Hope, all the hope

This was originally titled ‘Rejection, all the rejection’, then I read The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***, and I thought, what the hell is wrong with me? Even just reading the word ‘rejection’ gets me down. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

There is a theme upon which my blog has been built, and that is one of scholarly dismissal (and cats). I probably blog about it far too often, but it makes me feel ten times better once I get it off my chest.

I promise that this will be the last time I whine about it, because this year I’m going to force my luck around and start self-publishing my novels.

The sob story

Over the last few years I’ve blogged about the woes of being dropped from a publishing company in the cruellest way possible after they went bankrupt (but not before I told all of my family and friends). You may also remember the story of how I swiftly had my hopes dashed by an editor during a face to face pitch (despite the fact she had never even read a word of my manuscript.) It’s like she got one whiff and made a run for it.

That humiliation aside, I’ve also had my novels rejected 20-30 times each by publishers, agents and editors alike.

Technically, I’ve only been querying two of my novels, but still, that’s like 60 rejections.

I have light-heartedly joked about how I have never won a short story competition or creative writing prize of ANY kind (including at school, regional, state, national or international levels), and laughed about how I failed miserably at securing any form of freelance writing work.  And let’s not forget the many times my stories have been passed over by online-only magazines.

The new story

Now I have a confession to make. I’ve had my writing rejected through a few other avenues too (you would think, how can there be any left?)

Last year I applied for a volunteer position for an online writing-themed magazine, thinking, in my naivety, that it was a done deal. The focus being on the word ‘volunteer’, of course.

I spent a week constructing and perfecting my article, thinking this would be my great foot in the door, imagining my writer bio and black & white photo stashed on their clean contributor’s page along with all the other fabulous non-famous writers. Well I was wrong. The editor thought my article was trash and promptly listed all the things wrong with it. To say I was crushed is an understatement.

She was cruel, she was harsh, she was without mercy.

But… she was right. It sucked.

To make matters worse, I had applied for ten other volunteer positions before I received this stinging rejection – and it wasn’t long before the negative emails started rolling in, if I received a reply at all. At the time I didn’t realise this was a thing – getting rejected from a volunteer writing position. But yes, it can happen.

It just keeps getting better

You’d think that would be it, right? That I’d run out of avenues to get rejected from? Ah.. no, the universe was not quite done it seems. There was one more box I had yet to check.

I’ve long given up submitting my short stories to online magazines or competitions – there’s only so much one girl can take. However, last year I made one small exception. In October last year, a small, student newspaper from a university in the US reached out to me and requested that I submit a particular story to their newish literary magazine.

I thought it was a wonderful idea (and the risk of rejection fairly low, no?) and I’m not going to lie, it felt awesome to have someone request one of my stories for publication. After I edited and submitted the story, they told me they would get back to me for an author bio. I was so confident about the whole thing, I even told my family about it (why do I keep doing that!?)

But they never requested an author bio.

Instead, I got this email:

‘apologies, but we’ve received so many submissions that we no longer require your short story, but thank you so much for submitting’

A.k.a they’d received a litany of better submissions, and they no longer wanted my shitty one, or something like that.

I cried, but only a little.

The feels, all the feels

I don’t want to tell you this as some pitiful cry for sympathy and ‘all the feels’ (but hey, feel free to send the vibes this way or anyway you like, prayers are nice too), but because I want to tell all the other quintessential rejected writers out there that you have never been less alone.

And… it was pretty fun sharing my rejection stories.

I want to thank all the wonderful writers, dreamers, WordPress book bloggers and inspirational thinkers out there who have provided me with endless encouragement despite facing the same level of rejection as me. Some of you have similar tales of tragedy. We need to stick together, encourage each other and be nice to each other

It is only because of you that I wake up every morning with a smile on my face. This is no joke, the first thing I do is check WordPress every morning. For example, the other day I woke up to this very appropriate comment from Jade Edge on The nine stages of trying to write poetry:

jade edge.PNG

I don’t know what I would do without the GIFs.

Never give up, never surrender

It was really hard writing this and admitting that I am a complete failure when it comes to getting my writing published in any way shape of form – short of doing it myself (hey blog!) or paying someone to publish it (hey poem book from Grade 9!)

