Writer’s Tip #5: How to Handle Rejections

There are many ways to handle rejection letters from agents or publishers. You can get angry and reject them right back: trash the letter or hit the delete button. Sounds good, right? You can grieve the travesty of the whole thing and mope around for days. Or you can learn what you can, forget about it, and move on.

I recently received a rejection email from an agent.  I hope to eventually move on, maybe even learn something. First I’ll be going through the anger and grief stages. No question. But it won’t get the best of me. And I’ll need a plan to put things in perspective. Behold, the Seven Steps. 🙂

Seven Steps for Turning Rejection into Redemption:

1. Get angry. That’s right. I’m going to allow myself to get angry and vent out my frustration. Otherwise I’ll implode. But I can’t give this stage too much time. Or KABOOM! I’ll explode everywhere. Give the anger just enough room so that it dissipates. Don’t let it come crawling back to you.

2. Grieve your loss. I really wanted this agent. He’s got a critique group and a marketing group for his clients. He was the first agent I met in person. He’s one of the top agents representing first-time published authors. Of course I wanted him to be my agent. And now’s the time to lament over it. Author Deborah Vogts spoke on this topic at the CTW conference and she handed out a rejection kit: chocolate, a band-aid, and a scripture verse.

3. Find comfort in God’s greatest words. Scriptures are a powerful tool for overcoming rejection. Take Psalms for example. You could probably use each Psalm in a prayer and it would heal the wound of rejection. Here’s a few examples:

Psalm 142:1-2 ” I cry aloud to the LORD;
I lift up my voice to the LORD for mercy.
2 I pour out before him my complaint;
before him I tell my trouble. ” –NIV

Deuteronomy 31:8 “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” –NIV

1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” –NIV

And my personal favorite:

Jeremiah 29:11 ” ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ ” –NIV

4. Seek support.Reach out to people you can trust who you know will support you. Your friends and family who’ve always encouraged you. Your ever-adoring dog. Writers are a great resources for encouragement in the face of rejection. We’ve all been there. And we know it’s not the end of the world.

5. Learn from the rejection. How can you improve on your proposal? There may or may not be a lesson in the letter. Sometimes the only reason is, “This project isn’t right for us at this time.”  They know why they rejected it, just come out and say it! But if you don’t get a specific reason, don’t worry about. It’s frustrating. You may have to go back to step one. But there’s really nothing you can do about. Except go to step four.

6. Forget about it. Once you’ve processed the anger, grief, and lessons you could extract, put it out of your mind. It’s not personal, it’s business. It’s hard to accept, because writing is intensely personal. But the business of writing isn’t. Don’t dwell on it or let it ruin your writing career. Then no one wins. Not you. Nor the reader who will love your story once it finally gets to the right hands.

7. Move on. It’s my goal with every rejection. If you don’t move on, you’ll be wasting your writing talent. A trademark of a published author is perseverance. And now is the time to hone that skill. You can look at the rejection as an obstacle–it certainly is! But you can always find a way around the obstacle. Then it becomes an opportunity. Keep refining your writing. Keep submitting to agents, small publishers, magazines, etc. until you find the right opportunity at the right time. That’s when you’ll find redemption. I’m looking forward to finding it soon. 🙂



  1. Pingback: Writers Tip #7: Attend a Local Writers Conference « Barbara Hartzler

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