We’ve all been there. You’ve had a great idea for a story, play, movie, musical, etc., and you want to share it with the world. It’s got a great cast of characters, amazing plot devices, and an ending that would shock M. Night himself! There’s only one problem: no one wants it.
It’s easy for writers to get discouraged when their work doesn’t get picked up right away. After all, there’s so much time and energy spent in the making of each unique work. The biggest thing for writers to remember, however, is to never let a ‘no’ discourage you.
You’ve got to pick yourself up, dust off your work, and move forward. Dealing with writing rejection is hard, but it’s part of life when you choose to write.
The Initial Shock
You’ve received your first, third, fifth, or hundredth rejection. It’s natural that your thoughts are going to be clouded with panic, regret, anger, and crushing defeat. Your precious piece of work wasn’t good enough for someone to fork over money and publish.
First, take a deep breath. Now another. You will live on, and so will your work. Just because someone said that they don’t like it doesn’t mean that everyone else will as well. The great thing about humanity is that many people can find something hilarious when others will think it’s the stupidest thing they’ve ever seen in their entire lives. People have always been divided on shows, movies, books, plays, and anything that they can possibly have an opinion about. Your work will be the same.
Yet, you still have your work, you still have your thoughts and ideas, and you still have a viable path to move forward. If you think of the journey to getting your work out in the world like a tree, you start at the base – the trunk. From the trunk, you have multitudes of branches that you can follow. Many of those branches will lead to rejection, but some might lead to greatness. If you’re worried that your tree is out of branches to follow, plant another seed and start anew; use outlets you never thought to use before to get to your goal.
One of the most important things to remember in these trying times of rejection is that everything will be okay.
Life, uh, finds a way (or so we’ve been told by the great Jeff Goldblum), and things will get better. It’s only at our lowest lows that we can truly see how high our potential can go.
Evaluating Your Work
After you’ve calmed yourself down and realized that one outlet’s ‘no’ is not the end-all-be-all for your work, you need to figure out what to do moving forward. Before you decide any other course of action, you need to take a long, hard look at your work.
Though you may think that your work is a piece of art that needs no ‘fixing’ or ‘changes’, it’s very possible that there could be some fatal flaw with your writing that potential publishers and/or buyers can’t overlook. Is your piece creative? Original? Unique? Captivating? Thought-provoking? If your piece isn’t new and exciting, chances are it won’t get picked up right away. The less of a wow-factor you have, the more you’ll have to work to prove why your piece should be accepted by the masses.
Finding a New Outlet
If you’re confident that your work is worthy of praise, fame, at least some form of recognition, then it’s possible you’ve been barking up the wrong tree in terms of who you’ve given your piece to. Many writers think that there’s only a handful of options when it comes to getting their work out there, but in reality the options are endless.
If you’re having trouble getting traction with the more well-known companies, you might want to consider moving to lesser known companies. If you give them a chance, it’s very likely they’ll be more willing to give your work a chance, too. If all else fails, self-publishing is also a respectable route to follow until your work is at a level where publishing companies will start to call and email you back.
If you’ve changed your outlets but are still not having any success, take another look at your work. Have you done everything possible to ensure that it’s the highest quality you can produce? Does it live up to industry standards? Is there a need for it in modern day literature? Make sure that your work is relevant enough that it won’t get lost in the shuffle.
Getting a Second Opinion
If you’re still unsure of what to do, ask others to evaluate your work critically. Friends and family are a good place to start, as they’ll usually soften the blows of harsh critiques to give you a better idea of what to change or improve upon. This is a great way to start the reviewing process, as you’ll be able to better your work but not feel like absolute garbage about the things that you didn’t do well or need to revise. It’s often hard as a creator to be able to judge our own work without any bias.
Instead of, “Dude, this entire plot is ridiculous. It’s impossible to follow, all of my questions go unanswered, and I’m just fed up!”, you get, “I think it might do well with a few minor adjustments. I wrote down some questions while I was reading, and only a few of them are ever answered. Is that how you want it to be read?” As you can see, the same point is getting across, but the blows are definitely softened when coming from friends and family.
Getting a Third Opinion
If you’ve already received feedback from friends and family, or don’t wish to share your works with such close, personal people (I personally hate showing anyone I know my work… I’m scared it would change how they normally view me and taint the relationship if they knew what kind of things went on in my head…), then you can always look to the internet for help. There are tons of forums online where you can show parts of your work, or entire pieces, and allow complete strangers to critique it.
There are some pros and cons to putting your work up on the internet for all to see. For one, every writer worries about their precious work being stolen. There is definitely an opportunity for a stranger online to take your hard work and run with it if you allow them access to it. Unless you have a viable copyright on your work beforehand, it’s completely up for grabs once you release it online.
The pros of using the internet to critique your work is that you have an unlimited supply of unbiased readers at your fingertips. Your friends and family are more partial to like anything someone they care about produces, but strangers online have no ties or relationship to the author. That allows them to say exactly what they’re thinking and not care how it comes across.
Be warned: if you do choose to get your work critiqued online, you may run into trolls, unnecessarily harsh or mean reviewers, and people pleasers. All reviews gained from online outlets need to be taken with a grain of salt, and only seriously listened to if certain themes or ideas come up often in many of the reviews. If you have ten people saying, “this character is too predictable”, then that character is too predictable. If only one person is saying, “the whole thing is garbage, you might as well delete the file”, keep on keepin’ on.
After you’ve received feedback from friends, family, online sources, or had another read through by yourself wherein you look at your own work as critically as possible, decide if it needs to be changed. Do what needs to be done, accept that you learned a few lessons along the way, and start the process of acceptance and rejection all over again.
Now that your work has been revamped (or not, depending on what needed to be done), you can send, send, and send again! It’s very rare for anyone to be able to send in one piece of work and have it accepted the first time. Just like finding true love, sometimes it takes a bit of time and effort to get what we want.
Along with being able to take a step back and revaluate your work, getting that rejection also allows writers to get used to a hard ‘no’ and learn how to move on after receiving such. It’s not an easy skill to acquire, and many writers do not have the strength to keep trying with no sign of success in sight, but those that do will be able to reap the rewards.
In the end, the only choice a writer has after taking a rejection is to try and find the right publication to take their work seriously. You don’t want to have to settle for a company that refuses to believe in your work as much as you do.
Keep writing, keep trying, and keep your head up.
It’s not the end of the world to get a rejection. Everyone fails in life, and those failures are what teach us what to do better next time. If you were to have every single piece of your writing accepted on the spot, you might never strive to create quality content that people are dying for.
Writers need to be prepared to face adversity for their work, and also be willing to change if necessary. No one will ever have a ‘perfect story’, and not everyone will fall in love with your piece. The most important aspect of a writer’s work is to know that they have created something worth reading.
If the writing is good, a yes will eventually come your way. You just have to work for it.