A now-established magazine short story writer says, “Once I wrote a story for a magazine that the sub-editor loved, saying it was well-written and appealing, but the fiction editor had an enormous choice of submissions and mine fell at the last hurdle. I was so disappointed, but I got over it, and later, I tweaked the story for a writing competition.”
The new story was easy to write. The writer had the background and some witty dialogue to work with. “I just changed my main protagonist from a youngish, well-meaning married woman playing a character in a love story, to a rather scary teenage girl,” she explains. Her story became a “sting in the tail”. The teenage girl was more fun to write about anyway and this writer received an award for a humorous story. “The prize-money was small, but it was satisfying to get an award.”
A Brilliant Story Idea
Writer, Paul Curd, has a positive take on dealing with rejection. “Once, I spent a lot of time and effort trying to turn an idea into a short story,” he says. “It began well, with the germ of the idea and an opening line. It was the sort of story I was sure I could sell to a magazine. Next day, I spent the morning working on in it some detail over a large café latte or two in my local coffee bar. Then I completely rewrote it after a day’s reflection, improved the opening line and beefed up the ending.”
After all that, Paul says, he could still see his story didn’t work because it was based on an idea that seemed brilliant when he wrote it, but later seemed a bit dull. “I felt I was wasting my time working on it. But really, I don’t think any writing is a waste. The struggles I’ve had trying to convey a certain emotion or sketch out a sense of time and place have been good mental exercise.”
Novels - a Big Investment in Time and Effort
Rejection is always a blow, even more so when it’s a whole novel, since the time and effort invested is so much greater. Overcoming repeated rejection, when you know you have something to offer, is a trial and a great test of character. Successful journalist Jane Bidder longed to be a novelist and tried for eleven long years, during which eleven books were turned down, although four were close calls. ‘I was beginning to panic that I might have obsessive compulsive disorder, because I couldn’t stop writing in spite of the rejections,’ she says.
But success, when it came, was total. The School Run (November, 2005) was accepted by Hodder & Stoughton swiftly followed by Mums@Home (June, 2006) - Second Time Lucky (2007) - The Supper Club (2008) and The Wedding Party (2009). Now that Jane is an acclaimed novelist under her fiction-writing pen-name, Sophie King, there are probably a few publishers kicking themselves for not snapping her up in the first place.
Never Give Up
Another writer, who was already established, having published two successful books, was devastated when her third book was turned down. She recounts the comforting advice from her agent, who said, “It’s okay to drop a book now and again. Even the best writers have the occasional book stuck in a drawer, the book that didn’t make it.” This writer went on to write ten more books.
Paul Curd, quickly overcame his disappointment when his story was turned down, and felt he was in a more fit state to tackle his next writing project. About rejected writing, he says, “It’s not rubbish. It’s an investment.” It wasn’t long after that Paul’s “investment” started to pay off and he has now successfully published a number of short stories, in both the crime and romance genres, and has almost completed his novel and an MA in Creative Writing.
Sophie King story adapted from “Going the extra mile,” Janet Cameron, Writers’ Forum, February 2008.
Originally published on Suite101.com on 2 December 2010.