7 Reasons to Keep Going After Facing Rejection
Today, I’m thrilled to talk about a part of the writing journey that’s incredibly close to my heart: Rejection.
Admittedly, the topic of rejection sounds like a bummer, but it doesn’t have to be! That’s why I’m here—I want to give you several reasons to keep going after the rejections begin to come in. You may only get a few, several dozen, or hundreds during your writing career.
Right now, I have between 30 to 40 literary agent rejections across two projects, and I’m sure there will be more to come. Expecting rejection isn’t defeatist, it’s understanding the reality of the industry. Literary agents may like your story, but they need to love it; to obsess over your characters and plots; to have an editorial vision for it. Agents can’t (or at least, don’t want to) pitch projects to editors without having a deep-rooted belief in the story. Similarly, independent publishers look for great stories that will also fit well in their catalog. Not everyone will love your story as much as you do, and that’s okay.
I said in a previous post that “Rejections aren’t a personal attack; they’re an avenue to find where you best fit,” and the statement still rings true. Handling rejection may not get easier for a while, but remember these seven reasons to keep going:
1) Because the way you tell stories is unique and necessary.
Five writers could get the same prompt and write wildly different stories. Why? Because each of them has a unique voice, life experiences, and style that influences the characters and plot in different ways. Take retellings as an example. How many Beauty and the Beast, Snow White, and Little Mermaid retellings have been published and sold? Lots of them! Don’t believe me? Take a look at Goodreads. Why have so many stories that take from the same source material done well? Because each author gave their own spin that resonated with a different audience.
2) Because you deserve to accomplish your goals.
I love the anonymous quote, “You haven’t come this far to only come this far.” Do you know what you did to get here? You wrote a freaking book. Who does that? Maybe it’s not even your first one, but your third or fourth! You edited the heck out of it, created relatable characters and subplots, and had enough courage to be vulnerable with your book baby and send it to a complete stranger. Remember everything you’ve done thus far and keep pushing on to give all that hard work meaning.
3) Because rejections don’t mean that* much.
*Let me give some caveats. In the grand scheme of a writer’s career, rejections are simply part of the process. Everyone gets rejected; not just once, but dozens of times. There’s not a writer out there who hasn’t received at least a handful of rejections. Agents get rejected from editors; editors get rejected by authors who choose another publisher. Rejections are a way to find a mutually-beneficial partnership. You may be desperate to land a literary agent or publisher, but do you really want someone in your corner who isn’t as passionate about your book as you are? You and your book (and future stories) deserve a champion, so it will be worth the wait.
4) Because your future readers need you.
Giving up after a rejection may seem appealing at first, but think of why you wrote this book. It’s probably because it was a story you thought needed to be told, right? Perhaps it filled a niche or a missing spot on shelves you wish you had when you were younger? By giving up, you’re leaving that space empty. You’re taking a book from a future reader who may really need your words at a hard time in their life. Remember them the next time you feel like giving up.
5) Because Imposter Syndrome shouldn’t win.
So often when we get rejections, Imposter Syndrome creeps in without notice. Only a few hours (or even days) later, we realize the harsh way we’re beginning to regard ourselves and our work. While each writer combats Imposter Syndrome in their personal way, let me tell you something that’s true for every author: Rejection does not equal failure. Read it again. Repeat it to yourself until the Imposter Syndrome slinks away. Imagine Imposter Syndrome like the villain in your life’s story and perseverance as the all-powerful weapon to defeat it. Are you going to let the villain win even if you have the very thing that can bring your victory?
6) Because you’re learning.
The best rejections are the ones that give you opportunities to grow. Three or four rejections that include “not able to connect with the main character” give you valuable insight—perhaps the point of view you’ve written can be brought in closer to the main character, or some personality traits should be changed to make the character more relatable. Though agents and publishers usually don’t have time to explain exactly what didn’t work for them, take time with each rejection you receive (that isn’t a form, or “copy and paste” rejection) to think through how this feedback can make your story better.
7) Because you can.
You are strong, your words are worthy, and there is a place for your story in this world. Choosing writing as a career won’t promise you instant gratification, or a movie deal, or all your wildest dreams coming true after signing an agent or publishing your first book. It’s a journey filled with hard work, rejection, and connecting with others. You can get all those things—the goals and dreams you strive toward—only if you push through the sting of rejection.
Hopefully you found at least one of these reasons to keep going helpful! I have been there—I’m still there—and completely understand the toll rejections take on an emotional and mental level.
If you’re a querying writer struggling to handle rejection, please reach out to me on Twitter (@katarinabett) or Instagram (@iamgirlofwords)! I’m steadfast in my belief that having a community’s support makes rejection 10 times easier to weather. I’d love to have a “Rejection Section” group message for anyone who needs some encouragement, advice, or a friend.
Good luck, future bestseller! You’ve got this.