Monday, 1 August 2011

Handling Rejection Letters

By Richard Jay Parker

Was having a sort out over the weekend and stumbled upon some old bound box files of rejection letters.  They're not exactly meticulously filed but I always made a point of trying to draw something positive from the feedback (even the standard ones...) before adding to my collection.

They sit on the shelf like two encyclopedias of hopelessness.

When they arrive they're the very last document you want to read.  A single piece of paper that signifies the negative climax of weeks/months of waiting.  They're worth holding on to though, however critical they are of your work. 

It takes time to look at them objectively but as you build your full set of encyclopedias they gradually become a map of your writing journey.  Often, because of time constraints, they offer nothing in the way of specific pointers but sometimes an editor or agent will be able to tell you something useful - even if you don't want to hear it at the time.

I'm a glutton for punishment.  As well as my literary knockbacks I've also got a TV submissions file that starts in 1986.  Among them is one apologetic rejection from a producer who returned my work to me over a year later because it had fallen down the back of his filing cabinet.  Needless to say, I'd taken the first few months as a good sign.  I actually worked with him years later.  Needless to say the first letter that informed me of an intention to use one of my pieces is covered in grubby fingerprints.  But the rejections continued after that and to this day.

It's a inevitable part of every writer's existence.  But even though the moment of rejection gives you that plummeting feeling in your stomach you steadily learn how to speed up your recovery and get back to your keyboard with more determination.

Use the rejection letter as fuel for your creative engine.

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  1. Hi Richard, I love the phrase: 'They sit on the shelf like two encyclopedias of hopelessness.'

    My longest wait was for a US publisher who came back to me after 1 year, 3 months and 16 days (not that I was counting any) to just say 'no thanks'.

  2. Hi Richard, very interesting reading your piece on rejection letters. I could paper the lounge, kitchen and bedroom with the ones I have. And the dining room with the ones you sent me!
    Hope you're well.

    Keith Rees

  3. 1 year and 6 months - must have been a particularly galling anticlimax, Derek. An inevitable part of the job, unfortunately. Thanks for your comment.

    Hi, Keith. I hope they weren't all standard rejections! Thanks for dropping in.

  4. I spent almost twenty five years trying to get my novel, HELL'S GATE published (among others). The day it was accepted, I received a rejection letter from an agent exactly one year after I had sent a submission to her.