Guest Post: "Rejection: Its 5 Stages and How to Grow From Them"

Rejection. It is the bane of every writer’s existence.

All published writers have two things in common: they have been rejected at one point in time, and they are all, in essence, survivors. Because though rejection sucks, they’ve learned it sucks much less if you know how to turn it into a positive.

You read that right. Rejection can be a positive thing. I, along with a lot of other inspiring writers, had to learn that the hard way. Those who have experienced rejection know that you go through five stages: disappointment, denial, anger, acceptance, and finally, growth. Read on if you’re stuck in the rejection stages, or if you want to reaffirm the maturity rejection has given you. 

First of course, is…Disappointment:

Every person, let alone every writer, wants to be validated. You’re putting not only your work, but also your heart, and maybe a little bit of your soul, on a silver platter to be picked at. So when someone, especially an agent, doesn’t feel the way you do about your book, it can be devastating. You feel like Sisyphus, constantly pushing the rock up the mountain, only to have it roll back down to squish you and your fantastical dreams.

That’s why we have to remind ourselves that rejection isn’t personal. Not every “No” is an agent saying your story, or your writing, is horrible. You have to try to decipher when they say “It’s just not right for me.” Perhaps they simply don’t represent your genre, or they don’t want to take the risk if your story has controversial elements—or even worse (this is where you get out your tub of ice- cream) your query/manuscript could need a lot of work…

Which opens the Pandora’s box for…Denial:

Denial is a double-edged sword. Believe me, I’ve been there. You tell yourself that your story is fine, that the agents just can’t see its merit. And yes, that may be true to a point, because rejection is subjective. For example, despite how many have fallen in love with Harry Potter, there are countless Amazon posts by Muggles that can’t understand why it has such a following (which makes me believe there is really something wrong with this world). You see, subjectivity. The double-edged sword.

Denial may be good for never giving up hope, but here comes the down side…Denial can also be fueled by ego. It can blind you from realizing how great your manuscript can actually become if you learn to take the criticism like a champ and mix it with your strengths.

And if you’re not careful, denial can spew into…Anger:

Anger makes people do dimwitted things, like replying to an agent’s rejection email with a message such as: “You will regret this, my pretty, and your little dog too.”

Remember agents are professional, and that means you should be too. But like denial, which can help you maintain hope, anger can be useful: When you remove your ego from your anger, then you’re left with determination.

And determination makes things happen.

Which brings me to…Acceptance:

The good part about rejection is that it makes us better. It makes it so that we have to believe in what we’re doing, believe in ourselves and in our vision. Sometimes it can feel like agents are gatekeepers to a world
with secret handshakes and code names, a world where you aren’t allowed in. Not yet, at least. Just because one agent said “NO,” however, doesn’t mean every agent will.

To determine whether your story is solid and hasn’t landed on the right agent’s desk, or whether it does indeed need more work, get feedback from critique partners and beta readers and learn to listen to your gut. If you can look at the rejections and feedback and find commonality, something may not be working in your MS, and knowing this, you can refine your writing.


Which will lead you into the final stage…Growth: 

YOU have to gain power over rejection. Translate it into worth. Its a tool to educate yourself, to learn about yourself, your work, and the business of it all. In a way, rejection cleanses our writing. It makes us seek out our weaknesses and better our craft, learning the difference between making it stronger…and not cutting those parts that make your story shine.

Rejection makes us harden up. What would a boxer be without bruises? What would an Olympic medalist be without blisters on her hands, or a few broken bones?

Rejection builds needed scar tissue. It is proof that you’ve been through war with your writing, proof of your efforts and incentive to persevere.

So make a tribute to your rejection letters. Do like Stephen King and print them out, then put a nail through them. Keep them as reminders of what you will overcome. Learn from them. And for God sakes don’t be afraid to be different. One of the most famous rejection letter excerpts read, “This is too different from other juveniles on the market to warrant its selling.” —Well, guess what? Dr. Seuss didn't give up and went on to win two Academy Awards, two Emmy Awards, the Pulitzer Prize, and a Peabody Award.

Remember, with each “no” you are one more step closer to that “YES.” If you didn't have to climb that mountain, you will never truly appreciate when you reach the top, and see the sun shining back at you. Never give up: your beautiful characters and your story deserve to be fought for, and they deserve that special agent who will find them a place in this world.

Now, to lift your writer spirits...some of the biggest misjudgments in publishing history.

“The Christopher Little Literary Agency receives 12 publishing rejections in a row for their new client, until the eight-year-old daughter of a Bloomsbury editor demands to read the rest of the book. The editor agrees to publish but advises the writer to get a day job since she has little chance of making money in children’s books. Yet Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling spawns a series where the last four novels consecutively set records as the fastest- selling books in history, on both sides of the Atlantic, with combined sales of 450 million.” 

“It is so badly written.” The author tries Doubleday instead and his little book makes an impression. The Da Vinci Code sells 80 million. 

“We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.” Stephen King’s Carrie sells 1 million in the first year alone.


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Jennifer Welker is an aspiring YA writer, a cover designer, and a documentary writer/filmmaker. A word magician and talkative introvert, she is currently seeking a Jedi agent. You can find her online at jenniferwelker.com If you follow her on twitter (@jenniferwelker), all of your dreams will come true. Honest.

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The opinions expressed in guest posts are the views of the designated authors and do not necessarily reflect those of YA Highway members.




4 comments:

  1. Wow. These samples are very inspiring. It's amazing how some in the publishing industry make the wrong call about the book. I always wonder what happened to the editors who reject a book who later on made millions, like JK Rowling.

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  3. It just goes to show, that all the greats have had to deal with rejection. I would hate to be the person that dissed Stephen King. Brings a whole new meaning to “Eating your words.”

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  4. Haha, even rejections are better with Harry Potter. ;)

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