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People who have not been in Narnia sometimes think that a thing cannot be good and terrible at the same time.

Rejection. Writers are warned it’s a common, everyday, even natural part of the submissions process. Expect it. Endure it. Curl up in a ball and curse it, but in the end don’t be daunted, discouraged, or depressed by it.

While it’s easy enough to acknowledge this advice, it’s not always easy to abide by it. Every stepping stone on the pathway to publication can seem to scream a new insult. You’re trying to do too much in this picturebook. // The narrative is a bit shaky. // For such an important plot device, you are distressingly vague about it. Who wants to tread on such treacherous terrain? No doubt, rejection is torturous and terrible.

But it is also, at the same time, good.

Industry experts will tell you to learn from those letters. Grow. Hone. Sharpen your skills. Be bold. Be brave. Be discerning. Incorporate criticism. Ignore criticism. Rewrite, revise, re-submit. And, perhaps most importantly, persist.

But on a more basic level–a level that involves less sweat and toil, less wrestling with dos and don’ts and decisions, on a level that incurs less neuroses–here’s why I view rejection letters as good; why I turn to them from time to time for (yes, I’m actually saying this!) encouragement.

  1. A rejection letter, no matter what it might say, means that my writing is being read. Plain and simple. And that’s a good thing.
  2. A rejection reminds me my work is being considered. Publishing professionals aren’t simply reading the writing, but are evaluating its strength. Insights into the industry come through this process.
  3. My writing is critiqued. For example, an editor at one of the leading publishing houses (normally closed to unsolicited, unagented submissions) sent a full-page response to my manuscript. While it was ultimately a rejection, I’m very aware of the value of her response. People pay plenty of money–at conferences, workshops, blue pencils–for that kind of feedback. While it’s not easy to accept all that she says, her time and attention and expertise given to my manuscript is still nothing short of encouraging.
  4. My writing is complimented.

Clever premise! // I found [your story] really quite great! I wish you the best of luck with it! You are clearly quite a talented writer! // Well done. Your ending is really touching and beautiful. // I like your work. // Both are well written and clearly you have much promising talent as a writer.

It’s easy to let those hard-to-hear critiques overshadow the praise (why do we writers do this?), but if you re-read those rejections they’re likely also laden with positive remarks. It doesn’t hurt to highlight them. Or perhaps cut and paste them all into one place 🙂

5.  Finally, rejection letters are good for providing perspective.

A Pleasant Rejection Letter

It’s a competitive market. Our work must be ready, it must be excellent. Yet rejection doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not. The right time, the right place, and the right fit are also factors in effect.

You’ve been to Narnia, right? Let us remember that a thing–such as a rejection letter–can be both terrible and good at the same time.

Aslan © 2015 by Kelly Dycavinu

Aslan © 2015 by Kelly Dycavinu An early attempt in the series Story Sustains Us.

How about you? How do you handle rejection letters? Are they mostly terrible? The least bit good? When were you last in Narnia?

P.S. Check out this list of Best-Sellers Initially Rejected. I bet you’ll find it encouraging!

© Kelly Dycavinu and Popcorn with a Spoon, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kelly Dycavinu and Popcorn with a Spoon with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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