If you’re a writer then you’ll get rejection letters. J.K. Rowling got them, Tom Clancy got them, in fact, you name an author, I expect they all have a drawful of them. But how should you deal with them?
1) Firstly – breath a sigh of relief. The wait is over. You aren’t suddenly going to have to put your life on hold while you write your “approved” project. You can keep that holiday date in Spain rather than booking into a residential course, you can take time out to research, you can do whatever it is you do – and most importantly you can revise and resubmit your manuscript again! (Or bin it and start a new one). For places like the BBC writersroom, a rejection letter means the submission process is over and you are eligable to submit a new work. So firstly – Relax!
2) Deal with the letter. For most, it’ll be a standard rejection letter. You know the type. “Many thanks for sending us your manuscript, we’ve decided at this stage not to take it any further” or “I’m afraid our books are full at present” or words to that effect. The standard rejection letters are the easiest to deal with – you can shred them, burn them, turn them into scrap paper, write on the back of them or file them. It doesn’t matter. They don’t say why they’ve rejected you – just that they have!
If on the other hand you are fortunate enough to have actually received feedback in the rejectin letter – then you need to action this. Firstly decide if it’s feedback you are willing to accept – you don’t have to accept EVERYTHING. After all, your writing style should be unique to you – and your aim is to find someone else who likes your writing for what it is. So don’t change things on someone else’s whim. Only you can decide if the feedback IS something you want to do something about, and if not – then file, burn, shred etc or actually take the advice and do something about it.
3) Avoid the miry pits of writing depression. Some people (like me) are sneaky. We time our submissions at “certain times of the month”, this means, I submit when I’m at a low ebb and I can’t feel any worse about myself or my writing, and generally the rejection letters will come back when I’m not at a low ebb and can just fling it to one side nonchalently! (Hey… we all have our tecniques!)
That said – when the rejection letter arrives – don’t fall into the trap of thinking you are a terrible writer. Remember all the authors who have gone before you! You aren’t the first, you won’t be the last! Eat a bar of chocolate, have a hot bath, seek out company. Whatever works for you – do it. Nobody likes being rejected and as most writers write alone, it often helps to go out and find a friend who “likes you” as a person to get over the hump. The rejection isn’t a personal slight, but it often feels like that. So do something you enjoy, and get some positive feedback. You are great! Honest!
4) Embark on a new project or revise the original. Rejection letters usually take 6 weeks (at least) to come back. This means you’ve had 6 weeks to “sit” on your work. So take another look at it again with a fresh head. Was it rubbish? You might well find it was (I know I sometimes do!) Revise it, or bin it and start something new! Learn from experience. Don’t just send it out again unless you are supremely confident in the piece. Use the rejection as a prod to take another look. Nothing is ever “finished”. I often go back to something after a year and tweek it again.
5)Find a good critic. Rejection letters with feedback are few and far between. If you think you can stand the pain – find someone who will read your work critically and GIVE you that feedback. They might be able to work out why you are getting regular rejections.