Some Things to Remember When Rejection Gets Us Down

Pencil Eraser

I don’t mean to sound morose or anything, but writing and rejection might as well be the same word. Writejection? Yeah, that’s it.

It’s hard not to get discouraged. It’s hard to work on a manuscript for months or in some cases years, only to have an agent send back a form rejection without even really reading it.

But that’s alright. In fact, we shouldn’t let writejection get us down. We should use it to do better.

Point A: writers need to write a lot of crap before writing anything worth publishing. I’ve literally never heard of anyone publishing their first attempt at a novel. Even an author’s debut novel isn’t really their first; they’ve probably written a bunch more before that one that just weren’t good enough for anyone to read. For context, Stephen King wrote about five novels that didn’t get published before Carrie and Brandon Sanderson wrote around ten before Elantris, his first wide release. That’s the hard truth of writing: the first manuscripts we write are practice, and nothing more.

But that’s okay. No one uses everything they write. Many writers write entire backstories for their characters, or subplots that never go anywhere, or just cool little scenes that are fun, but don’t really move the plot forward. Writing is just like any skill: it’s the work that people don’t see that makes it great.

And another thing to remember about work from pro writers: they write gross first drafts, too. It doesn’t matter who writes them—they are, by their very nature, gross. But remember, we never see first drafts from pro authors. We only read the finished product, which has gone through countless iterations. If you don’t believe me, believe Ernest Hemingway, who said, “I rewrote the ending of Farewell to Arms, the last page of it, 39 times before I was satisfied.”

But here’s maybe the most important rule of all: even the best writers have been rejected just as much as we have.

This all might sound terribly daunting, and I suppose it is. But don’t let it get you down. I mean, if you really want to be a writer, would you want it to be easy? It wouldn’t be worth anything if it was. We have to work hard, we have to write every day, we have to earn those rejections before we can really get anywhere. And that’s how it should be. That’s how we know that what we’re doing is really worth doing.

So when we’re just collecting rejections, there’s only one thing we can do. Today, let’s write something better than we wrote yesterday.

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