• The Three Stages of Rejection

    Posted Posted by Guest Writer in ABCs of Writing     Comments 2 comments

    by T.J. Jansen

    Rejection Slip GenericI have a special folder on my computer labeled “Love Letters” and another labeled “Junk Mail.” Inside the first are the form letters I’ve received from publications letting me know they got my submission, and that they’ll let me know what they think soon. In the other is the wonderful collection of form letter rejections those same publications have sent informing me (politely, of course) that it’s a “thanks, but no thanks.”

    Once message two arrives I generally delete message one, but that gap in between–when I believe this is the one that will be picked up–is a magical one. During that glorious period, I imagine crafting my award speeches, signing book covers and becoming a madcap eccentric with a Rothfussian beard to impress my swooning fans at Comic Con.

    Letter two ends my delusions, and I quickly go through the following three stages of rejection:

    1. The editors are idiots and wouldn’t know good writing if it sat on their face. They don’t deserve to print my wondrous gift of prose.

    2. I am the worst writer in the world and should quit and castrate myself so my horrible writing gene isn’t passed on.

    3. Is there anyone I haven’t sent it to yet?

    This process generally takes about ten minutes.

    [ED: cf. Jacqui Bryant’s “The Five Stages of Rejection“]

    It probably lasts longer for other writers, but every day I get rejected by 95% of the people I talk to, so if I went postal every time it happened I’d be homeless. Don’t get me wrong–despite my comfort level, it still hurts, and it leaves me with questions. With no real feedback but “No,” it’s hard to be certain I’m on the right track. Am I getting better? Am I getting worse? Was it borderline, or was it an embarrassment?

    In those times I try to remember a poster my dad gave me for my high school graduation. It was a picture of a basketball goal in an empty gym, with the words “You will always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” underneath. Every sale ever made didn’t happen until it did. Every published author that ever was, at some time in their life, wasn’t. There are wonderful stories, alive but imprisoned in a folder somewhere, that we’ll never read because their writer couldn’t take one more punch to the gut. At some point, everything that ever was, or ever will be, went from “No” to “Yes.”

    So I keep writing and sending off my word ducklings to try and make it out there in the big bad world. The editorial duck hunters keep shooting them down, perhaps because they hate ducks, perhaps from boredom, or perhaps because they know they are too weak to fly, and see putting them down as a mercy. But I believe one of them will eventually get through.

    So I’ll keep making more, and more, and more. Bigger and better and faster ducks. Invisible ducks. Fire-breathing ducks. Ducks that fly through walls. Carnivorous ducks with a sweet tooth for editors. I’ll fill the air so full that a few can’t help but reach the sky. You have to sort through a lot of No to find Yes.


    Tyler JansenT.J. Jansen is an aspiring writer, part time web designer, full time sales executive and all the time husband and father of three (he also home-brews). The man loves college basketball (he went to Duke), RPGs (the gaming kind, not the rocket kind) and Patrick Rothfuss (platonically, of course). He also enjoys the excessive use of parenthesis (obviously). 

    He started writing because the voices in his head wouldn’t shut up about it. Giving in only made it worse. A veritable forest of short stories in his wake, T.J. is now working on the first novel of an urban fantasy series. You can follow his ramblings on twitter @tyjj

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    J. Sommers

    I like to start and end with #1. So far, so good.

    My dad gave me a similar poster, but with baseball: “You can’t steal second and keep your foot on first,” it read. I think he was trying to make me sign up for Little League. It didn’t work.

    Good post, thanks.


    I think, as writers, we are very difficult to please because, for me, sometimes even acceptance letters cause stress. While one half of my brain celebrates, the other half questions. “Is this really the right publication for this piece? Maybe I should have submitted it somewhere that paid more.” And then there is the most recent acceptance letter I received for a poem I submitted. It said (and I quote), “While this anthology did not receive a record-breaking number of entries due to the very specialized nature of its theme, we did receive some amazingly captivating and incredibly diverse submissions… Read more »

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