10 Tips for Dealing With Rejection as a Writer

If you’re working towards your goal of getting published, you need these tips for dealing with rejection – for your writing will be rejected. Rejection is a sign you’re in the game! Deal with setbacks properly, so you can bounce back and query again. As a full-time freelance writer and blogger, I apply these tips almost every single day.

dealing with rejection as a writer“We think writers should stop placing so much emphasis on ‘rejections’,” writes Linda Formichelli and Diana Burrell in read The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success. “They’re not rejections – they’re business decisions. What if your attorney or massage therapist moped around in their bathrobes like writers do whenever they lost a potential client?”

No more moping about those writing rejections, fellow scribes. Put your big girl panties on and deal with it. Read books on freelance writing – I highly recommend Formichelli and Burrell’s guides to getting published.

Writers, Deal With Rejection

1. Keep churning those ideas out. As a freelance writer, I’m finally at the point where I’m writing more than I’m pitching article ideas – but trust me, it took 1 1/2 years of querying to get here. And even now, when I need an assignment, I still have to query my regular magazine editors and pitch my ideas (but they’re approaching me more and more with article assignments). For magazine writing, develop a weekly schedule and pitch a query or two a day. Or, pitch 10 query letters on Tuesdays – that’s Pitch Day for me! Just keep sending those queries out, and you’ll sell an article or two or three.

2. Pitch column ideas, too. Of the three column ideas I’ve pitched, one was just accepted the other day! I’m over the moon about it – it’s for a well-known national magazine – but I’m reluctant to announce it until my official debut. Or at least until I’ve submitted my first article, which will be soon. Maybe I’m scared of jinxing it, I dunno. But the point is: I pitched a column idea to alive magazine, and it was rejected. I pitched a column idea to the Bowen Island newspaper, the Undercurrent, and it was rejected. There are definitely more setbacks than successes in magazine writing – which is why you need these tips for dealing with rejection as a writer.

3. Look at those last two sentences. I belatedly realized that I wrote, “and it was rejected” both times (not I was rejected). That may be why I can pitch queries until the cows come home — and editors laugh at my persistence. I don’t take writing rebuffs personally. If my column or article ideas don’t suit them, then so be it.

4. Tweak or repurpose old article ideas. After you send an article query to a magazine editor or book proposal to a publishing house, move on to your next project. Successful writers stay busy by reworking the idea for another magazine or researching new book publishers. Also, continually mine your old queries for new ways to sell them. If you keep polishing and sending them out, they’ll eventually find a home. Read How to Sell Your Reprint Articles for more ideas on reworking old ideas.

5. Accept rejection letters as part of the process. J.K. Rowling, John Irving, Ursula Le Guin. Saul Bellow, and Alice Munro are all members of the Rejected Writers’ Club (oops I changed the name). For instance, Mark Victor Hansen and Jack Canfield’s Chicken Soup for the Soul received rejection letters from twenty major publishers. Their agent, Jeff Herman, says, “They instinctively understood that all those rejections were simply an uncomfortable part of a process that would eventually get them were they wanted to be.” This advice is solid for magazine writing, poetry, technical writing, and blogging jobs, too.

6. Recycle your writing. I wrote a long article for Flare Magazine in Canada, which was eventually nixed by the editors. Ouch, but I understood why. The Flare magazine editor explained it well, apologized, and offered me a 50% kill fee (which was still a healthy sum). I revamped the idea and sold it to Woman’s Day. As a freelancer, you need to keep recycling your writing. Use your past research and experts for fresh new ideas. The more you focus on moving forward, the less you’ll need these tips for dealing with rejection as a writer.

how to deal with writing rejection

10 Tips for Dealing With Rejection as a Writer

7. Remember the reasons for getting rejected as a writer. A great book or article idea can be unsuitable for the publisher’s or agent’s list. The editor could love the pitch, and put it aside for future issues and then forget all about it. A publisher could have too many great ideas, and not enough money, time, or resources to publish any more than what he or she’s committed to. Here’s my point: there are a gazillion reasons for a rejection in magazine writing and book publishing – and it’s possible that none reflect on your ability as a freelancer.

8. Face your fear of rejection. Dig around your own psyche a little: what bothers you so much when someone you’ve never even met – who has a different style, taste in writing, perspective, and agenda – can’t use your article or book? Maybe you’re a little insecure, or your self-esteem could use a boost, or you’re sensitive to rejection or criticism – we all struggle with those things, whether we’re freelance writers or tugboat operators (or both). Once you figure out why rejection makes you uncomfortable, you’re better able to deal with setbacks as a writer.

9. Fail better. One of my all-time favorite quotations is from Samuel Beckett. “Ever tried? Ever failed? No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” And that’s a key tip for dealing with rejection as a writer (or any rebuff in life, for that matter). Shrug it off, and move on. I love how matter-of-fact Beckett is: “No matter. Fail again.”

10. What’s your writing advice? I could come up with a final tip for dealing with rejection as a writer — but I’d rather hear from you! If you have any advice for magazine writing or book publishing rejections, please comment below.

Forge ahead and fail again, fellow scribes. Sooner or later, you’ll taste success – and it’ll be sweeeeeeeet!  🙂

If you have any thoughts or questions on dealing with rejection as a writer, please comment below…

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6 thoughts on “10 Tips for Dealing With Rejection as a Writer”

  1. Thank you for your encouraging and positive article, Laurie. Your blog is a delight to read, for writers like me, and I am subscribed.

  2. I agree with this article. I got a rejection which was quite rude and unprofessional today and at first it really bothered me because I could clearly see that the person did not put much effort into even thinking before they wrote it. So, I assumed, why bother thinking and being angry about it when they did not bother to put together some constructive criticism. Felt much better after that.

  3. Hi Jim,

    Yup, I definitely agree that it only takes one “yes” to enjoy the thrill of publication! But you need to learn how to deal with lots of rejection as a writer before you get to that yes.

    Waiting for the yes,

  4. Hello JA,

    That’s a great question…I think there are a few ways to determine if the writing quality was poor. One is to show your writing to people you trust and respect — a variety of people. Look at their feedback, and try to objectively see if it’s a matter of writing style or poor writing. For instance, if you get feedback that involves choppy writing or not being able to identify with the characters, then it may be poor writing. But if the feedback is that the theme or plot isn’t agreeable, then it may be a different taste in writing.

    As an example – I loved the books The Bear and We Need to Talk About Kevin. I did not enjoy the plots of those books, but I could see the writing was beautiful.

    Ultimately, you need to trust your gut. You need to train yourself to recognize the difference between a simple rejection because of business reasons versus a difference in opinion/style.

    I hope this helps!

    In peace and passion,

  5. I agree that rejection could be for one of the various reasons you’ve listed, and it may not necessarily be a reflection of the quality of the manuscript. But it is possible that the quality of writing may indeed be poor; how would you know if that is the case?