Part of the Process… is Rejection
I want to share something about receiving rejection letters. I am coming to the conclusion of the revision process on a few stories I’ve been writing, thanks in part to the editorial eye of Lev Raphael. One of the things I’ve been doing lately is reviewing my Submittable profile and considering re-upping my subscription to Duotrope. Gone are the days when you had to lick a stamp for every magazine you wanted to mail your story to, and you wouldn’t receive a response without including the SASE. Some of our older readers will be surprised I know what that is.
In any case, it’s impossible not to look at the pieces I’ve sent in and gotten rejection slips for. So, just out of curiosity, I thought I’d check to see if any of the editors sent comments. Two did. One was substantive. The other just said: We hope you send more. Which is not nothing. But it’s slim pickins, all told. As a rule, when you send your work to a publisher, they read enough to know they don’t like it and then they email you to let you know it’s been rejected. That’s really it. You don’t find out why. Some will offer you the option to pay more in exchange for a few lines of criticism. I have exercised this option and not been disappointed. Although I didn’t necessarily agree with the criticism. I could see the wisdom in it. I haven’t decided if I’ll take it.
Steeling Yourself against Rejection Letters
The reason I recommend working with people—beta-readers, a writing circle, and just friends who read your work and offer lay-person’s feedback—is because, otherwise, writing can be lonely. You do not hear back from editors; not in any substantive way. And you only hear from whatever readers you are able to collar and coerce into reading your material. Unless you form a writing group. Lots of people do not have the kind of money needed to get an MFA, though I would strongly suggest some form of instruction, including for adults who think they are well-practiced in their craft. It is shocking how much an experienced pair of eyes can do for your prose.
Loneliness = Bad
Loneliness is a scary thing for an artist. The rumors held that Heath Ledger’s preparation for the role of “Joker” in The Dark Night involved secluding himself in seedy motels, talking to himself for weeks on end. When I say, that sounds like being a writer without writer-friends, I don’t mean it to make light of his death. I mean it to highlight the seriousness of keeping ties with people.
I suspect I’m not alone in this: before the pandemic, I thought I was a loner. But after a couple months of being a loner (and not as much of one as some, because I’ve been living with family) I had already realized the folly of that supposed insight into my character. I’m not a loner. What convinced me I might be a loner is that I don’t get along with most people.
If you’ve met people, you understand why.
But the people I do get along with are indispensable to me. I love them and would not want to be without them.
Learning Makes the Rejections Easier to Weather
These insights that we learn about ourselves and the people around us are precious. I’d say being a writer is all about such moments—epiphanic moments of insight into our own character or another’s. But that’s not really true, is it. Being human is all about such moments. Being a writer just means writing about them.
I mention all of this because it is difficult to send writing in to be examined, judged, and, statistically, rejected. At every stage, it helps to have friends and colleagues who support you. They can help you refine your plots or your prose. Deal with the weight of expectation and the relief of rejection. Psych yourself up for the next round of submissions.
If you are looking for writing friends, please reach out. Likewise if you weren’t looking for writing friends, but are now curious. We have room for more. We’ll be launching our forums soon. If you want the same kinds of interactions you might find on Reddit but without the shark-like hunger for a hundred validating thumbs-ups, be sure to stay tuned for details.