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Rejectomancy, the dark art of analysing a rejection letter, generates an awful lot of ego stroking, which, unfortunately, is often spewed across the digital sidewalk for all and sundry to see.

For me, a rejection letter–whether it is the two-line form variety, or the six-page detailed analysis type–tells me that my story wasn’t suitable for that market at that time. Nothing more. It is not nice. Neither is it nasty (unless there are attacks of a personal nature). They’re just my emotional responses to the letter. The rejection letter may help me understand the reader’s experience of the story better, and therefore help me fashion it in a way that promotes its chances of publication later, but what it doesn’t do–without some work on my part–is make me a better writer.

When I trawl the forums and see people talking about “a nice rejection”, I always feel that they’re too emotionally attached to their work, that what they really want to say is “I wrote this great story that in a parallel universe would’ve been published, so please give me some validation.” Man up! A nice rejection is the same as form rejection in terms of consequences in the world. Your story wasn’t right for that market, and it won’t be published there. Deal with it! If you’re serious about getting into print, then there should be no distinction in your head between the type of rejection letter you receive.

Nobody in their right mind feels good about rejection.┬áThat’s natural. Endlessly sending out crappy manuscripts and giving yourself a chocolate bar for every rejection slip you collect is a recipe for lower self-esteem and a bigger wardrobe. The hard thing, the brave thing, to do is look at your creation with fresh eyes, and if you can see its faults, then to render it anew. If you can’t then you have to make a judgement call about the story’s future potential markets; does the story stand a reasonable chance of publication at one of those? And, are they of a sufficiently high standard for me to be happy submitting my work there? If not, then maybe the best place for that story is sitting on your hard drive until you figure out how to make it better . . .

Am I being harsh? How do you feel about rejection–in art, or otherwise?

PS Yes, I got a rejection letter–or two–today. It’s painful, but after one hundred and fifty rejections or so, it’s getting less painful each time. What needles me more is that I sent one of those stories out when, deep down, I knew it wasn’t ready, because I was sick of its ugly (yet still lovable) face. Now I’ve denied that story the chance of getting into that market, because I pushed it out onto the mean streets too early.

5 Responses to “Rejectomancy”

  1. Neil M says:

    I think if you met anyone who’s never been rejected from anything, ever, you’d probably want to punch them in the face.

    Do you publish your work online? Maybe you could save the story that got sent out too young into a free ebook.

  2. Pod says:

    You haven’t buggered up it’s chances you fool, you’ve just let it see what it’s up against. x

  3. Pod says:

    The “Fool” bit was from love. What is moderation. I mean i know what moderation is but what is it when it’s to be awaited?

  4. Fortunately, there’s more than one market for the story. It’ll be heading back out into the big bad world shortly . . .

  5. Joseph Jordan says:

    As always, you are wise beyond your years, my friend.

    Me? When I get a rejection, I feel sorry for the poor bugger who lacks of literary sense to recognize true genious.

    But then I cry for the world that once again is denied the chance to treasure a masterpiece.

    Hey, it’s what gets me to sleep at night…

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