What to do when you receive a rejection letter.

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Let's say you worked on your short story for some time. Your writing group loved it, and gave you feedback on how to make it better. You revised it and polished it until you felt it was the very best thing you could write. You finished it.

Let's say you sent this story to a magazine. And it felt great! Success!

Then, let's say, the magazine sent you back a rejection letter. It happens a lot, and it happens to everyone. That doesn't mean it feels like roller skates and piñatas.

Here's my advice on what to do when you receive a rejection letter:

Don't go too far into questioning why your story was rejected. Really. If the publication was generous enough to provide you a little feedback, read it, and then put it away. You're probably not reading the feedback with a clear mind, because your disappointment is colouring it. That's okay.

Put a stopping point on the amount of time you allow yourself to ponder the situation. Don't spend more than ten or fifteen minutes wondering why the story isn't published yet. 

You will never really know why a publication says yes or no. If you allow yourself to start thinking along those lines, you will enter a long, twisty hole of confusion and doubt. Keep your thoughts out of that black hole, and put them back on something that you love, asap.

Your story might be done -- no changes necessary, even though it was sent back. It might also not be finished, yet. It might need another revision. You can't tell right now, because you haven't yet written the next thing that will illuminate the particular thing about this story that needs to be tweaked. 

Nobody else -- not even an editor -- can tell you when your story is finished. That's up to you.

When a story is rejected, here is what I do:

I spend about ten minutes feeling disappointment mingled with doubt.

I track the response in my Submissions Tracking document, noting the name of the editor, the date, and notes or feedback (if there is any). Later, after some time has passed, I can look at my submissions history as a whole, and see if there are any patterns worth noting.

Then I get on with it.

I rarely go back to working on a freshly-rejected story. I don't have enough perspective. I'll go to work on something new that has the whiff of possibility all over it, and put the freshly-rejected one away for a few weeks until I can look at it and feel hopeful again.

Don't indulge your doubt. Write something new, something that feels totally different from that story. 

Read something that you adore.

Repeat.

xo,

Sarah Selecky


Photo credit: Martin Olsen on Unsplash. 


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4 comments

Thanks for writing this! It's exactly what I needed today and now I'm going to get back at it!
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Purabi Das

Thanks, Sarah, for great advice. Makes me feel so much better.
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Angie Gallop

Publishing is a real block for me. So, I've avoided sending stuff out. But this morn, I sent something out just to start filling that Submissions Tracker. And, I'm going to keep filling it. Thanks so much.
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Incredibly timely, Sarah. Your message landed in my inbox right next to an automated rejection letter. Thanks for the reminder of what's important.
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