Rejection slips and putting your writing out there

You know how sometimes when you need to learn (or often, re-learn) something, it just pops up everywhere? In the last few days various Twitter links and blog posts and even random opening of books here at my desk have talked about rejection, and how writers who have a long list of rejections should actually be pleased – the more rejections you have, the closer you are to being published, etcetera etcetera.

Personally, I didn’t think I had a problem with being rejected. Well, at least, not with my writing being rejected. In most of my more recent work as a blogger, I tend to throw ideas in first and then, although a piece might get a few editorial tweaks, it’s fairly rare that it gets rejected in its entirety, so perhaps I’m a bit out of practice. Before blogging, I used to write articles for travel magazines (print and online) and getting rejected was more common in that process, but perhaps as I was just starting out, it didn’t bother me too much, since I also had enough successes to balance that out.

When I was a kid, I used to submit my fiction writing to a few kids’ magazines here in Australia and had a few published, too. The only rejection slip that ever bothered me was for a story I’d written at school aged about ten which had to be titled “The last bar on the cage gave way”. I wrote a piece about the last bar of the metaphorical cage of living at home with your parents, about a girl who was about to move out and live with a friend from university. (Obviously ignoring the advice of “write what you know”!) When the story was returned by the magazine, rejected, the editor had written this helpful response: “How terrible! I hope that never happens in real life!” To me, that was the worst rejection ever. To not even read it! But to pretend they had! I was mortified.

So, that’s my personal history on rejection, in a nutshell. It’s made me realise that perhaps I am a teeny-tiny bit reluctant to have my fiction writing rejected. Because I don’t put it out there. I have a bunch of semi-decent short stories that I could, if I wanted, ship around to some small-time magazines and websites. It would be good experience, to polish them a bit, to get some feedback, to possibly get some more recent fiction publication credits than the Puffin magazine, 1986. Is it really just that I don’t have time to do this, or am I actually scared of having my fiction rejected? It’s certainly a lot more personal to have your fiction rejected than your travel articles. I think I might have to take the plunge.

(Interestingly, I have no problem with putting my fiction into competitions. I understand and accept that there can only be two or three winners, and not being a winner doesn’t dent my confidence the way a rejection slip might. Hmm, double standards!)

What’s your experience with rejections? Do they bother you more than you care to admit (like me!)? Do share … I’m off to examine my folder of short stories and find something to do with them.

Amanda Kendle


  1. Of course rejection hurts, but I try to keep my expectations low (i.e., realistic) and then forget about it. Like, I keep a spreadsheet for every piece I send out (really not that many), and once the details are written down, I don’t have to keep them in my head. So when I get a rejection email, I’m usually a bit surprised and bummed, but it doesn’t *really* affect me b/c I had already forgotten about it, lol.

    Querying agents (which I hope to do in a couple months) may be different, though, since it’s more one-on-one than submitting to magazines. It seems more personal, even though it really isn’t. My first go-round with querying was fine, because I had zero expectations. (It was for 20SW, which was a web series as opposed to a “real” novel, and which I had never even *thought* to publish, until after it won the contest with St. Martin’s Press.) But the next time I do it, I’ll be querying something I have high expectations and hopes for… Ugh.

  2. Ditto! Ditto, in that I also had (have? it’s a little underused of late) a spreadsheet for tracking all the (non-fiction) pieces I sent out and I had pretty much the same reaction. But querying agents, that is something I’m totally scared of! Rejection will seem a bit more personal plus, when it’s a novel you’re talking about, you’ve got a lot more invested in it. But of course, if we don’t try we’ll never get there, so that’s the risk we take … But as you say – Ugh.

  3. I’m totally scared about rejection.
    But what also bugs me is the silence, being ignored, as though you never made the effort to send something in. Surely editors realise that each article we write is a small piece of us and sometimes it’s just nice to know where we stand. You’re going to reject it? Fine, at least I know. I can work on it some more and then try somewhere else.
    But the silence? How long do you wait?

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