Nathanael Green's Blog

An advertising copywriter, novelist, and freelance writer's brain goo.

Quick Thoughts on Rejections

with 2 comments

rejectedFriend and fellow Rosemont writer Shawn Proctor posted a blog entry about the reality of rejections almost all writers must endure. Check out his blog here.

That got me thinking: I don’t imagine that many non-writers think about the heaps of rejections (usually pre-printed and written to politely say “get lost”) that most writers accumulate before finally seeing their work in print.

Writers will toil over a story for weeks, months, or years until we decide to abandon it (for it’s never really finished), then package it up and send it to a publisher, hoping that they’ll put our words in print for all to see.

And more often than not (much more often), we don’t hear anything for months. Then in the mail appears our self-addressed, stamped envelope with a rejection letter: “Thanks, but no thanks.” Like Shawn says, the supposed average is one publication of a story for every hundred times it’s submitted.

But writers’ lore is filled with encouraging anecdotes of famous writers who endured more rejections than most human psyches can take. (Note: these may be discouraging, depending on the mood one’s in.)

  • J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter was rejected by something like 12 publishers before Bloomsbury picked it up. We all know how that worked out for Ms. Rowling.
  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig has sold more than 4 million copies according to Wikipedia. Mr. Pirsig received no fewer than 121 rejections for this manuscript.
  • Stephen King had the iconic Carrie rejected more than 30 times before that one sold.

So even the greats get their rejections. It’s all part of the game. And writers everywhere continue to write despite, or sometimes because of, rejection letters.

The point is this: publishing at any level doesn’t happen over night. It’s a slogging process, but we need to remember that publishing and writing are separate activities and writers will write, regardless of whether they also publish. And the best way to increase your chances at publishing is to keep writing.

So, writers, what are your thoughts and experiences with rejections? And what keeps you writing and submitting?

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2 Responses

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  1. I’m no writer, but I have received a lot of rejections – mostly when looking for a job. Hey, how about a post about the language of cover letters? I really don’t like those things.

    As for this post, it reminded me of a lot of positive thinking books I’ve read. They say that you have to accept failure as part of the game, and take something positive out of every experience. It’s not easy, but it’s a good way to keep yourself from spiraling into depression.

    Nick Hughes

    April 19, 2009 at 10:27 am

    • Nick,

      Writing cover letters is definitely a tricky business, and I like the suggestion for a future post. I’ll add it to my list!

      And I think you’re right: rejection’s part of it all, and you just can’t let it affect you too much. It’s always just nice to imagine those editors (or employers) slapping themselves on the forehead a few years from now when they realize what they passed up.

      Nathanael Green

      April 19, 2009 at 5:20 pm


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