Writing

Dealing with Rejections, and Knowing When to Quit


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I’d rather fail doing what I love, than succeeding at something I hate.

Call me an idiot, but I’m just telling you the truth.

Writing is a life of rejection. The moment you decide to start on the path of professional writing, you are setting yourself up for a certain amount of failure – some more than others, but there’s almost always failure somewhere along the way. I’ve learned a lot about rejection, and this isn’t the first time I’ve written about rejection. And I’ve always said to never quit, to keep trying, no matter what, to obtain your dream.

But sometimes, it is time to quit.

Now, when I say “quit,” I don’t mean to quit writing. I mean it may be time to move on, to quit pushing that story, that poem, or that manuscript. It’s time to move on to other things and to focus on something that may have a better chance out in the world. While I am a self-published author, I also go out and send out short stories and poems, which I’ve actually had published every once in a while. Self-publishing is wonderful and can be an amazing learning experience, but it leaves little room for learning that painful lesson of rejection. It’s intensely humbling, and can range from mild to intense depression, but there are lessons to be learned, and today I hope to share a few of these lessons with you today. Hopefully, after reading this, if you’re going through a rejection of any kind, you will feel sadness, but know it isn’t the last rejection. You are a creative mind. Keep writing, keep earning those rejections and wear them like badges upon your chest. Be proud of rejection. Some people fear it so much, they never even attempt to be published. If you are reading this and haven’t attempted contests, literary journals, or agents because you fear rejection, let me go ahead and tell you:

I’ve been rejected 104 times as of March 12, 2014. It will probably be even more by the time this post is published. And that’s okay. At least I have tried. That’s what is most important. Now, onward to the list!

  • Markets you may fit best in…
    One key factor in successfully publishing is knowing what market you fit in. Some are better at short stories, others poetry. Some can do fantasy, others can rock out some non-fiction. I’ve had more poems published than I have short stories, surprisingly enough, and I have never claimed to being good at writing poetry.
  • Where you can improve…
    Have you been rejected  in your chosen market? Have you received any feedback or critique? If you’re not making it in your chosen market, it might be time to line up some beta readers, or to read some books in your genre/form. Everyone can improve. J.K. Rowling was rejected PLENTY of times prior to her success in fantasy. Failure can be just as rewarding as success if you let it.
  • You (your work) may need to change…
    In the end, the hard truth may be that you’re not cut out for that market. That’s not to say you won’t ever be. But why focus so hard on one market when there are so many more out there? Not working out with poetry? Ok, while you’re still working out the kinks, try your hand at some short stories, work on a novel, or maybe even try a different poetry form. Blogging may also be your niche! You won’t get anywhere just by resubmitting the same piece over and over and over without working on it and even upping your cred by sending out other stuff. Who knows? You may find your calling.
  • Even if you thought it was perfect, you may need to edit it more…
    I’ve done this plenty of times, especially when I first started sending out manuscripts. When I thought I could edit all of my own stuff to perfection and that I could find every plot hole… Well guess what, I was wrong. Every piece needs work, and could be edited more. Even famous novels can still be found with little errors in them… The point isn’t perfection, it’s getting close enough that people can read your story without distraction. If you find your story still is getting rejected, you may need to take it back to the drawing board and get to editing.
  • Beta readers/Editors/Honest strangers can be your friends…
    Sometimes you need to listen to those you might have brushed off. Beta readers? Ha! What do they know? Except perhaps what they like and what they don’t like, which might be similar to what your audience and your markets like or dislike. This goes for editors and strangers, as well. No one wants to be mean. Unless they’re dicks, in which case that’s all they want to do. But being honest and being mean are completely different things. A good editor/friend/STRANGER will be honest and tell you when something just isn’t working and it might be time to move on.
  • There are always more stories…
    I haven’t heard of anyone who only ever had one story to tell. Life is made up of a bunch of different stories. If one doesn’t work, that doesn’t mean the next will be the same. However, wasting all your time on one piece isn’t getting you anywhere. It could actually be hindering you from finding that piece you actually publish.

In the end, just keep writing. Write until you can’t write anymore, even if you never publish a single thing. Writing is about the journey, about learning and growing as a writer, and in general just doing what you love. Write because you love it.

Love what you do.

Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know, and comment below.

Thanks for reading.

-Lissy

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2 thoughts on “Dealing with Rejections, and Knowing When to Quit”

  1. Re: your fourth and fifth points.

    Self-critique is the highest order skill a writer–or anyone–can develop. It doesn’t come fast, it doesn’t come easy, and it doesn’t come without guidance.

    There’s an article I ran into this weekend that talks about the process of getting good at something, and the famous 10,000 hours idea. Turns out not all 10,000 hours are created equal: http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2014/01/22/daniel-goleman-focus-10000-hours-myth/

    So write! But not in a vacuum, and not in an echo chamber.

    I fully agree about the pitfalls of getting stuck in any particular manuscript, especially early ones. Sometimes the stars are simply not right for a project, even a great one.

    Like

    1. Thank you for the link! I especially like their illustrations and pointing out the fact that doing the same thing over and over doesn’t necessarily make you better. Beta readers are key, for me, in making myself better. Write something, let someone else read it and tell me what could be different, then rewrite it. It changes it up, and it is then that I excel.

      The stars don’t always align, unfortunately! I’m never one to condone quitting, but sometime quitting is progress rather than a step backward. You just must be willing to see it!

      Like

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