Make Rejection Your Friend.

Make rejection, your friend?

Who said that?


I must have been joking, right?

Let me get this straight: Rejection, your friend?

Okay I said that already, but it’s true or can be.

That’s right; rejection can be your friend.

Okay, so not all rejection is friendly. If you’ve submitted any amount over the years you’ve pretty much discovered this. It doesn’t show up at the door with a bouquet of roses or even a friendly apologetic smile. It doesn’t offer you a tissue to wipe your eyes or a friendly shoulder to cry on. It doesn’t pat you on the back and tell you to keep going. Some rejection is miserable and cold, even frightening to some degree. It hides in the shadows and jumps out at you and shouts, Boo—along with come other choice words I might add.

You know what I mean, don’t you?

Sometimes we’re in denial. We simply can’t believe our eyes. What, my story? You don’t want to publish MY story? How can that be?

How was my beautiful story, my baby, that brilliant idea I followed from conception to birth, rejected? Perhaps there’s another note inside that envelope because surely the “your work” described in the rejection letter was not the same short story you titled, “The Red Geranium” before you sent it off “Your work,” in fact, could be anyone’s story. Right? Mistakes happen, right? And surely “your work” could be referring to anyone’s work, unless you actually titled the piece, “Your Work,” which I’m betting you didn’t. Must be some mistake, you say again. This time doubt is settling. You take another look inside the envelope, closer this time. You give it a shake. Maybe you missed something, another note, perhaps.

Empty air.

The very first rejection letter I received was a form letter addressed as such: Dear___________.

Over the years that blank space has been filled in with “Ms Best” “Laura” “Laurie” “author” and in some case, just left blank.

Let me say though, I do understand the need for form letters. With all the submissions out there it would be impossible to respond personally to each and every one. I get that. You should too. Don’t necessarily take it personally.

But then some editor takes a moment to scribble a note of encouragement at the bottom. “Yippee!” you hear yourself shouting. “I don’t totally suck at this,” and maybe, just maybe, you don’t.

And then, if that isn’t enough, one day you receive a letter with your first name on it. Yes, a letter or email, not just a scribbled sentence. At first glance you can see that some thought was put into it. You’re nervous, but brave enough to continue. No one has to tell you. Your heart makes a little skip. You’ve just received a good rejection letter.

Break open the Champagne!

Any writer will tell you that a good solid rejection letter from an editor is worth its weight in gold. And why shouldn’t it be. They have that objective eye. They are someone who is not emotionally invested in the story, someone who knows what they’re doing, and what you should be doing. They don’t know you personally and have no reason to send false praise. They are busy and don’t have time for such nonsense.

So what’s a good rejection?

If you’ve ever received one you know what I mean. A good solid rejection letter doesn’t send the author off to the corner licking her/his wounds, feeling as though their writing isn’t worth the ink to print it out. A good solid rejection points out the strengths and weaknesses in your manuscript, sandwiching in layers, making it look good enough to eat. Yes, there will be layers.

Most of all, a good rejection, sends you off eager to start revisions because you know you’ve got something good going. It just needs a little more fleshing out. A good rejection will make suggestions of how the story can be improved. A good rejection lets you know you are a person who counts, that your writing matters, and that there’s someone out there who gives a damn. Of yes, a good rejection will/can do all that. It can even make you smile with gratitude. I can be your friend.

We never know who we will meet on our journey. There will be those who will discourage us, even knock us to the ground if we let them, but there will also be those who will lift us up, help us out, and make our travelling time most enjoyable.

Have you ever received a good rejection, one that had you saying, “Thank you” rather than sending you into the pit of despair?

Leave a comment


  1. Dear Carl: We received your submission and are saddened to advise that it does not fit into our designs for our publication. We recommend you submit to other publications as your work certainly has attributes. These include: correct spelling most of the time, the use of adj or adv here and there, putting a period at the end of a sentence and the use of verbs. You numbered the pages chronologically and we could not wait to get to the end of the story. We also liked the way you begin a sentence with a capital letter and the part about slipping on the banana peel had the whole staff roaring with laughter. In addition you may have ability in other related fields re writing. Perhaps you could work in a pencil factory or paper mill, for instance.Regards.

    • LOL! Too funny, Carl. I hope this is an example that you whipped up yourself and not an actual rejection. In either case it takes the term “putting a positive spin on something” to a whole new level. I say forget the paper factory and keep writing. :)

    • LOL Carl, that is too funny!

  2. I once received a handwritten rejection from the publisher at Macleans & Stewart. That was probably 25 years ago & yet i’m still in awe over that.

    Gotta go to the city, or I’d sit and chat.

    Later. …

    • No wonder you’re in awe. That’s pretty special. I’m thinking you probable still have that one..

      Good luck in the city, Joylene. :)

  3. Madison Woods

     /  June 23, 2011

    Shimmer gave me a good rejection last year. Although it suggested the ‘fix’ to the story’s problem (not enough conflict) I sulked off and stuffed it into a file and forgot about it. They’d even said they’d be open to receiving another submission of a different story from me and I still sulked. That, in hindsight, was an EXCELLENT rejection but I didn’t appreciate it for what it was at the time. Recently I reworked that original story, gave it some conflict and successfully sold it to a pro market.

    • Sometimes we are just not in the place where we want to hear these things. We should always take an offer of wanting to see more as a positive sign. Yes, that was definitely a positive rejection.

