Friday, 20 April 2012

R is for Rejection

From Kameron Hurley, quoted on AR Yngve's blog

Rejection is part of publishing. There are many more writers than there are outlets for work. Rejections are why a lot of us give up. Now, this applies to ME and I don't suggest that it applies to anyone else, but I have never had a rejection that at some point, I didn't agree with.

Take poetry. Loads of poems are rejected because they are bad. Or good, but out of tune with the magazine. Or brilliant, but not to the editor's taste. Or worse, brilliant, but s/he has just published something just like it. but most poetry is rejected because it's not good, or at least, could be improved. I started out with a  free-form poem after a walk, that has been edited into a sestina, and then rejected by two magazines, then entered into the Plough Prize and longlisted, and now edited again for more submissions. The trick is to keep improving it...keep learning, keep putting it out there.

Fiction is the same, it's just that the emotional and time investment in a  novel is so vast the rejections are much more painful. In the nineteen eighties I wrote a novel, painstakingly typed it out on an ancient typewriter someone was getting rid of (it had nearly all the letters) and sent it off. I was lucky to receive a gentle rejection, but it still crushed me. What I should have done is read the positive things in the rejection, edit, send it out, re-edit, send it out again. I should have learned, and improved my writing. Most books are rejected because they were badly written. Most could be improved. 

I found rejection crushing because I took it personally. It took me until five years ago to tackle my feelings on rejection, by allowing a tutor to critically comment on my work. It was never meant to be a reflection on me and my work...just on the writing. Early on in Borrowed Time's beginnings, the book was dismissed by someone as rubbish because it had fantasy elements. (She didn't say rubbish, she said it didn't seem worth investing more time in, and clearly the Mslexia judges disagree.) That almost stopped me, but not quite. I tried to listen to the positive feedback, and tried to see the negative as either constructive or personal opinion. I can't say I've entirely won that battle, and I'm glad that I have someone else doing the submission/rejection bit for me now. But rejection is a necessary step towards improving my work, and eventual acceptance.

PS Persistence in the face of rejection DOES pay off. Simon Kewin's debut novel Hedge Witch is going to be published! Simon has been an inspiration to writers like me, he works so hard at his craft. The work has paid off...


  1. Love that graphic and thank you for the reminder to keep going! PS Check your email.

  2. rejection sucks, but persistence is key

    Happy A to Z

  3. Absolutely! I loved ypur website, by the way, what great place names!

  4. I am not looking forward to rejections, but I hope that when they come in, they aren't too crippling!

    Loving your blog - I am from South Devon! :D

  5. Maybe there won't be any - I'm having an easy ride (so far) compared to the past. Love your blog!

  6. My bugbear appears to be...narrative tension!