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How to Deal With Rejection

Black and white custard pie fight
Everyone's a critic.

Rejection is something that every writer has to face. But you don’t have to let it get you down. Here are some tips for surviving the inevitable.


In this article we’ll cover the following:

  • Have more than one egg in the basket

  • Put it down to experience

  • Save it until your genius is recognised

  • Don’t take no for an answer

  • It’s too hard. Should I give up?

Have more than one egg in the basket

The best way to avoid a crushing disappointment is to have more than one project on the go. If you’ve got only a single project in the pipeline all your hopes and enthusiasm might follow it down the drain. Most serious writers have at least one project on the back-burner.

Put it down to experience

Your writing, like any skill, will develop with practice. As long as you’re constantly looking for ways to improve your writing, the more you do it, the better you’ll get. If you look at it this way any rejections you encounter are necessary stepping-stones towards your first piece of accepted work.

Save it until your genius is recognised

Just because your work is rejected doesn’t necessarily mean it’s no good. It might have more to do with the fact that you’re an unknown. Few people are prepared to take a risk on new talent but once you achieve a measure of success you might find that some of your old rejected material suddenly becomes attractive.


An example of this kind of transformation can be seen in the experiences of the screenwriter Jimmy McGovern. McGovern had been writing for years with limited success until he had a hit with the crime drama Cracker. Following the success of Cracker two of McGovern’s old rejected scripts (the television drama Hearts and Minds and the movie Priest) were picked up, dusted off, and made.

Dont take no for an answer

Or rather, don’t take one person’s no as an answer. If an agent, publisher or producer rejects your work, sent it to another. There are many out there and they all have different tastes. Take the children’s writer Dr Seuss (real name Theodor Geisel). Theodor’s first book was rejected by 23 publishers. A chance encounter with an old friend led Theodor to a meeting with publisher number 24 who gave him a contract 20 minutes after seeing his work.

Other famous works that suffered numerous rejections are:

Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone by J K Rowling. Twelve rejections.
Dune by Frank Herbert. Thirteen rejections.
M*A*S*H by Robert Hooker. Twenty-one rejections.
Dubliners by James Joyce. Twenty-two rejections.
Carrie by Stephen King. Thirty rejections.
Watership Down by Richard Adams. Forty-six rejections!

Its too hard. Should I give up?

A tough one. Many people are happy to write for their own pleasure and don’t mind so much if their work is never accepted. Others get disheartened by the constant stream of rejections and pack it in.

An old saying goes:

“If at first you don’t succeed; try, try, try again.”

W.C. Fields said:

“If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. Then give up. There’s no point in making a fool of yourself over it.”

There’s something to be said for both points of view. If you don’t enjoy writing and everyone says you’re terrible, what’s the point? But if you do enjoy it and you think you’re improving, stick at it and see what happens.

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