November 30, 2010

Rejection Dejection

Rejection Letter

We all have to deal with rejection in our lives, and it hurts to not get the job we want, the relationship we want, or the agent we want.  In fact, it sucks.  But as trite as it sounds, it really is better to try and fail than to not try at all.  This point has been brought home to me—with a sledgehammer—several times in the past month.

I entered two of my stories into various writing contests back in September and the scores that came back were not encouraging.  Yes, I’m a perfectionist, but even disregarding that impossible measurement, I didn’t do so hot.  It would have been very easy to give in to the “I suck” mentality and quit.

Lucky for me, I’m as stubborn as they come.

Reject the Rejection Dejection

After a rejection, we want to curl up into a ball and stay there.  And it’s okay to do that—for a little while.  I let myself pout for about a day.  According to my own advice, I was allowed to take some time to let it all sink in.

Once the initial sulk wore off, I was able to read the judge’s comments and see that most of them were very positive.  My story premise is unique, and I got great marks for plot, dialogue, pacing, grammar, etc.

Then I took the rest of the comments and figured out all the negative comments were due to one main issue.  This was when the real panic started.  Sure, it should have been easy, right?  Or not…

What If You Don’t Know How to Solve a Problem?

Everyone always says that the first step to solving a problem is knowing you have one.  Okay, great, had that.  But what’s step two?

  • Enlist the help of others. My critique partner and beta readers came to my rescue and reread my contest submission.
  • Get examples of the problem. They looked specifically for my weakness and marked places in my first chapter where it needed work.
  • Test a solution. I ripped my hair out for several days and then forced myself out of my fetal position to try something—anything.  Repeat.
  • Be able to identify the problem in the wild. With my writing partners’ encouraging feedback, I then tried to find weak spots in chapter two by myself.
  • Practice. By chapter four, I was finding issues on my own, fixing them right the first time, and making my writing partners proud.

This past weekend, I submitted my new and improved work to the RWA Golden Heart contest.  I still have zero expectations for my manuscript to do well, but that’s mostly because my work isn’t a good fit for any of the categories of that contest.  The important thing is that I didn’t let those ego-crushing contest results stop me.  I’d rather try and fail than not try at all.

My lesson learned: Risk-taking plus determination equals success.  By risking my work and my ego in those earlier contests, I learned a lot about my strengths and weaknesses.  And with the help of my friends, my perfectionism, and my stubbornness, I was able to move forward from my rejection dejection and push my writing to a whole new level.

How do you deal with rejection?  Have you ever not known how to fix a problem?  What did you do?

Comments — What do you think?

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Suzanne Johnson

Great topic! We all have to deal with rejection, for sure. I usually pout and whine and do a little name calling–going through the stages of grief in about 48 hours–then start over. Hang in there!

Jamie Wesley

Right on, Jami. I need to print this out and tape it to my wall. Rejection sucks, but I need a tougher skin, no doubt.

Joanna St. James

I read and reread the comments i get a thousand times till it sticks in my brain. I too might have perfected the art of getting rejected and sulking for one day but one can still never be sure.

Tahlia Newland

It’s an ongoing part of the process, isn’t it? I admit I gave up on short stories. I prefer writing novels.

Thanks for this. I love to hear how different people handle rejection. I try to look at it positively too.

I have a whole category on my blog on dealing with rejection.
particularly like the cartoon on the 7 kinds of happiness.

You can read ch 1 of my YA fantasy novel, lethal Inheritance there too.


Wow, you have been honing the craft! Beta Buddies are essential. Good luck in the competition.


You ask: How do you deal with rejection?

I answer: Vodka. 😉

Great post. And don’t worry – I won’t let you stay in the fetal position – dejection mode too long. Just enough to motivate you. 🙂


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