Rejection: the death of hope


Spent some time updating my submissions spreadsheet this evening, following another pair of rejection letters in the last week. So, my stats are now 10 stories, 34 submissions with 30 rejections, 4 still awaiting response and a total of 1,668 days of hope.

No matter what I try to tell myself, rejection hurts.

Rejection by Slushpup (Flickr Creative Commons)

Rejection by Slushpup (Flickr Creative Commons)


There are all sorts of stories I can tell myself to try to ease it:

1) 30 rejections and 10 stories is really not all that much, compared to other (successful) writers. I’ve got to expect it to take some time.

2) Rejections are part of the writer’s life, everyone gets them, I might as well get over it

3) I’m aiming my stories at pro markets, so I’m competing against established writers, and the very best of the newcomers for a couple of spaces in each edition.

4) Sometimes, the rejection is more because of the ‘fit’ of stories within a particular issue than a weakness of the story itself

There are more. They’re all good stories, and there’s a measure of truth in each one. Not one of them is convincing, though. Not one of them really, truly takes away that instant sting of pain, the death of hope, that each rejection brings.

Perhaps each one is a little dart that will harden my hide so that eventually, rejections will become so much water off this duck’s back, perhaps it will continue to hurt so much.

Every time I work on a story, edit it, take the time to look around, review the available markets, see which one fits best with that story, and send that story out, I am convinced that this time, it will place. This time, it will hit the mark, make the breakthrough and I will see it in print and I’ll be able to point to it in pride and say “I did it”. And hope that it will be the first of many, the beginning of my steps on the path of a career as an author.

So each time the story comes back with a “Thanks for your submission, but it’s not quite right for us”, it’s the death of that bright hope. The fire dies and leaves me with ashes in my mouth, and I can’t help but mourn its passing. And then, there must be the act of courage to scrape together enough hope and optimism to send the story out again – sometimes with a rework, sometimes without – and allow myself to hope again.

Sometimes I wonder why it means so much to me. Why the continual striving for publication, even in the face of almost impossible odds, against a vast sea of untold talent striving for the same goal? Why the need to see my work recognised and published in a respected magazine? Why are the stories I tell myself not sufficient to keep to myself – why the need to share them? Why the need to strive and win the prize of publication? What does it matter?

I’ve never really subscribed to the ‘if I’m not going to win, I won’t play’ school of thought. Regardless of whether or not I ever achieve publication, I will always write. It is too great a love, too deeply ingrained in me, to ever be able to stop doing it. I have terrors of blindness, so that I can no longer read or write, more so than loss of hearing or any other sense of smell.

So it’s not for the competition, for a need to win or excel, to earn plaudits for their own sake.

I liken it more to a rite of passage, a painful initiation into the guild to which I am still serving my apprenticeship, something I must endure to become a journeyman. One day, I hope to become a master of the craft, and to do so I must pass the tests.


7 Responses to “Rejection: the death of hope”

  1. 1 Shelia

    You’re a great writer. Do not give up hope.

  2. I know exactly what you mean – just this morning I got another rejection on a short story, but before I could even think about it, I sent the story right back out, meaning my rejection bounced back to hope within about 30 minutes.

  3. 4 Erin

    Hugs! It’s hard.

    I once heard Tobias Buckell say that what he set as a goal was a number of rejections per year, and he had to send out stories at least that many times. If he failed to hit his goal for rejections because some of the stories got accepted, that was just gravy. But the writing and editing and submitting and keeping at it was what he needed to do.

    As I said over at FM, I always find it hardest when I really believe in a story and think that it has a shot. For example, the first year I submitted to the PARSEC short story contest (on a whim, almost, not expecting much), I got third place. When I didn’t even place the next two years, it hurt. (And really hurt when a friend won, though I was happy for her, too.) Now I’m waiting for the results of this year’s contest . . .

  4. 5 ellsea

    @ Alex – yes, that’s my usual tactic, but 3 rejections in a week just hit me very hard for some reason, & I just felt very disheartened & demotivated by the whole business. Trying to pick up again now the break’s over, tho ….

    @ Erin – I think I like the Tobias Buckell method – at least it’s a reminder that possbily *all* writers (with the possible exception of J K Rowling 😉 should expect to receive more of them than acceptances, and that ‘keeping at it’ is the only way through (as ‘giving up altogether’ just is *not* an option).

    Thanks! I’ll stop whining & feeling sorry for myself & get on with my job …

  5. 6 Erin

    Well, to be completely honest, last week I wound up whining about those results I was waiting on: I did mention having a harder time when I hoped, right?

    • 7 ellsea

      yep, you did mention that 🙂

      Hugs on not getting placed, good luck with the turnaround ….

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