Vision: A Resource for Writers
Lazette Gifford, Editor

Soft Spots in Steel Armor

By Lorianne N. Watts
2004, Lorianne N. Watts

"We regret to inform you that this piece does not fit our magazine."

"This submission is not right for us at this time."

"We are unable to use this piece for publication."

Too often writers are told that they will never be good enough to make a living at writing. But honestly, what makes someone good enough?

For all the passion that a writer has, the biggest step of writing -- other than the act of writing itself -- is gathering up the courage to submit material to publishers. There are thousands of markets in the publishing world, including general fiction, dark fiction, science fiction, nonfiction.  The list of market genres alone towers over the one-hundred mark. So, in theory, every story should fit somewhere, right?

Perhaps they do, but that doesn't mean all will get published. Welcome to the harsh reality of following the dream of becoming a published author.

Some writers write solely to get published. They find a magazine or book publisher that interests them, write a story to fit the guidelines to a T, prepare the 'perfect' cover letter and synopsis, and send it off, expecting it to get accepted immediately. And when it doesn't get accepted -- when that rejection letter arrives -- it is time to wallow in the "rotten luck" that has now graced the writing.

Others write for themselves and then think about publication. They have faith in their writing ability, but write the stories from their hearts.  They face the same problems when they submit as those who write for the market, except they have a wider field of publishers to choose from. The biggest part of the submitting process isn't the synopsis or cover letter. It isn't the glorious acceptance letter. It's definitely not the blistering rejections.

No, the biggest -- and most important -- process in submitting is realizing that the story or article may not be accepted the first time out, which is why it's essential not to let one rejection rip your life apart.

Because a story or article rejection is just that -- a rejection of the story or article. It's not a death threat and it's not a final lethal injection into your system -- or your story. Life goes on, and the story lives to be submitted another day.  The worst thing a writer can do is fall apart over a rejection. It is not the end of the world.

When I first started submitting and asked around for advice, the most common response was, "Don't let it get to you." I heard several stories from authors who let a single rejection stop them from writing for years, and they all said they lived to regret it.

My biggest fear in my writing is not writing, and living to regret it. I don't want to let a rejection stop me from following my dream and so far, I haven't.

It's hard not to take a rejection personally. Almost all writers receive more rejections than they do acceptances -- and it can be extremely disheartening. How are we, as writers, supposed to not care about the fact that our work isn't "good enough"?

Every person following his passion, whether it is singing, acting, writing, or drawing, wants his work to be accepted, and to be perfect.

Writers have two options with rejections: they can take them personally, or they can take them as advice.

Taking a rejection personally involves shredding the story and destroying the flame that ignited it. It involves looking forward and never looking back to what might have been. Taking a rejection as advice, however, is quite different.

Building up an armor so that you don't take rejections personally takes a great deal of work, but it will help you make it through the inevitable  rejections.

Using the armor I've built, I tend to take rejections as advice. I read the letters as I would a love letter -- backward, forward, upside down, inside out -- and I draw as many conclusions from them as I possibly can. I don't destroy my work -- I read over it again and change, edit, and revise it as much (or as little) as I think I can to make it better; then out it goes again. I've gotten more rejections, but I've gotten acceptances as well.

And every acceptance is worth five rejections.

My novels, however, are still my soft spot. I'm still revising, editing, critiquing, and panicking. I'll submit them someday, when I truly believe that they're good enough. But until I know in my heart that my work is the best I can make it, I'm not satisfied with myself. And I will keep working until then.

Even then, I would be lying if I said that the rejection letters weren't going to sting. I know they will, because for me there is a great deal of difference between a novel and a short story. However, I refuse to let the letters stop my writing. I am writing for myself -- publication is just a bonus. And even if I were writing just for publication, I still wouldn't let the rejection letters stop me.

I know there is no reason for a letter to stop me from achieving my goals. Instead, I let each rejection serve as advice and help to build up my armor.

And someday, I will succeed -- because I refuse to let a rejection stop me from following my dream.

My parting words are those that have been said, in one way or another, throughout this article: don't give up. You will succeed. Things are never hopeless. At the same time, however, be prepared to receive rejections before you receive an acceptance. It does, after all, happen to everyone. Don't be afraid to change things. Keep striving for your goal. With perseverance and determination, you will succeed.

Good luck!