Was It Good For You?  Making the Most of Rejection--Part One

By Myrna Mackenzie  


Picture this.  It's two-thirty in the afternoon.  You rise from your computer and make your way to the front door wearing your torn jeans, your "Don't Mess With Me" T-shirt and a serene smile.  The work is going well.  All's right with the world.

As you open the door and step outside, you reach into the mailbox and…you pull out a thick, brown envelope.

Suddenly the day turns dark, the message on your shirt seems somehow wrong, way too cocky for a person like you.  For you have received a rejection, and all of us who write know what that means.  You are a FAILURE, a FRAUD.  You have NO talent, not so much as a speck. You shouldn't even be allowed near a computer--ever, and even worse than that, NO ONE but NO ONE likes you and never will again.

It's definitely time to turn in your computer, your printer, all your paper and pencils and even your paper clips.

Or is it?

Is there life and work and success after rejection?

Obviously.  We've all been there and done that and we'll do it again.  But the real question, the more important question is: are we making the most of those rejections?  Can something good come out of what is, essentially , a writer's version of the nether world?

Yes, Absolutely.  The fact is that rejection is and always will be exceptionally painful.  It is a humiliating experience that makes those of us who are a bit neurotic (who me?) doubt ourselves and our abilities.  It can get a real stranglehold on your productivity and creativity if you let it.

So how do you use that rejection? How can you make it work for you?

Well, we're all different.  Some of us get angry and use that anger.  Some of us get humble and determine to "try harder."  Whatever the emotions that course through you in those awful days after the 'big R" falls on your head, it helps tremendously to have a plan, a goal, direction at a time when you feel as if you may be driving backwards down the highway.

If you don't have your own plan, try the following procedures.  While I can't guarantee doing so will get you published, you will, at the very least, emerge on the other side of rejection feeling a bit more knowledgeable, a bit more in charge.  You will have moved on and hopefully up.

Acknowledge the Rejection

Allow yourself to grieve in whatever way suits you for a LIMITED AMOUNT OF TIME.  Set those limits in advance and stick to them. (i.e. I will have a good cry, then pamper myself shamelessly for forty-eight hours, after which I will get back to work; I will eat one five-pound box of chocolates while blubbering constantly and then I will get back to work; or I will allow myself one day to cry and one day to whine and then I will get back to work).

Notice the "get back to work" part.  Mourning is important, but the time limit is equally so.  Giving myself a set day when I must be back at work provides me with a sense of control in a situation where it is all too easy to feel helpless.

Then, determine what type of rejection you've received.

Form Rejection

If you have received a form rejection, it may be time to take a closer look at you work and at the marketplace.  Study the line you've been targeting.  Is your book similar in tone, in amount of emotional intensity, and in sensuality to published books in that line? Have you sent them an idea that simply doesn't fit or that's been done too many times in recent history? If you can't answer those questions, then you've probably sent your baby out into the cold without a coat, so to speak. You haven't done your homework and it's time to do some serious reading. Immerse yourself in that line, skim back issues of review magazines to find out what topics may have been overdone.  Make very sure you are sending your work to the right place.  This type of research can be fun and you'll come out of it knowing you've become an expert on your line.

If, however, after all is said and done, you still can't understand why your book came flying back to you with little or no explanation, then the problem might be more basic.  Given the human factor in publishing, good books probably do get rejected now and then, but if you're receiving a steady diet of form rejections, then it's time to examine the quality of your work.  There's no shame in this.

Almost every writer has to face rejection now and then. We're all constantly working to improve our skills, and with effort and a positive attitude, we can do just that. When you have a setback such as this, take your work to a critique group if that feels comfortable, make changes if you like, but above all, keep writing. 

If this book merits another chance and there are other markets to send it to, by all means don't pass up those chances, but also be open to the suggestion that this just may not be the book that's going to do it for you. Don't fall into the "I have to sell this book or die" attitude.  I firmly believe that after a book has been revised too many times a writer begins to spin her wheels.  Years from now you may pick that book up again when it seems fresh and you can look at it with new eyes, but there does come a time then you need to admit that a book served you well as a learning tool that may never see print. A new book can be a chance to reach out, try something different, and begin to grow again. You gained important knowledge in writing that first book even if you didn't make a sale, so build on that as you move forward and begin your next project.

In the end, a form rejection can teach a valuable lesson if you use it as an impetus to learn something about your craft. It is a badge of honor, something you can be proud of. After all, you've done what millions of people of never done.  You have completed a book and sent it out to face the music. That's a genuine accomplishment.


Myrna Mackenzie, winner of the Holt Medallion Award honoring outstanding literary talent, is a former teacher turned writer.  Her first professional foray into the writing arena was in the form of penning greeting card verse, primarily for Oatmeal Studios, but she always knew that her real goal was to publish a romance.  In 1993, she finally achieved that goal when her first book, THE BABY WISH, sold to Silhouette Books.  It was originally published in 1994, was a finalist in both the HOLT and Reader’s Choice contests, and was reissued in 1999 in a hardcover version by Mills & Boon.  Subsequent hardcover editions have followed for PRINCE CHARMING’S RETURN and BABIES AND A BLUE-EYED MAN. 

Her second book, THE DADDY LIST, won the Holt Medallion.  Since then, she has gone on to sell twelve more books.  Her books have sold worldwide and have been translated into French, Spanish, Russian, Italian, Greek, Japanese, German, Hungarian, Czech and Portuguese.


JUST PRETENDING – part of the Montana Maverick series – a four book direct mail series published in October 2000 – still available by contacting customer service at www.eHarlequin.com 

THE BILLIONAIRE IS BACK – Silhouette Romance – May 2001

BLIND-DATE BRIDE – Silhouette Romance – June 2001

A VERY SPECIAL DELIVERY – Silhouette Romance – October 2001 (part of a 3 book Maitland Maternity spin-off )


Visit Myrna's web site at: www.myrnamackenzie.com


Copyright 1996, M. Mackenzie



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