Sunday, November 30, 2008

How do you handle rejection?

Have you heard authors say, “Aww…rejected. Cool.”? No, I don’t know anyone who treated an “R” as something cool. :) How about you? Did you ever scrawl, “I hate you, Editor” across your rejection letter, imagining it was his face? Or have you done a gross thing like splattering your gooey spit on the computer screen (hard to wipe that off if you have an LCD screen) when you opened your email and found a sorry rejected from the editor? Or you just shrug your shoulders, hit the delete button, sigh, shake your head then move on?

I don’t.

Each rejection letter is hard to swallow and I don’t take it easily. I consider my rejection letter as a challenge, a guide, a nudge (real hard one). Never—since I started writing—have I considered an R as a sign of failure. After all, I received one because I accomplished something—finished a story.

Now, this is my way of handling rejections and I’m not saying you should to or this is the right way to handle it. But it would be neat if you share yours. ;)

Anyway, here is what I do when I receive a heart-stopping rejection. After reading the letter (online since I haven’t submitted stories through snail mail yet), I save it on my Publications folder. Next, I’ll open my One Note, click on the Manuscript tab and add R on the note column.

On my desktop, I also have a WIP tab. I’ll put the rejected story back there. Now the rework begins. I’ll read the R letter and start picking it—especially the ones where an editor took his/her time pointing out the stories strengths, weaknesses and the holes on the story. How to improve it and why I shouldn’t give up on the story.

Here’s an example. My favorite. I used it as my screen saver.

“I know rejection is hard on an author, but just so you know, you do have a snappy, edgy style of writing quite suited to mainstream novels.
The dialogue, although crisp and flirty, was sandwiched between the internal conflict of the hero hating the cold weather. Your descriptive narrative was dead-on.”

Not bad, huh?

Here is another one:

“Just because we aren’t interested in acquiring your manuscript right now doesn’t mean we never will be, or that your work lacks merit. We hope you will continue to work on your story to improve its voice and structure, and perhaps add some depth and complexity to the characters.”

With the positive comments from the editors, I’ll rewrite the story and turn it into a brand new submission.
Under the Submissions tab, I’ll type the name of the “newly polished” story alongside the publications name where I intend to send it next.

Do we share the same way of handling rejection?

Tierney O’Malley, an author who changed her title from unpublished to published because she didn’t let a rejection letter stop her from writing and submitting.

To Trust a Wicked ManThree Christmas KissesEmerald Envisage

15 deadly screams:

Pheebles said...

About the only thing you can do, is accept that the mss was rejected this time out, and turn it around and try again. My first novel was rejected twice, and completely ignored once before I found it a home.

Anonymous said...

Very well said, Tierney. . .I am impressed with your writing thus far!

As for me, well, being a non-muscular, non-handsome, non-wealthy male, if there is anything in the world I am accustomed to, it is rejection *s* It's never a reason to give up or to stop trying!


Tierney O'Malley said...

Pandem *hugs*

No, never give up. You have the spirit, the knowledge, the TOOL (editors are awesome), to write. So never entertain the thought of giving up.
*waving hand dismissing your comment on being non-muscular, non-handsome(untrue), non-wealthy male* It's the heart that matters Pandem. --and freckles LOL *sigh*

Keep writing!! Lift your armor and charge!!!

Tierney O'Malley said...

Hi Pheebles,

I agree. We have to keep going and turn things around.
The snippets that I posted helped me sold the ms.

Congrats on your book! BTW, I love your cover.

Kissa Starling said...

My motto is always revise and resubmit. One time I felt like a publisher didn't review my mss as they said they did. They replied that there was one word they didn't like. I changed the word, resubmitted somewhere else and got a contract within the week. My absolute worst rejection was one quite recently- it was a group rejection. I was duly offended that someone couldn't give me an individual rejection and I won't submit to that publisher ever again. Live and learn.


Sandy said...

I used to stop writing for months after getting a rejection, but now it doesn't even phase me. It's like, what's the big deal? lol


AJ Llewellyn said...

Hi Tierney,
I keep my rejection letters - because they're dinosaurs. No one bothers even sending 'em now so when I actually get one, I keep it.
The great actress Diana Rigg published a book of bad reviews actors have received. I'd like to write one of the best of the worst rejection letters writers get.
My pet peeves are lazy, stupid publishers and agents who mail out the wrong rejection letters.
It's hard enough dealing with my own rejection let alone somebody else's. LOL...
My fave though was the agent returned my m/s three years after I submitted it to her!!
Hell, why bother??
Her comments in pencil on my query letter no less were, "It is difficult to sell work in the first person." The book she rejected was long since published so her note made me laugh my ass off.


Sierra Wolfe said...

Great post today Tierney! I haven't had to deal with a rejection yet (don't worry, my time is coming, lol) but I hope that when I do, I'll be able to handle it well and retry elsewhere.

One good thing is that I have plenty of support from my wonderful writing friends. So I know that when I get my first R, I'll have plenty of help getting through it.

Anonymous said...

I like to just handle rejections in a very businesslike manner. I make a note on my submission tracker, delete the email (I prefer potential markets which are e-world savvy) and move on. But it's very hard, sometimes, and because I write a lot I submit a lot and get rejected a lot. Depression is a familiar friend of mine.

Gracen Miller said...

Rejection smection! They make me cry! lol Just kidding.

I do NOT like rejection letters, but I'm mature enough to know that not everyone is going to like what I write. If I can't please my mother because there's sex in them *gasp* and my mother-in-law is convinced I'm going to roast in hell for writing about vampires *rolls eyes*...well, let's just say, between them, I've developed pretty tough skin over the years.

So, yeah, rejection smection! If they want me in tears, they need to hire my mother and mother-in-law.

I'm like AJ, I keep all my rejection letters. I don't know why. Most are just form letters, so they don't mean much. It's the ones that took the time to tell me "why" and what they thought I could do to fix it were the ones I can accept with oodles of grace and thanks. At least I know they read the parts of the book I sent them and they cared enough about my writing career to suggest changes.

Great blog, btw, Tierney! I really enjoyed reading it!

Tierney O'Malley said...


Isn't that something? One word. Man, one word and they returned your work.
You know--maybe this is off topic--the worst rejection I've ever experienced was from a critique group. I saw their post online looking for a crit member. I thought, "Cool, local group. I will join." I sent them an email, told them--at the time--"I'm a newbie, unpublished."
The woman who answered the email said that she talked to the other members and they all agreed that they want someone with a sterling background (mind you they were all unpublished authors), someone who would help them get published. Understandable. But imagine that. It wasn't even a paid position I applied for and I got rejected.

Rejection sucks.


Tierney O'Malley said...


Neat attitude. LOL


Tierney O'Malley said...


Thanks for stopping by.

"I'd like to write one of the best of the worst rejection letters writers get."

This is I think is a novel idea.

"My pet peeves are lazy, stupid publishers and agents who mail out the wrong rejection letters.
It's hard enough dealing with my own rejection let alone somebody else's. LOL..."

You've got to be kidding me? Sheez! That's torture.

Congrats on your new Christmas book, Mele Kalikimaka.


Tierney O'Malley said...

Thanks. I thought this topic would be a good one. :D

Lucky you. Count your blessings, Sierra. Getting rejected is


Tierney O'Malley said...


"and because I write a lot I submit a lot and get rejected a lot. Depression is a familiar friend of mine."

If we submit a lot we have more chances of getting accepted. Congrats on your book, Nadia.
I love the cover of Offering.