazine that “you should just be completely honest with yourself. If it’s crap – admit it, but if it’s good – admit that too…”
Many writers would agree with that, and many others would also agree that listening to outside influences can also be a negative experience. At the end of the day, they’re not the writer you are; whether that be friends, family, even editors and publishers. The only person who knows when a piece of work is the best it can be is you, but you have to be honest with yourself. There are a lot of reasons to be precious about your work, but denial and arrogance aren’t the same thing as being precious. It’s important to step out of yourself and view your work from the outside. When you do that, you’ll be a lot more honest with your work and a lot more brutal in the editing process.
Kill Your Babies…
Being ruthless in the edit will improve your chances of being published. Sometimes it hurts to do so – there are many examples of writers who have talked about cutting out their best work just because it didn’t fit – and it will never become easy for you, but it’s for the greater good. The finished work needs to be the very best it can be, and killing your babies will help you put forward the best piece of work you have. When you know it’s the best it can be, you should be able to brush rejection off and move on unperturbed.