The Post-Rejection Process

Rejections are inevitable. You can’t avoid them, you can’t (and absolutely shouldn’t) argue with them, and though they lose some of their sting over time, they’ll always have some bite. What you can do is control how you deal with rejections. For me, that boils down to a specific four-step process that lets me put rejections in perspective and move on. Of course, this is going to be a very different process for each writer, but here’s what I do.

  1. Read and feel. You can’t avoid this part, so I just lean into it. Be disappointed, be angry, be sad. There’s nothing wrong with any of that . . . as long as you set some kind of time limit. If I need it, I’ll usually give myself anywhere from ten minutes to an hour just to deal with the emotions. I remind myself none of this is personal, that selling a story is all often about putting it in front of the right editor at the right time, and all the other little adages and affirmations I talk about on the blog. What I don’t want is to let those emotions overwhelm me and keep me from being productive, i.e., sending out more submissions. This is also a time I might reach out to other authors to commiserate, normalize the experience, and, hey, get a little sympathy from folks going through the same thing.
  2. Observe and report. The next thing I do is all the bookkeeping. It’s a clinical process that removes me from the emotional aspect of rejection. First thing I do is move the rejection email from my inbox into a rejection folder. It’s kind of an out of sight, out of mind thing, but it’s also so I can put the rejection where it belongs. There’s something vaguely comforting in that. The next thing I do is head out to Duotrope and report the rejection there. I want to keep accurate records because I need them for my blog, and I want to make sure I don’t make stupid mistakes like sending a rejected story to the same publisher. I can’t let a disappointing rejection hurt my chances at future publication.
  3. Get analytical. Okay, now that I’ve let my emotions have their moment and I’ve done all the necessary accounting, I’m usually in a pretty objective place. If I’ve received a personal rejection with feedback, I’ll pull up the email and really try and absorb it. Is it useful to me? Do I need to revise the story based on the feedback? More importantly, does the feedback possibly pinpoint a larger issue in my writing? If the feedback resonates with me, then I’ll revise the story. If I’ve received a form rejection, then I generally go straight to step four.
  4. Fire and forget. I often send out a rejected story right away if I received a standard form rejection and the story has only been submitted a few times (or if I can’t use the feedback I received from a personal rejection). It’s another process that has, I don’t know, kind of a cleansing element, especially after I’ve done all the stuff above. Sending that story out again feels like the final step in the process, one that allows me to put a rejection behind me and move forward.

So that’s my process, my ritual if you will. It keeps me sane and keeps me sending out more submissions, and that’s all I can hope for.

What do you do post-rejection? Tell me about it in the comments.

5 Comments on “The Post-Rejection Process

  1. Nice idea to have a Rejections folder to put them all into – I’m going to ‘borrow’ that idea from you Aeryn 🙂

    One thing I find myself doing regularly, when I update my Duotrope report, is to check the feature that shows ‘Work submitted here was also submitted to…’ This helps me consider other markets that I could send it out to, with as little delay as possible. It’s always great to send it back out again if there are no major edits needed.

  2. I definitely read, update the submission spreadsheet, and then fire off the work to the next market. I haven’t had to get analytical much lately. The personal rejections have been fewer this year. I’m hoping that’s a reflection of the editors being busier. 🤞

  3. When I get really bummed out by a rejection — which might happen after a lengthy hold, where I got my hopes up, or after a rejection from a market I thought was really perfect for the story — I commiserate over DM with writer friends, whine to my husband and eldest son, and finally engage in the activities that make me get out of my head: usually a combination of physical exercise and numbing myself by going to the movies or binging on a show.

    That said, form noes from challenging places only so-so aligned with the story don’t bother me much and I move on to the next sub immediately. The ones that do sting, sting a lot, so I think it’s okay to give self a couple of days to feel the feels. But, as you said, Aeryn, not forever. Dust off, try to learn if there’s something to be learned, and move on.

    My job involves lots of rejection (grants and papers, but grant rejections are particularly brutal), so I might be a sucker for punishment to have a serious hobby that involves even more rejection. But anything worth having will attract many capable people and no one wins everything, definitely not all the time. So feel the feels, but don’t let’s the feels paralyze you; keep your eyes on the prize and keep going.

    • Yeah, exercise and my writing group are two of my favorite ways to beat the rejection blues as well.

      I think even a week to recover from a particularly brutal rejection is totally understandable. For me, the time limit is the important part. Heh, kind of like a deadline. 😉

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