I think it only proper to end this with a little bit of Chuck Wendig:

‘staple your rejections to your chest and wade into battle with them as your armour.’

Hell yes I can do that! And I will wear them proudly.

If you want to succeed in this heart-breaking writing life, you’re gonna have to be stronger than you’ve ever been, and if you can’t manage that, find someone who can be your rock until you find the strength inside your wild, untameable heart.

One thing I’ve learned, don’t EVER give up when someone tells you that you’re writing isn’t good enough. Because most likely it is good enough – or in the very least, it’s very, very close.

Then tell those naysayers to shove it and go self-publish the hell outta your work. Because if you stop now, how on Earth will you ever get better?

There’s only one difference between the good writers and the bad.

The good writers were the ones who never surrendered.

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69 thoughts

  1. Well, your blog (and your thousands of followers) wouldn’t be possible without the rejections. Maybe you’re meant to go out on your own and grow your blog till it’s its own website or something. But this is a very real deal. I’ve struggled with getting started as a writer too, but in different ways. What I love about Word Press is that it gives so many voices the opportunity to be heard. That’s part of the reason I created my own blogs: I wasn’t sure what publications would go for my stuff. So I write here where I can do whatever the crap I want 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Aren’t we so lucky to have WordPress? I’d be lost on a tiny ocean of doubt without it. And I think you’re right, I definitely feel like life has lead me down this very specific path – becoming a self-published author!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Self Publish Lady! And do a book launch I’ve been in 3. I’m doing one right now for Katie Bennett’s book “Heavenly Minded Mom”. We receive a copy of the book before it’s released in print or digital free of charge and then we market the book for the author on our blogs, social media, email, etc. With this launch we do a Facebook Live every Friday. If you decide to I would love to be on your launch team. I love to read and would love to read your book! Have you ever read the book “Published” his “Chandler Bolt” I purchased it. It’s on my Kindle. His first book was 20 pages, he never expected it when he uploaded it he made 7,000.00 in a one month. KDP, it’s a good book! Good Luck dear and let me know when you self publish, I’m sure you’ll blog about it. It’s great you sharing your journey with us!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I found your post enlightening to other writers who also face rejection. Competition is fierce in today’s world. It took immense courage to write and share your journey with others. It’s doubtful anyone likes to admit the agony of defeat. I applaud you for your honesty. I enjoy reading your blog posts and wish you the Best of Luck – onward and upward to the pathway to success. 🙂

    Like

  4. I didn’t know getting rejected from a volunteer writing position was a thing either. Lol. Lord, help us all 😆
    That’s one amazing rejection resume you’ve got going there.
    I can’t wait to listen to a podcast one day where you’re interviewed about your path to successful publication and you entertain the audience with your funny anecdotes of prior failures. I’ll be nodding along and smiling, and cheering you on because you never gave up! 😊

    Liked by 3 people

    1. hahah thanks Marie!!! 🙂 🙂 You’ve painted a wonderful picture – hopefully we both get there someday soon!!

      I think the rejection from the volunteer writing position was such a surprise, and then made me realise how competitive the industry is even for volunteer positions hahah. We just have no hope whatsoever!!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I think it is incredibly brave to share the story of your rejection. You are writing about things that a lot of us have had to face and perhaps are not as likely/brave to talk to others about it. So, thank you for this post.
    And I would just like to say your posts with or without GIFs inspire me. And they put a smile on my face as I am sure they do with all your readers.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. It’s so nice to read about someone going through the same thing, and who understands. I’ve been rejected so many times from different magazines that I’ve felt discouraged lately. But I won’t stop writing of course. All the best to you and your writing!

    Liked by 3 people

  7. When I used to show horses and would come in dead last, my father would say, “But think of all the people who didn’t even try to compete because they knew how badly they would do. You are ahead of all of them.” Yeah, it never made me feel any better. But he is right–at least we’re out there trying to learn it!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you for sharing your journey, Milly. Rejection does suck, but perhaps you were rejecting them. When it comes to writing, all that matters is having something to say–especially from those that offer a new perspective.

