When I first started writing, I could barely hold a pencil. As I grew older (and my collection of filled notebooks grew larger,) getting published became my dream. In fact, I set an impossible goal to be a famous, published author by the age of 18 with the unrealistic expectation that it would be easy. I was naive to the concept of rejection because I had never gotten any. And when I wrote my first cover letter and sent my beloved story to a website, it was entirely soul-crushing to receive a “we’re sorry” email not even a week later.
I made three fatal errors with my first submission:
- I didn’t research what the website published or their preferred genres
- I sent my story to one website and one website only
- I gave up
I went through various emotional reactions to the email, including classics like anger, sadness, and loss of self-worth. My mantra: my story wasn’t good enough for this website, therefore I was a terrible writer. I didn’t think about why my story was rejected and focused my attention solely on the rejection itself. All it took was one website to decline my writing; I refused to experience it again. I was so afraid to send my stories anywhere else that I simply didn't. And because of it, my writing became less frequent and my belief in myself shrank with it.
That is the biggest mistake any writer can make. The best remedy for rejection from one publisher is to send it to another. And another. And a few more until you find somewhere that is the right fit. Rejection hurts and to be told your writing sucks will clearly knock some wind out of you, but most publishers don’t reply with anything other than an apology and an explanation that your piece simply isn’t right for their platform. That doesn’t mean your piece is garbage and that definitely doesn’t mean you should stop writing.
Use a rejection email as a learning tool. Edit your story more, tweak the word play, maybe start all over. If you really believe in your piece, you owe it to yourself to do some research and find it a home. Look into what websites or magazines are looking for, what they're publishing, what their audience really enjoys reading. Don’t send your story to a place it wouldn’t fit in and wouldn’t be appreciated to the fullest.
If you do all of that, you’re guaranteed to find a place that will give your story and writing a chance to shine. And if you don't? Well just send it somewhere else.