January 18, 2009

Rejection and Criticism

I wrote this for another blog, but I think it's an important subject that needs to be revisited.

If you’re a writer and want to be published, you need to be able to accept rejection–it’s part of the process.

Recently I spoke to a short-story writer who once visited a critique group I belong to and I asked him what he was doing with his writing. He said he no longer sent it out because he didn’t like being rejected–so he only shares his stories with friends. This man is an excellent writer–though his stories had some flaws. As I look back, I remember that he didn’t like having his work critiqued either and that’s why he didn’t continue on with our group. I think what he’s decided is sad, because eventually he’d probably have found a market for his work and more than just his friends could’ve enjoyed his stories.

I knew another excellent writer who sent her manuscript to about three publishers or agents, was rejected and that was the end of her sending out her work. Oh, she still writes–but she doesn’t ever submit her work. She is able to take criticism in a writer’s group and make suggested changes or rewrites.

When I taught a weekly writing group, at times I’d get a new student who would read their few pages and be horrified when I pointed out problems. Made me wonder why they bothered to come. Believe me, when I’m critiquing anyone’s work I always talk about what is good first before giving any suggestions.

Frankly, I don’t understand the mind-set that can’t take criticism or rejection. My first book was rejected nearly 30 times before it was accepted by a publisher. Each time it was rejected, I worked on it some more. At the time I didn’t know nearly as much about editing and rewriting as I do now.

Even though I now have over twenty published books, I still attend a weekly critique group. I would be disappointed if they didn’t find something to help make the book better. I use my fellow authors as a first editor.

Rejection is part of getting published. Never take it personally. It can mean many things, the publisher or agent was having a bad day, they are interested in a similar book already, it isn’t the kind of book that they like. Always pay attention to what is in the rejection letter, especially if it’s handwritten and has some actual comments about your writing. No matter what happens, work to fix that book or move onto another. Never, ever give up.


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At January 19, 2009 at 11:20 AM , Blogger Dorinda Ohnstad said...


I think your message is more important today than ever. At every turn we're told its extremely difficult to get published. Told we have a better chance of winning the lottery than getting published.

Rejecticn is an inherent part of the industry. It's best that writers realize that up front and prepare themselves for the inevitable. Bottom line, it is part of the job description. Those unwilling to face rejection should not apply.

For those of us willing to put ourselves out there, rejection is just one step closer to publication. Just about every published author (yes there are a FEW anomalies) has their story of multiple rejections before finally being published. Each one of those rejections moved them closer to their ultimate goal. If they had decided anywhere along that path to give up they never would've realized their dreams.

As Marilyn said, if you want to be published, heed any advice along the way, but never give up. Someday your time shall come. I'm counting on it. Writing is more work than others understand, and I count on that work paying off some day.

At January 20, 2009 at 8:19 AM , Blogger Amy Leasure said...

I agree that it is important to not give up if your ultimate goal is publication.

I think a lot of published authors can not believe that there are talented writers out there who, deep down, do not really want to be published. Not every painter wants their work showcased in museums or galleries.

The emotional upheaval that rejection causes may outweigh the benefits of becoming published. For some, it may be entirely possible that writing and sharing their work with their friends is enough. I think it's hard to believe, with all this push towards marketing and competition, that some people enjoy writing for themselves. I think that some people, who even say they want to be published, really do not deep down.

Whatever the reason someone comes to a critique group, with the ultimate goal of publishing or not, I think it's still important to treat them all the same.

I also agree with your post. Writers who truly wish to be published need to realize rejection is part of the job for most.

At January 21, 2009 at 8:36 AM , Blogger June Rodriguez said...

As writers with the ultimate goal of being published it is hard to believe there are those who do not share that goal. Writers that do not take criticism well can be hard to work with. But we all want our work read by someone. So there will be feedback, both good and bad. Those that only want the good are only looking for an audience.

Learning to take criticism well will prepare you for rejection.

So I say “Bring it on.”


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