      Yay for you for reworking the story and for the sale..That’s wonderful news, Madison. I’m so happy for you. :)

  4. fivecats

     /  June 23, 2011

    Something like that multi-layered cheeseburger (coupon would suffice) would definitely lessen the sting of a rejection letter. :)

    Unfortunately, not too many editors are going to offer suggestions to improve a manuscript. They’re hoping you, as the author, will find the weaknesses on your own.

    • My son made that cheeseburger years ago when he lived home. I think he was taking a break from school work. I agree every rejection should come with it’s own cheeseburger..;)

      That is why, when an editor takes the time to offer suggestions we should be ever so grateful. You’re right it doesn’t happen often. They are just too busy..

  5. Well, Laura, I just hope someday I’ll get to the query moment. I can see how a series of form letters would make a real letter with criticism and suggestion for improvement cherished, and for good reason. Blessings to you…

    • I hope you also get to the query moment, Carol Ann. We all take our own good time to get where we’re going and we shouldn’t let the fact that others are on the path ahead of us discourage us.

  6. Surprisingly, all of my queries so far have met with personalized responses — words of encouragement and/or polite rejections — so I haven’t been plunged into depression by them. Granted, I haven’t queried often; there will probably be many form rejections yet to come. It’s not often that we can learn anything but patience from a rejection because few offer helpful suggestions, but the ‘good’ ones let us believe we’re on the right path, and that’s worth something. If we never seem to get beyond a form rejection it might be time to run our query/synopsis/manuscript past an independent editor… someone to help us cut down on the fat and build more nutrition into it. (Okay, so that hamburger picture has my mouth watering!)

    • That’s one big hamburger, I’m not sure how he got his mouth around it.

      You are fortunate to have had all personalized responses, Carol. Over the years I submitted to many literary magazines. sometimes the same story would go out multiple times before it found a home and many of those, at least in the beginning, were form rejections.

      Luckily, I haven’t received one of those in a long time probably because I’m not sending work out the way I once did. What I write now is much longer than a short story and takes longer to write.

      I don’t think that a busy editor would lead us to “believe” we were on the right track if we weren’t. They really don’t know us and there are many, many writers out there submitting work. I’ve personally received some pretty high praise in rejection letters, also we all know that what one editor might pick apart in a story another one wouldn’t. The same goes for readers. I do agree, though Carol, if we’re getting closer, we should be receiving a bit more than form letters all the time. Thank goodness for those editors out there who really care about writers and their work.

  7. I agree we need to grow a thick skin to be in the writing business. I have all my many rejection letters and what I discovered is that they got nicer and nicer as time (and revisions) went on. Mnay with suggestions and words of encouragement. Coming home from work tonight I read a sign on a church message board which I think is apt, “Smooth seas do not make a skilled sailor”. That is so very true in life in general and particularly for writers. We need rejections in order to get good at what we do.

    • I shredded many of my rejections last year, but saved the encouraging ones. I agree, they do get nicer ans time goes on and as we learn our craft. We do need to be rejected in order to improve otherwise we would not strive to become better..

  8. I like all my rejections, makes the acceptances all the more sweeter. I’ve gotten many good rejections that were filled with praise and encouragement. There was one bad one, however, that stands out as distasteful. An online magazine directed me to a story they published and said something like “see this, this is good, she is better than you are, come back when you can measure up,” Obviously I paraphrased, but their comment was offputting. pfft on them.

    • Oh that sounds nasty, Tricia. Funny that the nasty stand sounds. I guess we are all alike in that sense. Pfft on them is right. You’re writing success is proof of that. You’ve had a good number of stories published..Pfft, I say, pfft.

  9. Encouraging post, Laura.

  10. I received a rejection last year that was better than any acceptance I’ve ever received. It was for a story that was fiction but sounded as if it could have been memoir. I was given the opportunity to rework a couple of things to resubmit…unfortunately I haven’t made it a priority to do so, but much appreciated the feedback!

    • I usually find it helpful to have suggestions, a goal to work toward unless those suggestions feel totally wrong for the story. Hopefully, one day you’ll make that story a priority, Suzicate. Judging by your blog I’m sure it would be quite spectacular. Your words are beautiful.. :)

  11. I received one that stated they already had that subject matter slatted in several novels in the upcoming year but that they loved the writing and wanted to know if I had any thing else to submit at this time. Yep, I thought that was awesome and sent a query of another story, twenty-four hours later they requested the full. But like everyone else, I’m still waiting on a response. :)
    BTW – Thanks Carol!!! We all need a good laugh at this process.

    • Oh, that’s is a great rejection, Ciara. Love when those genuine words of encouragement come. Hope the news will be good and the wait not so long… “)

  12. Oh, yes, rejections that are perosnal and not form letters are wonderful. They show me that the person has read and bothered to invest in the story. It’s always so encouraging!

    • I agree, Jennifer. We sometimes wonder how closely the story was read, but when someone takes time to comment it certainly should mean something. Editor’s are busy, busy…

  13. Maybe it’s a result of 10 years of collecting mostly rejection letters/email, and learning to research publishers and their lists, but I’ve received two extremely helpful rejection emails in the past six months. And the best part is, I’ve got the experience to know a gift when I see it now, and to recognize that the editors’ insight and suggestions can only help me create stronger manuscripts. Of course, I always prefer a telephone call from somebody wanting to turn my manuscript into a book:)

    • An experience editor’s opinion should definitely mean something and I think most times if we really look at what they have to say, we can see the truth in their words..

      That said, the phone call is much. much better…:)


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