Collecting my mail, I spotted the logo for our local council on one of the envelopes. My first thought – rates bill. It turned out to be something completely different.
It was a politely worded rejection letter, my fourth year in a row from this particular company.
Whilst obviously not a fan of rejection letters, this is how I have chosen to deal with them so far.
Don’t take it personally
Ok, I know this one is hard. You read the rejection letter and you assume your story sucks.
I believe starting out writing short stories has helped me better handle rejection. With the first competition I entered, I bought the book of winning entries. Some of the stories were excellent. One was so touching and well written it nearly bought me to tears, which was a bit embarrassing as I was on a public bus heading to work at the time. Other stories I considered good and one I really didn’t like at all. I could not possibly see how it had won. The judges obviously held a different view. Like movies, short stories are subjective. One person’s box office hit is another person’s dud.
Rejection is part of the business
If I have learnt anything from the piles of writing books and blogs I have read is that rejection is part of being a writer. Come to think of it, it’s part of life whether we particularly like it or not. Writing is a numbers game. Everyone has heard the stories of now famous authors who were repeatedly rejected before someone finally said yes and they were launched into mega stardom. As a writer these tales are both inspiring and somewhat scary since no one wants to initially be that person who is continuously rejected.
No response at all
A lot of time there is no letter. No feedback – nothing. You simply pick up a magazine and see the winning story published in all its glory. There is not much you can do. Move on and keep producing new and exciting work.
Check out your competition.
With the book of winning short stories, the first thing I read before the stories themselves was the winners’ bios. I wanted to know if these people had been published before or were new writers like myself? Did they have writing degrees? As it turned out some were experienced and some were new to writing which was positive. It can be daunting knowing you are up against experienced professional writers. But remember they were new writers once.
Don’t sulk or get depressed
Did I feel disappointed reading the rejection letter? Naturally, for a brief moment I felt totally deflated. Did I have an ‘it should have been me’ moment? I am human so yes indeed. But it passed quickly. Try not to linger on negative thoughts. Negativity could impact you the next time you sit down to write or may hinder your creative process altogether. Instead concentrate of your next plan of attack.
Think of ways to improve your story
Look at your piece again. What improvements can you make? Does it need a complete overhaul or some simple changes? Perhaps better characterisation? Focus on making it a better body of work.
Scope out other markets
Look for other markets where you can submit your story (after revisions naturally). Could you make the story longer or shorter to suit another market? If nothing jumps out at you straight away, don’t worry, hold onto the story until an opportunity comes along.
Don’t give up.
Last year one of my stories made the short list for the Raspberry and Vine October 2009 Short Story Competition. I was ecstatic! Unfortunately I didn’t win the main prize but it didn’t matter. Being shortlisted gave my confidence a huge boost.
So will I be entering the same short story competition next year, despite my small collection of thanks but no thanks letters? Absolutely!