Rejections Pave the Road to Publication

A new writer friend and I were chatting the other day and the conversation turned to rejection slips.

We agreed that while having a manuscript or article rejected really isn’t a personal dig from the editor or agent, it sometimes feels that way.

Because I’d been doing this for a while, I told her that we create a better emotion around those emails and letters if we can see them as steps on a path.  Or even better, as chances on a lottery.   You may buy a ticket every week for a year and never win a single dollar, but eventually time and chance line up and the next ticket you buy nets you at least enough for a nice dinner out.

When we start our journey to publication we know that very few writers bag a million-dollar contract for the very first manuscript they write.  Logically, we understand that we have a long way to go before we reach the desk of the right editor at the moment in time said editor needs or wants exactly what we’ve written.  But it’s harder to wrap our emotional understanding around that idea.  So each time we send our golden child out to be judged and it is rejected, we are rocked by the concept that everyone doesn’t love it as much as we do.

So what’s a writer to do?  Well, we could avoid sending anything to an editor or agent, and refuse to share our words with family and friends.  In which case, we’ll never receive a Dread Rejection Slip.  But we’ll also never sell our manuscripts.

Or, we can send out hundreds of stories or articles, a few manuscripts, query dozens of agents and editors, and hope we receive as many rejections as we can rack up… until we hit that magic moment when our manuscript aligns with everything on one editor’s checklist… and we get The Call.

If we understand that we have to go through the process of submitting, being rejected, learning and revising, and submitting again and again… then why not get started and get as many rejections as we can pile up, as soon as possible, so we can get to the win?

I can hear what you’re thinking now. “So what do I do with all those rejection slips, when just looking at them makes me want to throw up, go get a job with a steady income, and forget I ever wanted to write?”

So glad you asked.

Why not:

  • Pave your driveway with them – it’s a great conversation starter with the new neighbors
  • Bundle them into small log shapes and save them to burn in the fireplace during the next power outage
  • Paper your bathroom with rejection letters so your guests have something to read while they use the facilities
  • Paste them into a massive album and use it as a doorstop for that door that’s not level
  • Print them out on a pretty paper and create a border around the top of the room
  • Decoupage them onto the top of your writing desk, then coat the top of the desk with a sheer layer of gold glaze to remind yourself they represent your path to that million-dollar contract
  • Set a monthly goal for rejection notices, then see if you can beat your personal best
  • Go all Sark on those slips, numbering them with vivid, joyful colors and creative shapes, using crayons, paints, brushes, calligraphy pens.  Then frame each slip in a slim black frame and hang them, starting at the top left corner and continuing like lines of text across your wall
  • Fold them into 1000 peace cranes and release them from the top floor of a skyscraper
  • Rejoice that you have collected enough rejection slips to do any of the above suggestions

Why?  Because lots of rejection slips means you’re sending your work out, and when it’s out there, someone will eventually see it and love it.

And the best thing about writing and submitting enough that you amass a collection of rejections is that the more you write, the more your writing improves, and the more chance you have of getting that contract you want.

Yes, believe me, I understand it’s painful to see those words… “Sorry, this isn’t what we’re looking for.”  So I give us all permission to pout, moan, and sob if needed.  But not forever!  Set a timer for five minutes – okay, thirty minutes if this rejection is an earth-shattering surprise – then sit yourself down and find another editor or agent to query.

Now get out there and get rejected!  It’s good for the soul, and it’s good for your writing.  Start counting those slips right now.


What’s the craziest thing you’ve done with your rejection slips?  Share with us in the comments.