Shelley Widhalm

How to remain encouraged as a writer, despite rejection

In When Your Work Gets Rejected, Writing, Writing Processes on March 29, 2015 at 11:00 am

Every time I enter a short story, poetry or book contest or anything else having to do with writing, I wonder if I’m wasting my money.

Yet again.

And then I tell myself that’s not a good attitude and that you entered the contest for a reason: the hope that you will win or receive an honorable mention. There’s also the possibility of receiving feedback as is the case in some contests or if an editor likes something about the piece, though it wasn’t the winner.

The thing to remember is that rejection is part of the process.

When it occurs, grieve through it, talk about it with a friend, learn from it and don’t take it personally. Reframe it as not being about you or your writing but about the interests of the magazine, journal or contest.

There are some things to realize about rejection:

  • Getting rejected is part of the process of putting your work out there, because it’s virtually impossible to win everything all of the time. It’s never about you but about your work, which you can improve for the next contest.
  • When your story or novel is rejected, it may mean you may need to do some more work on your writing or the piece, such as improving how you employ the writing elements, how you set up the structure of the story or even how you understand grammar and the use of language.
  • Rejection teaches you about you as a writer and your work, what’s marketable and how the writing business operates.
  • Getting rejected is a mostly subjective process, falling to the opinions of the judge or judges, even if they are informed opinions.
  • You may have submitted a story that doesn’t fit what the contest or publication was looking for, including your style, the story you told, the voice you used or anything else about your writing.
  • If you submit the same story over and over and it continues to get rejected, look for a pattern and the reasons for your work being rejected. Work on those reasons.
  • Have another project underway and employ what you learn from your first piece as you work on the next piece.

Keep every rejection you receive, because they’ll come in handy someday, such as when you do get published and you can physically count how long and how many rejection letters, slips, checked off submission-forms and returned SASEs it took you to get there.

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  1. That’s very optimistic and determined! What I like to do is to enter competitions which don’t have a fee so that I won’t feel hard done by it. Maybe I just can’t take the dual pain of losing money and not getting recognition. But like your points mention, it’s part and parcel of the process that makes you become a better writer after each rejection. I’ve only ever won once in my life and it was three years ago so I’m hoping this year can be better for me!

    • I do prefer the contests that don’t require a fee, because I wonder how much money I’ve spent trying to get published. I hope you get published. I’ve gotten published a couple of times, but it is a long, hard process.

  2. Useful advice 🙂

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