Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Rejections - Boo Hoo

For a beginning writer a rejection of your work is the hardest thing to deal with. When I first started writing, I met the editor’s I submitted to from the conferences my RWA chapter had once a year. The very first editor, Wendi Corsi Staub, was a wonderful sweet person, and she sent me a two page letter explaining what I could do to improve my story even though she rejected my manuscript. This rejection letter gave me hope.

When I started getting form letters rejecting my work, I became despondent because I didn’t know what was wrong. Sometimes I would quit writing for months because my spirit was so bruised.

Then I started entering contests thinking that was the way to find out what I was doing wrong. I would send ten to fifty pages out to a contest hoping that someone would validate that I was a good story teller. Oh, there were judges out there willing to tell you what you were doing wrong, and how to fix it. They even rewrote my work, some made suggestions taking my story a different direction from the way I wrote it, and others loved the way I had written it.

It became so confusing, and I would become depressed each time and refuse to write again. Sometimes, I cried, and then later I would pour over their comments and make all the changes they suggested. It took many years before I realized that not everyone could be right.

This went on for seemingly forever, and I wrote a story that I just knew would make it, but after ninety-three rejections I had to sit it aside. This time many of the rejections were positive. Some said they had liked what they read, but they didn’t know how to market it. Others said they weren’t taking on new authors that it was too risky in this economic climate to do so. Of course, I still received some form letter rejections, but I read and reread the personal messages to keep my hope alive.

It was at this time I became hardened. A difference came over me, and I didn’t even cringe or cry over this rejection. I knew this book was good, but I would have to come back to it another time. Immediately, I started a new story. However, I kept getting negative feedback on this story from contests and chapter members. I decided to set it aside and start another. The same thing happened, so I did the same thing. It was becoming a habit to start something and not finish it, so I decided no matter the negative feedback (there was plenty), I would finish this one.
This book, The Catalyst, also received negative feedback. I was told you have to put romance in it, you have to do this and you have to do that. Then, I found some ladies in the publishing industry willing to mentor me. I learned to stand up for myself. I also learned what I was writing. The Catalyst wasn’t a romance, it was women’s fiction, and it was about the growth of a woman. The Catalyst was e-published in October 2008, and I self-printed it in the same year. Its sequel, Addiction, was e-published in December 2008, and will be released in print by Eirelander Publishing ( November 6, 2009 .

If it had not been for these ladies, I would have been floundering forever trying to figure out what I was writing and trying to conform to the parameters placed around me.

You have to be resilient in this industry. Rejections are inevitable, and you have to harden yourself to it. If you can develop a tough skin early, then you’ll build a career in your field sooner.

Sandra K. Marshall

Addiction released November 2009

Thanks and hugs,



Diana Castilleja said...

Great post and very inspiring, Sandy. Not everyone reaches this stage to realize that the only way to survive in this is to separate ourselves from it. It is a huge step of growth, and to be applauded because it is an inner strength to be proud of.

No, we can't make everyone happy. My belief has always been so long as I reach and/or inspire one person with any book that I have written, then that book accomplished the highest apex it could. I've been blessed to know that has happened.

Write what you would want to read, what you know, and it will happen. There's readers out there for every genre. Stay true to any story. You're the only one who really knows it. :)

Sandy said...

Thanks, Diana. I appreciate your kinds words.

The book I was talking about will get published one of these days. Of course, I'll have to revise some more. Smile.

Christie Craig said...


Girl, you are singing my song. It's so hard to keep going when you think rejection means: You suck! But rejection only means: Not now.

Very inspiring post. Thanks.


Anonymous said...

Very inspirational post, Sandy.

My first rejection letter was a nice letter I was told because it explained what needed fixed and to resubmit. Needless to say I went a different route but the rejection didn't crush me.

Great post!


Wilburta Arrowood said...

What many wannabees don't realize is a rejection can mean "your work is horrible," but it more often means it does not fit that publisher's needs, the editor just purchased a story very much like yours (and your's may have been better, but it is too late now), the publisher's list is full for the moment, the publisher is being sold to another company and contracts are all on hold, the editor who loved your pitch at a conference has since moved to another house--in other words, it may have nothing to do with your writing and everything to do with the business you approached. Rejection is hard, but it helps to remember it usually isn't personal.

Wilburta Arrowood

Sandra Sookoo said...

It's not just beginning writers who wrack up rejection letters. Those of us who've signed a few contracts still get rejections on a regular basis.

I did the contest route and yeah the first couple of critiques from "people in the industry" made me cry but then I got over it. The first few rejections from agents/publishers ticked me off but I got over them too, knowing my writing was destined for a home.

However, I've always finished a manuscript, because I'm the type of person that if someone tells me I can't do something, I'll do it just to spite them :-) And it's something of a personal preference that I must finish a book.

