Monday, May 26, 2014

Let us Speak of Rejection...

By DeAnna Knippling

Skip this if you've heard me go off about it before, because I've said it before, and I'll say it again. But I keep hearing good writers get down in the dumps about their rejections, so here it comes 'round again:

Pikes Peak Writers’ Conference is over. That amazing Rocky Mountain high is done. Now is the cold dark aftermath (inasmuch as May is going to be cold and dark) of sending stuff out.



Getting rejected.

I’ve been writing and submitting short stories for years. One year, I made a goal to get a hundred short story rejections, because I read this article about how you should only set goals you can control, and I thought, I can’t force editors to buy my crap...but I can force them to reject it.

It was a strange year. I wrote stories and sent them because I wasn’t getting enough rejections back. I started prioritizing which markets I sent stories to based on not their pay rates but their turnaround time (no, thank you, Clarkesworld). 

I didn’t end up with 100 rejections; I ended up with something around 150 or so.

My one stipulation was that it had to be a paying market. As in, um, if you’d pay me a dollar for a story, I’d send it to you. (Admittedly, I started at the pro-rate markets and worked my way down by pay rates most of the time.)

And I made less than a 5% acceptance rate. (I track these things on Duotrope). Less than one in twenty.

For a while I was convinced that I was an idiot, and that what I was doing was pointless. Fortunately, I’m stubborn, and once I set that goal (and once people started yelling at me for publicly announcing how many rejections I had [the theory was that it made me look unprofessional]), I refused to stop.

This time.

A long time ago (in the mid-1990s), I sent out a couple stories (as in, two). One of them I sent three times; the other one I sent twelve. After that twelfth rejection (including one from Weird Tales that said, essentially, that my writing was too weird for them), I gave up writing for a while. Like...until 2003. I dawdled with a few stories here and there, but they sucked and I felt like writing was pointless, just something that I did to screw around when I got bored with the Internet. 

Eventually, I gave up on giving up, but that’s another story. The point is that after fifteen rejections on two stories, I threw in the towel.

During my year of collecting rejections, I was getting over twenty rejections on each story.

I was a mental wreck from all those rejections. Then something changed. It wasn’t anything I did.

Here’s what it was:

One of my favorite writers that I personally knew, submitting to the same markets that I was, started crowing about hitting an 8% acceptance rate. Less than one in ten, and she was still doing a victory dance.

“Oh,” I said. “When writers say you’re going to get a lot of rejections, that means even the really good ones are still getting a lot of rejections.”

So now, even though I still get depressed about rejections, I don’t actually stress over it. It’s a pain to keep all this crap in the mail. And, honestly, sometimes I “retire” stories that I’m too sad about not being published to keep sending out. And I am not the most rejected writer I know, not by a long shot. For every story you hear about professional-level writers getting accepted their first time out, there are a thousand who fought their way up the ladder tooth and nail, one rejection at a time: thousands and thousands of rejections.

Now, I’m not saying that submitting stories is for everyone. And I’m not saying you shouldn’t self-publish (of course I’m not saying that!). But if you’re submitting and worried that the rejections you’re getting mean that you’re a terrible writer--they don’t (okay, you might be a terrible writer, but you’re getting better faster than the next wannabe who revises and perfects, revises and perfects). Just take the knocks and get back up again. It doesn’t matter if you have thick skin or not. It doesn’t matter if you cry. (I’ve cried over rejections, especially the ones that are like, “Oh, we liked this and would like to hold onto it to consider it,” and then you get a form rejection back months later, or the ones that come all at once, or the ones for stories where I felt this is the one while I was writing it, or the ones that come back when life in general has me down, or...)

It only matters that you keep going.

Me? I have sent 226 short story submissions over the last twelve months, and my acceptance rate this morning is 6.2%. I've upped my standards to "at least semi-pro", so it's kind of apples to oranges for a comparison from where I started out. But you can bet your sweet monkey @$$ that I'll be doing a victory dance if I hit 8%.  

So send that manuscript.

And send it again.

And again.

Here's a secret: surviving rejection builds a muscle that lets you take bigger and bigger risks, that lets you dare to use your own voice and stop trying to be "perfect."

And that muscle? You’re going to need it.

About the Author: DeAnna Knippling started freelancing in May 2011 and wouldn’t be able to do it without her wonderful family and friends, especially her husband. In fact, she owes a lot to Pikes Peak Writers for helping her be a better writer, especially through the Write Brains, both in the lectures and in meeting lots of other writers.

Her reason for writing is to entertain by celebrating her family’s tradition of dry yet merry wit, and to help ease the suffering of lack of self-confidence, having suffered it many years herself. She also likes to poke around and ask difficult questions, because she hates it when people assume something must be so.

For more kicks in the writerly pants, see her blog at or her ebook How to Fail & Keep on Writing, available at Smashwords, B&N, Amazon, and OmniLit.


  1. You hinted at some of this during that Friday lunch at PPWC...courage and chutzpah are in not giving up, AND even more so, in sharing it with ' the world.' Now I understand better. Thanks :-)

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  3. Great post. I've been needing to read this.

  4. Love it, DeAnna, thank-you. Sat beside you (on your left) last lunch of PPWC, and enjoyed your workshop. All the best! And many more acceptances. :)

  5. Thank you guys :) Your comments are so sweet this morning!

  6. I remember way back (actually way, way back) how discouraging rejections could be when those are the only answers I ever received. I've become tougher and braver over time, but I still hesitate that one stressful moment before opening the response to a submission.

  7. Ugh, exactly. My theory is just to rip the bandaid off, get the rejection, and send the story out right away so I don't dwell on it. Doesn't always help, though.

  8. Yeah, I'd jump through the roof for an 8% return. Even the financial guru's think 8% return is awesome. Crazy to think I was at 100% with my very first submission. Downhill slide from there, but it's been fun!


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