Someone once told me I should never talk about rejection, or indeed anything negative about my writing career, on this blog. They said that if I let my readers know I still get rejections, it would be a sign of weakness. It would turn them off because it would basically ruin the magic. Instead, I should only ever talk about triumphs and sales and act as if that's all there is. But that's not what I want to do. I know some of you out there reading this are still new to writing and easily discouraged, and I want you to know you're not alone. To me, camaraderie is more important than any perception of flawlessness I may want you to have about me.
So let's talk about rejection.
This afternoon I came home to a rejection from Sheila Williams at Asimov's. It was a very nice rejection, personalized and complimentary. She called the story well done but not right for the magazine and professed to look forward to seeing more of my work. All very lovely, but a rejection nonetheless.
And rejections sting, even when you've been in the writing business a long time. They may certainly sting less than they did at the start, but the disappointment that accompanies rejection will always be there. The tonic, of course, is to send the story right back out again to the next place on your target-market list. Which I did, repackaging the manuscript and sending it off to Gordon Van Gelder at Fantasy & Science Fiction within the hour.
You've no doubt heard many times the advice to send a rejected story back out again as soon as possible, but what you may not have heard before is why. It's not just about keeping the story circulating, though that's important. The simple answer is: It instantly erases the heartache of rejection.
Let's backtrack a minute and say you've received a rejection from the first-choice market for your story. You're bummed. Sometimes you're more than bummed. Sometimes you're tempted to throw in the towel, give up writing forever, tear up everything you've ever written, fire off Al Goldsteinesque "fuck you" emails to every editor who's ever rejected you, and hunt down an application to the nearest technical school. This is known as the Writer's Tantrum, and don't worry, millions of writers have been there. In fact, millions of writers are doing it right now as you're reading this, and a million more will be doing it by the time you're done.
By law, each writer is allowed 30-60 minutes of tantrum-throwing and general crybabyness upon receiving a rejection. Any more than that and you risk falling squarely into diva territory. And yes, maybe you're right, maybe no one does understand your genius, but really, that's not the kind of thing you want to be caught saying out loud.
Anyway, what this all really and truly boils down to is a momentary loss of hope. All hope that this story will find a good home, all hope that your writing career will continue, feels dashed. And the longer that rejected manuscript sits on your desk, staring at you, mocking you with its very presence, day after day, week after week, the worse you'll feel. But remember how much hope you felt back when you sent that story off to your first-choice market? Guess what. You'll feel it again the moment you send it off to the second.
And suddenly you won't feel like throwing in the towel anymore, you won't think you're a fraud who's been lucky enough to squeeze past the gatekeepers unnoticed anymore, you'll once again feel that you're a writer, goddamn it, and you're doing what writers do: you're writing and submitting your work. You're forming contacts with editors! They're learning your name! The story will be published! HOPE!
If it gets rejected again? Yeah, it'll sting, and yeah, you might throw another Writer's Tantrum (in private, please!), but this time maybe you'll remember it's only temporary. This time you'll send it out again even sooner, to the next market on your list, and the hope will come back.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
No one likes rejection, but it's a big part of being a writer. The best thing you can do is remember that all writers get rejections, even your favorites, and if you want to be like them, you'll keep at it anyway.