Anyway, you get a rejection, fine, but keep moving forward and re-subbing that book until someone believes in your work as much as you do. :-) If you don't, you get to a point where you give up and that's not beneficial to you as a writer or your creativity.

I think I've only gotten a few personalized rejections letters. The rest have been form rejections. I keep them all. Writing's a hard road. Rejections are potholes. You just have to learn how to navigate them to arrive at your destination :-)

Good post!

J Hali said...

Before I submitted anything, I did the contest route. My first entry bombed LOL, but one judge said: "What a great story". There was more; however, I grasped that sentence and glowed for days. It was because of her that I kept going. I never won a contest but if I knew who J4 was, I'd thank her from the bottom of my heart.

Like all writers, I've had rejection letters and I always read and appreciated those that took time to give me a personal suggestion or comment. The form rejections - I hit delete.

There will be more rejections in my future, it means I'm writing and submitting. Each one will make me work harder to improve and grow.

Nice post, Sandy.

TJ said...

After being in the industry as long as I have, the number of rejection letters I've collected could pave a six-lane highway. The one thing I learned early was - don't get stupid over them.

I come from a time when giving up was not an option. I had my own mentors staring over my shoulder going - finish the damn story (ha ha, you thought I came up with that on my own, didn't you?) What my mentors understood back in the day and I know now is this is an industry that can crush your dreams, but only if you let them.

There are so many reasons why a story is rejected, its almost sad to think of them all. I do know one thing that can kick an aspiring or even published author in the teeth is to take their despondency to the web. It's nice to have that blog to put out all your feelings on and get a bit of sympathy from, but I once read a lengthy blog post where an aspiring writer ripped the house she submitted to apart. Big no no there. Never think you can get away with that.

One thing remains clear in this industry - grow broad shoulders and get yourself a pair of teflon coated panties. It's always an exciting ride - rejection included.

Chiron said...

Good for you, Sandy, for sticking to it no matter what. Though I'm surprised to hear that agents actually wrote you to say they weren't taking on new client because of the economy. They were open to submissions but not taking clients? That's just crazy.

Yes, every writer needs to realize that rejection in some form is inevitable on this path. Even published authors must sometimes face bad reviews.

Again, good for you in holding on to your dreams.

Chiron O'Keefe
The Write Soul:

Donna Marie Rogers said...

Great post, Sandy! And boy, can I relate. I finaled in contest after contest after finishing my first ms, but I couldn't sell that sucker to save my life...LOL No matter how many editors and agents told me they loved it. Talk about frustrating! I mean, if they loved it, why wouldn't readers? So I developed a pretty thick skin while those rejections piled up. And like you, I had great mentors, and I also have an amazing CP. :-)

That ms was There's Only Been You, by the way, which I published with The Wild Rose Press (and received a 4-star review from RT!). :-)

Sandy said...

Thanks, Christie.

My time finally came, and it will get even better. I might actually make some money. lol

Sandy said...


I think we were both lucky to have our first rejection letter be a nice one. I was really terrible back thing though.

Thanks for stopping by.

Sandy said...


You are so correct. Back then my writing was horrible, but then it got so much better. Only it still wasn't good enough.

I always appreciated the editors when they told me what was wrong or why they didn't accept my story.

Thanks for coming by.

Sandy said...

Thanks, Sandi, I'm glad you liked my post.

Yes, rejections are only potholes and fortunately I got over the feeling of depression in getting them.

Sandy said...

Thanks, Joann.

Aren't we lucky that there's always someone to help us keep going? I received rejection letters that were personal, and whenever I was discouraged I would dig them out and read them.

Thanks for stopping by.

Sandy said...

Thanks, T.J.,

I love the teflon panties. Don't worry, I won't ever get so discouraged again.



Sandy said...


That was years when the economy was bad then, too. Agents told me a lot of things that I was surprised at. I even had an agent recommend me to another agent who was just starting because she had a full client list and couldn't take on any more authors.

Thanks for coming by, Chiron

Sandy said...


What an amazing story. Congratulations on someone finally wanting that wonderful story.

Thanks for coming by and telling us about your experiences.

Anonymous said...

You hit so many tender spots! Great post. I think one of the hardest things, without knowing the business, is knowing who will publish what. I know - read what they are selling. But let's face it, when money is short, it's tough to buy one of everything. And then find time to read them? I think some of my rejections have come from sending ms to the wrong agent/epub. So much to learn.

Carol Ericson said...

Way to stick with it, Sandy! Rejections come with the territory, as do ho-hum reviews once you're published. I never let the rejections get me down.

Sandy said...


We all made mistakes with sending our projects to the wrong editor or agent. There is a lot to learn, and I continue to learn every day.

Thanks for coming by.

Sandy said...

Thanks for your comment, Carol.

You're such an up person. I love that about you. Oh, you whine once in a while. lol I love that, too.