Vision: A Resource for Writers

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Advice for Young Writers:

Help Someone Else Deal with Rejection

By Elizabeth Chayne
Copyright 2009 by Elizabeth Chayne, All Rights Reserved

Rejection is hard.

There's no way to get around that. No matter how nicely the publisher or editor says it, no matter how close you were to getting in, a rejection still means no.

Part of rejection, of course, is about the money. But another, possibly larger, part is about ego satisfaction. A rejection is a blow to one's pride, and therefore it is not surprising that it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.

If rejection means all of the above to the average adult writer, think about what it means to a younger writer.

Most young writers get a lot of support and encouragement. School magazines and school writing competitions are relatively easy to break into. Parents and teachers are often extravagant in their praise as well.

So when a rejection comes, the writer's confidence in his or her talent wanes with fantastic speed. They may lose interest in writing altogether, or view all their work as "trash." Phrases such as "I'll never write again" or "I hate writing" may be uttered. In short, the writer all but gives up on writing, convinced that writing isn't their path in life.

Some adult writers think it's better to be very critical of a young writer's work beforehand, so as to soften the blow when rejection arrives. However, getting the story perfect may not be as important as giving support to the writer who is just starting out.

If you happened to know a young writer who has just gotten a rejection, and is in the middle of rejection blues, there are several things you can do.

Share Your Rejections

Share your own rejection slips with the young writer, especially the nasty ones: the one with snide comments penned in the margins of your story, or the one where the editor said no to your piece on dogs (when your manuscript was clearly about yoga). Tell the writer how you got through your own rejections, and take the time to explain that a rejection, while always meaning "No, the editor doesn't want this piece," does not necessarily mean "No, the editor doesn't want this piece because it's horrible." There are many reasons behind a rejection: it may be that something similar has just been purchased or published; or perhaps one editor liked it and another didn't. If the editor has taken the time to write personal comments, encourage the writer to take them seriously. If the editor says, "Send more", of course you should definitely follow that bit of advice!

Don't Point Fingers

Avoid bad-mouthing an editor or magazine who sent a rejection. Irate parents are apt to say things along the lines of, "Oh, that magazine only publishes rubbish anyway," or "The editor must be blind not to see the potential in this," and so forth. This sort of remark implies that any story, as long as it's good, should be published, and the only reason it isn't is because of "fools like this editor here." Don't blame anyone, just tell them to send out the story again... and again and again until it gets published.

Build Their Self-Esteem

Build up the writer's broken self-esteem by commenting positively on past or ongoing work, or by referring to past awards. Let them vent their feelings, if they need to. Every writer needs a shoulder to cry on sometimes.

Guidelines, Guidelines, Guidelines

Many a good tale was rejected because it did not fit the guidelines. Some editors won't even look at a submission if it isn't formatted according to their guidelines (Times New Roman, 12 point font and so on). Teach the young writer about market research. Remind them to always find and read the guidelines of the publication they are planning to submit to. Take them to the library and help them check out past issues of the publication, to give them a feel for the style in general.

Rejection is a part of the writer's life. Few writers are entirely free of rejection. However, one acceptance will come, as long as the writer is persistent. It may be difficult at first for a young writer to grasp all of this, so they will need a mentor to get them through the rough patches.

And when that day comes that an editor finally says yes, it will all be worth it.

Further Reading

A humorous blog post about teenage writers.