    Thankfully, I’m blessed to not give a sh*t about what most people think about my work, just as long as they are not bored. Although relatively new, I’m lifelong weird, which seems to go along way in being uniquely f*cked up, I suppose. With all that said, please allow me to introduce myself properly.

    My name is Darrell, once again, I thank you for opening up and sharing a part of your soul. The best part of your story is that it shows how unique writers are in having a never say die, fighting spirit that refuses to be conquered. For that spirit, that is a true reward gifted to a select few, as such, you are blessed. Keep on keepin’ on, my friend.

    Like

  9. All you have to think about is the publishing company who rejected J.K. Rowling.

    I think as with anything now (including people wanting to be you-tubers) there are a lot of people aiming for the same thing, and that lot of people ain’t getting smaller.

    But, I don’t think that stops the cream rising to the top. Eventually.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. YESSSSSSS! Thanks for writing this, it’s great! I don’t have many rejections, but only because I’ve been too much of a coward to try and get published until recently, good on you for doing the brave things and inspiring us shrinking violets 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Thanks for sharing! Rejection is such a huge part of the writing process. It doesn’t make it any easier, but I tend to think of it as the next step after revision. When you look at it as part of the process, you come to expect it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Hey I’m just a student…but I still know what’s it like to be rejected…n u won’t believe, it was my own teacher….but then I think to myself to never think about there petty comments, n that’s because they r just jealous n insecure that u’ll one day rise above them. So my little lesson : 1) never lose hope n 2) Get back to them when you are successful, just to say ‘ I told you so’

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Your perseverance is awesome! This is just what I needed to read this week- how did you know?! Good for you for all of the work you’ve put in, and I hope self-publishing is a fantastic experience! There are so many wonderful resources out there, and with self-pub you DON’T have the risk of ending up with a crappy cover you hate!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  14. That’s the spirit! Lol. It felt good too read this. Cause there are days when it’s hard to feel like anyone cares about what we create. Days when we feel invisible in this huge, wonderful online world. Thanks for sharing and reminding us all that we are not alone.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Keep it up, you’ll get there! And don’t give up on your short stories. My current count for short story rejections is 175! (I write a lot of stories and keep an excel spreadsheet to keep track of it all). My book has been rejected at least 84 times. But when I’ve gotten specific feedback, I’ve been told the writing is good but the concept is too controversial, too risky. So you can never really know why the work is rejected. The gut instinct is to think the editor didn’t like the writing, rather than thinking it just wasn’t a good fit for the volume. How that editor responded to your volunteer article seems wholly unprofessional. But most are not that way (I hope!). Don’t get discouraged! Publishing these days is a battle of attrition. As you say “The good writers were the ones who never surrendered.”–Words to live by!

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Ahh, rejection, sweet sweet bitter rejection. It stings, in ALL forms, but especially for writing! Definitely not alone there in getting work rejected, though I can’t say I’ve tried submitting to as many places as you have (kudos!!).

    Thing is, and others have probably mentioned this, “good” writing is entirely subjective on the reader. So you’re right, perseverance is all about finding the judge(s) who appreciates your writing! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I want you to promise me right now that you will NOT tell your friends and/ or family about anything until you obtain a copy of your published stuff, frame it and hand it to them.

    I see the writing business as I see love – it’s not easy to find the right fit, but there is a lid for every pot. Which means “worse” writing can appeal to someone and get published before yours does. And also that you will find your partner someday, too.

    Like

  18. I sidestepped the rejections by self-publishing in the first place. What does that say about me? (Either that I’m wise, or a wuss. I’m not sure.) Anyway, I don’t have the expectation of becoming a NY Times Bestseller. My writing is primarily for friends and family, and if strangers pick up on it and I get a small following, then that’s a bonus. I am getting ready to self-publish book #2. I’m using KDP/Amazon to publish.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Getting rejected does suck – I’ve queried five of my books so far, each with a lot of agents, so I’ve had my fair share of rejection (I once had a form rejection for a full manuscript request). But I still keep going, because even if those books don’t get picked up, there are other avenues for me to pursue with them (I managed to find a small, mostly digital publisher for my MG trilogy). So I think pushing forwards and deciding to self-publish is an awesome idea, and as self-publishing is no longer treated with the same disdain as a few years ago, it is more than possible to be a successful author by doing so.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Thank you, you’ve made me feel much better about all my rejections. I’ve submitted my 2 (so far) novels to over 40 agents and publishers, and entered a lot of short story competitions and never even been long-listed. What’s really galling is when you read the ones that have been chosen and they’re absolute dross. I really believe many publishers wouldn’t know good writing if you beat them around the head with it (which is very tempting).

