You’re Not a Bad Person. You Just Have Ugly Children

The first experience of most writers is rejection.  It sucks, but there it is.  So how do you deal with it?  Let’s look at some ways.

Editors reject stories and novels for all kinds of reasons, and not just because the writing is bad.  They reject a piece because it’s too similar to a piece they bought just last week, because it doesn’t turn them on, because they’re full up, or because they’re in a bad mood over a divorce, stubbed toe, or bad traffic that morning.  The story might bug the editor because the main character keeps eating chocolate and the editor is on day three of her new diet.  You just never know.  Send it to someone else.

How often has this happened: A friend raves about a book or short story.  It’s fantastic!  The best piece of fiction ever!  The friend loans it to you.  You read it and go “Meh.”  So maybe your piece is brilliant, but the editor went “Meh.”  What does she know?  Send it to someone else.

After a certain point, there may be no more markets for a piece.  Oh well.  You put it away and when a new market opens up, you take the piece out, dust it off, run it through the rewrite machine, and send it out again.  Or maybe you can use the characters or settings in another piece.  Which you’ll send out.

Marion Zimmer Bradley maintained that editors will eventually tire of rejecting you and buy something.  Of course, that won’t happen if you don’t send them something.

Have you been writing about the same set of characters all this time and been gathering rejections for them?  Maybe it’s time to give them a break.  Write about new characters in a new setting.  Been writing adventure-based fiction?  Try a character piece.  Always doing sword and sorcery?  Try some urban fantasy.  Main character is always a woman in her twenties?  Try writing about a teenaged male.  Do something different and you might surprise yourself.  Then send it out.

Get Away From It All.  When the writing and rejection weighs you down, get away from it for a while.  Yes, I’m telling you to stop writing for a bit.  Set a time period–a week, say, perhaps two at most.  Give yourself permission to slack off and not write.  Do something physical.  Catch up on your housework.  Clean the gutters.  At the end of the time period, return to your keyboard, mind and body refreshed.

Then send something out.

How do you deal with rejection?

–Steven Harper Piziks

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You’re Not a Bad Person. You Just Have Ugly Children — 2 Comments

  1. It is also worth remembering that editors do not stay in their jobs for ever. If you sent the story to Editor Jones at XYZ Space Tales, and she rejected it, it is worth sending it back to XYZ Space Tales again once Jones has moved on and Editor Smith has taken up the job.

  2. The tricky part is when you get a personal comment. First you have to get over the sting, because it almost certain to be negative — remind yourself that it now means you are good enough to be told what’s wrong!

    Then you have to decide whether to revise accordingly. True, the editor probably knows more about writing than you do, but then he didn’t have long to analyze. He just jotted a quick note about what struck him about a story.

    If you garner several personal comments and they all agree, probably you ought to revise accordingly. (Of course, by that time, you’ve burned a number of markets.) OTOH, I have gotten personal comments from two different editors that contradicted each other. They might have been right that there was a problem but at least one was wrong about what it was.