5 Practical Tips For Writers Who've Been Rejected

5 Practical Tips For Writers Who’ve Been Rejected


If you’ve sent your manuscript off to a publisher and been rejected, try our 5 practical tips for writers who’ve been rejected.

My heart has been handed back to me. It resembles steak tartare and it isn’t even on a silver platter. It’s more like a congealed mass on a Styrofoam tray.

For those of you who have never received or seen a rejection letter I have included mine below:

Dear Writer
Thank you for the opportunity to consider your work. Unfortunately, your story idea is not right for us at this time. We apologise for the form letter, but with the number of submissions we receive, it’s not possible to give a personal response in every case.
But thank you again for your interest in XYZ Books; we wish you success in finding a home for your work.
The Editors

As you can imagine it sucked getting this one and, as far as rejection letters go, you can’t get much worse. If an editor has taken time to write a personal note, it is good. This is a pretty standard reply. It was the reply I thought about when I wrote Rejection Sucks – another post on this subject.

I was expecting this feedback in a few months, but I received it in two weeks. It’s taken me a month to write about it and to get over it. I have mourned. I have cried. I have cussed and riled, but now I need to deal with it. What do I do?

5 Practical Tips For Writers Who’ve Been Rejected

  1. The first thing I do after rejection is nothing. This is after the crying, screaming, sad part. I do think about it and mull it over but I don’t start rewriting anything. I don’t even look at the manuscript.
  2. I carry on with my work in progress. The best advice I have received about submissions came from Amanda Patterson, who told me to start writing a new novel the moment you have submitted. That way, if you get rejected you have something positive to look forward to. Luckily, I listened and I have nice new novel emerging. I will use this to console myself.
  3. I evaluate the feedback. The submitted manuscript was appraised by three different people. I will go back to their feedback and re-evaluate it. There was advice I used and advice I ignored. Maybe I shouldn’t have done that.
  4. I kill my darlings. I know I should have done this before I even submitted, but honestly that is easier said than done. So let’s say I’ll kill the rest of my darlings. For example, I wrote in the first person viewpoint. In this particular genre, third person is preferred. Sometimes experiments work, sometimes they don’t. Read: 4 Viewpoint Choices For Writers
  5. I re-plot and draw up new storylines. I will re-evaluate the chances I took and try to figure out where I can improve. I will make notes and start making changes, but not on the actual document. I will start a new document and re-write from scratch.

Of course you can skip this horrible process entirely by self-publishing, but I guess I am old fashioned. I still write with pen and paper for heaven’s sake. So this is where I will start.

It has been four weeks since I received the letter so I am still in the ‘do nothing’ phase. I will keep on writing my new novel, and soon I will tackle this one again with a nice big band aid on my heart.

Suggested reading: 5 Things That Happen After You’ve Typed THE END

 by Mia Botha

If you enjoyed this post, read:

  1. The Book That Started It All – A Christmas Story
  2. Getting Un-Stuck – How To Keep On Writing
  3. The Write Everything – The End Of Excuses

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This article has 0 comments

  1. Paula Gruben

    So sorry, Miss Mia! They say home is where the heart is, and I’m sure when that Band-Aid comes off, your manuscript will find the perfect, deserving mansion. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was from you – to ‘kill my darlings’ – and I’m glad to see you’re going to reapply it to your own writing; it really does make the world of difference. Best of luck. Thinking of you!

  2. Melfka

    Very nice post, though I have to say my approach is a bit different. I can’t say I’m totally emotionally untouched, as there is always that unpleasant feeling, but after I receive a rejection letter I just go and send another query letter to another publisher/agent (alright, I give myself a day or two of doing nothing and being “miserable”). The more of them you get, the more used to them you are, I guess and the hurting feeling passes. It’s like when someone is trying to upset us (with all those child-like “you’re this or that”) – at first we’re hurt, then angry… and if they keep repeating it, you start ignoring them and you are not bothered with it anymore.

    Of course, revising the work to add extra polish is good, but jumping into conclusion that there is something wrong with the book might be misleading – in the end publishers refuse manuscripts that are good too, don’t they? And having some other work in progress already is indeed a brilliant advice: no time for brooding when you have writing to do!

  3. Sabrina

    Love your take on it and the steps you’ve provided for moving on. My first thought has always been self publishing but lately the traditional route seems like a good first step. It takes big girl panties and a lot of safety pins so…Yay, you! Keep going!

  4. Walter Rhein

    Everybody gets their manuscripts rejected. The fact is, there are a lot of bad editors out there evaluating manuscripts. The good news is that there are a lot of publishers out there as well. I never used to send my novels out to just one publisher at a time (they say you aren’t supposed to send it to a bunch of publishers at once…but I’ll stop doing that the second I get 2 acceptances on the same round of submissions). After a rejection, I wouldn’t suggest a radical re-write (changing point of view is pretty difficult), just send it out to “hopefully” more enlightened publishers. These days I have a good relationship with Perseid and Harren Press. My first book was published with Rhemalda (which has ceased operations). I now use Self-Publishing for re-prints because when a books is selling well, you don’t need a publisher.

  5. Anonymous

    You go girl! Your devoted fan!

  6. Melinda Friesen

    I enjoyed this post and was glad to see I’m not the only one who suffers some emotional melt-down after rejections. People console me by saying you know you’re a writer if you’re getting rejections. I think that is a load of bologna. A literate ape could get a rejection if he figure out how to use email.
    I agree with the above comment. Not that I have any idea of your process in editing your book, but a global rewrite seems like overkill. It’s unlikely the editor even read further than page fifty (if you’re lucky). If you know there are weak spots, sure, fix them. But, don’t relegate your draft to the dust bin over one rejection. They could’ve simply read your query and rejected without ever glancing at the MS and based on their quick response, that’s likely what happened.

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