The Word for Writers
Beating The Rejection Slip Blues
Sackville, New Brunswick
BEATING THE REJECTION SLIP BLUES
KATHERINE E. TAPLEY
Many novice writers have their writing careers abruptly ended by the rejection slip. They take the rejection of their story personally, get discouraged and give up. However, there are techniques for dealing with rejection slips that can help overcome the trauma of getting one in the mailbox.
First of all realize that you are in good company when you are rejected. In the book, Rotten Rejections: a Literary Companion, Andre Bernard lists some very famous books that got rejections slips at first. Moby Dick by Herman Melville (1851) got this response from the editors: " We regret to say that our united opinion is entirely against the book as we do not think it would be at all suitable for the Juvenile Market. It is very long, rather old-fashioned, and in our opinion not deserving of the reception which it seems to enjoy." Lady Chatterly's Lover, by D. H. Lawrence (1928) evoked this comment from the editor: "For your own good do not publish this book." Juila Child's book on Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which has become a classic was rejected by the editor because," ... a big, expensive, cookbook of elaborate information might well prove formidible to the American housewife." Even stories that have become household words got rejected, so be deterred by rejection slips.
There are usually several common reasons why your story got rejected.
Perhaps the magazine has already done the topic that you have just offered them and they don't want to repeat themselves. Maybe the slant that your article has just doesn't fit the "voice" of the publication. The periodical mighthave adopted a very chatty, friendly, informal style and your article is formal and distant, written in the third person instead of using "I". Another reason for rejection is the word count. If your stoyr is 2,000 words long and the editor only has space for a 500 word article then no matter how well the piece is written it won't be accepted. Even the presentation of the manuscript itself can have a psychological effect on the editor. If you story has coffe stains on it, is dog eared, has many spelling mistakes, or is poorly typed the editor may be put off by this unprofessional presentation and not bother to read it.
If you have done your best on the story and have a clean manuscript, how many times should you resubmit the manuscript beore you either rewrite it or trash it. As a rule of thumb, Bill Kinsella, a top fiction writer advises that to beat the rejection slip blues you should arm yourself with a list of at least five possible markets. Send the story to the fisrt one and if it comes back
rejected don't sit there and commiserate, get it right back in the mail and send it to market number two. Don't even think about your hurt feelings, just keep mailing your story until you have exhausted all five markets. If after trying all these and the manuscript is still rejected you have to seriously analyze it. Are you choosing the wrong markets or is there a fatal flaw in your story?
If you are a beginning writer do not aim for the really tough markets. Readers Digest has a reputation for being one of the hardest markets to crack. Most of their stories are either staff written or reprints from other magazines. Generally speaking the "glossy" magazines or the higher paying markets are fussier than the lower paying magazines. The more a magazine pays you the more they expect from you. It will only discourage you if you pick magazines that are very demanding and morely likely to send you a rejection slip. If you have never been published before and are desperate to see your byline in print, don't worry about big pay. Look at the market guidelines on the Internet and watch for magazines that welcome new writers or buy a copy of Writers Digest.
If rejection slips really prove to be the bain of your writing career you can apply one psychological techinique that may help ease the pain. Laugh at them. One writer makes place mats out of her rejection slips, encasing them in plastic so that her guests can read them before dinner. Of course now she is quite a famous author. Some writers who have made it to the big times are proud of their rejection slips seeing them as reminders of the struggle they had to make it to the top.
Silver Don Cameron, one of the most famous Canadian writers likes to inspire novices by saying, "Small talent fully exercised goes further than large talent not exercised at all." Don't let rejection slips ruin your writing career. Develop a tough skin and realize that they are a normal part of the writing life.
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Wonderful article with great advice. Rejection slips are simply the stepping stones to success.
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