Handling Rejection

Question: How many rejection slips should I receive before I decide to give up on my article or story?

Answer: There are many reasons stories and articles are rejected. Some of the reasons have to do with weak manuscripts. Others reflect the market and the editor. Marion Zimmer Bradley, in her article, “Why Did My Story Get Rejected?” claims the main reason stories are rejected are because “editors feel that the particular story will not give their readers the kind of specific reading experience they want or expect . . .” Even if you are a great writer, if the story isn’t right for the market, it will be rejected. So, instead of looking at rejection slips as signs of failure, look at rejection slips as tips for improving and revising your work. Rejection, if used properly, can make your work better.

Common reasons manuscripts are rejected:

Theme was weak, morbid, or depressing
Weak plot
A similar story has already been published
Insincere story, writer lacks knowledge of human nature
No suspense
Lack of motive
Unfit, unsuitable, or untimely
Not in harmony with editorial policy
Too long, too short
Editor does not like it
Weak or slow pace
The story was not complete or had a weak ending
The characters were cardboard with no imagination
Nothing much happened in the story. It was boring

If you want to be a writer, you must develop a thick skin. A dozen publishers and sixteen agents rejected John Grisham’s first novel, A Time to Kill, before it was accepted for print. Frank Herbert’s, Dune was rejected twenty times before successfully reaching print. Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind was rejected thirty-eight times before finally finding a publisher. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was rejected by a dozen publishers before a small London company published it.

Rejection slips sting. The best thing to do with them is use them to improve your manuscripts. Do your homework. Know who is publishing the kinds of stories you want to write. Write the best story you can write, then send it out again and again and again until you find that editor who loves your story as much as you do, and is willing to take it to market.

-Bonnie Dodge

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1 Comment

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One response to “Handling Rejection

  1. Don’t forget the other reason a manuscript could be rejected: ‘it’s just badly written’. I used to ‘proof read’ manuscripts for friends, but I refuse now, as I’m not honest enough to tell them when bad writing is bad writing. I’ve faced so many books which, while the stories are competent, are just badly written: transitive verbs used intransitively, over use of adverbs, constant employment of demonstrative pronouns, polysyndetic syntax used in direct speech, senetnces ended with prepositions….the list goes on and on…

    http://tomcatintheredroom.wordpress.com/

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