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Hang in there Milly! There’s a great book I read called Getting There, by Gillian Zoe Segal, that profiles successful people and all the failures they had to endure to get to where they’re at. You are in good company!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Awwww my attention span is so damn short i can never manage to read long posts, but the ones of yours that I read, i thoroughly enjoy. I think it’s all about writing for you, finding your voice , and all the nay sayers will soon change their minds

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Yuo are so right. I don’t brlieve in contests, because whoever wins, only win because of two or three opinions out of the whole world. Also, did you know that Faith Hill, country singer in case you didn’t know, tried out to be Reba McIntyre’s back up singer and got turned down. Faith Hill is as big a star as Reba McIntrye now. Go figure.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. I complained about rejection at least twice a day. I’ve been querying my latest (fifth completed) novel, and I’ve got nothing but rejections back. It bugs me to no end when agents ask for personalized query letters, and yet THEY send the most informal, impersonal rejections. I received one yesterday that was addressed “Dear Author.” I felt so… pushed aside.

    But, like you said – I won’t stop! Never!

    Liked by 2 people

  25. Pablo Cuelho originally self-published from a small Italian press, then one of his teeny tiny little itty bitty self published books got photographed in the hands of Jacqueline Kennedy, and the rest, the say, is history. Google the name if you’ve never read one of his simple little tales…The Alchemist, Warriors of the Light, etc. I read his books, but his biography was even more interesting.

    Liked by 3 people

  26. I was kind of in a similar situation, I’d received all the rejections, even after a promising pitch to an agent. Eventually I decided to self-publish. It’s been one giant learning experience, but it’s been worth it, and it’s given me insight, into what editors/agents/publishers might be on the lookout for (and things they are looking to avoid.)

    The end of your article, actually much of your article, immediately made me think of a speech by Peter Dinklage, where at one point, he said, “The world might say you are not allowed to yet. Please, don’t even bother asking. Don’t bother telling the world you are ready. Show it. Do it.” It sounds like that’s exactly what you’re planning to do 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  27. Milly, you are by no means alone. Many very famous writers were initially rejected. I don’t remember the writer of this quote. He said that he’d been rejected a hundred times but it was that one hundred first submission that paid off.

    This post gives me hope. I’ve received every form of rejection already in my “career”. I’m sure they’ll be more. Take the rejection as just one more publishing company that will never see one of the millions of dollars you’ll make one day for the publishing house that DOES pick you up. Revenge is a dish best served cold. And all the sweeter if it involves cash! lol

    Liked by 3 people

  28. Good for you for self-publishing! It’s been a lot of work, but worth every minute. And if your goal is to get traditionally published- there are a lot of authors who started down the same path. Wishing you the best!

    Liked by 2 people

  29. As you know, you’re not alone. But thank you for sharing. This is the struggle I am currently working with, as well, and sometimes the rejection (despite hours of hard work) is too much to take. But it’s good to know that there are others out there still fighting, and it gives me the hope I need to continue on.

    Good luck! Fight on! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  30. Great “never give up” sentiments. As some boxer (I believe) was once quoted as saying. “Defeat is not in being knocked down. Defeat is not getting up again.”
    It is also worth acknowledging that publishing is a quite costly project, and publishers are extremely cautious when considering an unknown author… for obvious business reasons. That is why self-publishing is so common today. The author is carrying the costs!
    Finally, while many critics should really find another job, some do have good points to make. Those that have made constructive observations are perhaps worth pondering over. We can always learn if we are open to suggestions.

    Liked by 2 people

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