Story Worms: Rejections and a Crisis of Confidence


Acceptances are great, aren’t they? You idly check your email inbox, imagining today to simply be another day, and there; an email response to your submission. Your heart pounds, your breath comes in quick gasps, your hand trembles as you hover the mouse over the email. You count down from three, screw your eyes closed, and click. Peering through a half-open eye, you read the fateful words. You leap from your chair, scaring the cat in the process, and complete whatever kind of victory dance you’ve adopted over the years. You look ridiculous, but who cares? Your story was accepted!

However, that submissions coin has another side. The email is only one line long, and it starts with the word ‘unfortunately’. You read it again. Surely this is some kind of mistake. Did they send this to the wrong email? They can’t have hated your story, it was the work of a genius!

And then, the inevitable depression. The feelings of inadequacy and self-loathing. Perhaps you really are a terrible writer. You’re never going to get anywhere with this, you’re just wasting your time. That’s it, you’re never going to write again!

Sit down. Have a cuppa. Breathe.

Every writer gets rejections. Even that perfect, amazing, world-famous writer that you aspire to be bigger than someday. You know, the one whose name is in a larger font on their covers than the title is. And most of the time, you’re not rejected because your story was rubbish. You’re rejected because it didn’t quite fit the publication. But it may well fit somewhere else.

So here’s what you should do after getting that rejection:

  • Write a piece about how stupid they are for not accepting you, how they don’t know talent when they see it. Then delete it.
  • Moan to a friend or relative, and let them tell you how amazing you are.
  • Make a list of your writing successes.
  • Go through your rejected piece and highlight all your favourite lines.
  • Eat an entire tub of ice cream.
  • Watch your favourite movie.
  • Find a new call for submissions and start writing a piece for that.
  • Buy yourself a treat. You deserve it because you’re awesome.
  • Look over your story, see where you can improve it, and submit it elsewhere.
  • Use the rejection to make yourself a better writer.

Be stubborn, be tenacious, tell yourself your next submission will be better. Write more, submit more, grow your portfolio. They say that the best revenge is to live well. And it’s true. So set yourself a mission – to become such a talented, prolific writer that one day, that publisher that rejected you, comes to you and asks you for a story.

But just to balance things, and because we all do crazy things in the heat of the moment, here’s what not to do when you get a rejection:

  • Email the publisher and attach the piece you wrote about how stupid they are for not accepting you, and how they don’t know talent when they see it.
  • Email the publisher at all.
  • Rant about them online, telling the world what a huge mistake they’ve made.
  • Swear you’ll never submit to them again because they don’t know a good thing when they see it.
  • Delete all your writing from your computer because it’s obviously rubbish.
  • Think that this, in any way, reflects on you as a person.

The way you feel after a rejection, that will fade. All you need is a little ego boost. Here’s my coping secret: I keep a little list of places to submit that have super-fast response times. A couple of days, a week at most. Places I’ve submitted before, where I know they like my work, where I know I have a good chance of success. I submit to them. I get to do my victory dance. (It hasn’t backfired on me yet.)

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