It's bound to happen to all writers. You write a piece for a contest, anthology, or agent. You're excited. You really feel it has what it takes to get published. You send that e-mail off along with your hopes and dreams. A few weeks later (sometimes just a day later) you get a one-word response that shatters all of that.
Okay, so maybe this sounds a little over dramatic, but, as writers, we're all faced with rejection. Even the greats endure it (Rowling was passed up at least 7 times before a publishing company took on Harry Potter). That doesn't make it sting any less. Here you presented your heart and soul to someone and they broke it with a single e-mail.
What are you supposed to do?
First, let's address how you feel and what to do about shelf care.
Breathe: Take a breath and remind yourself that everyone gets rejected. Just because the contest or agent didn't accept it doesn't mean it's bad.
Feel: Allow yourself to feel mad or sad if you need to. I know this may sound silly, but if you can get your emotions out, you can go back to the rejection, and your piece, with a clearer head.
Don't take it personally: Easier said than done, I know. But don't take this as a rejection of you or as a personal attack. As with every "contest" in life, some people win, and some don't. This is NOT a reflection of you or your self worth. Keeping going forward and do what you love.
Step back: Step away from the piece for a while. You probably just spent a bunch of time working on it and it's too fresh in your head. Take a few days to relax then get back to editing or submitting. You don't want to rush in and send it to a contest that doesn't quite fit the piece.
Get back to work: After you've had a moment to collect yourself, sit back down and get back to work on your piece or your other stories!
Second, let's take a look at that rejection letter, because sometimes there's something there you might not notice in the heat of the moment.
Generic Response: This is the auto-generated, "Thank you for the chance to read your piece. Unfortunately you were not selected." If you get this kind of response without any additional information, then let it go and move on. Prep your piece for another contest.
Personal: Sometimes you may receive a more personal rejection letter. Someone may have seen something in your piece and decided to take the time to respond back to you. These e-mails or letters will be signed by the person you queried and likely contain more than the typical "you were not selected." In this case, consider writing a very short thank you letter back. It's a good way to keep connections open.
Personal Feedback: These are my favorites. The queried person not only responds with a personal letter, she also provides feedback. Use this as constructive criticism to revise your work, not as an offensive response. This means she's taken the time to help you with your work. And if she mentions wanting to see your writing in the future, make sure you keep that person in mind! Definitely send a thank you letter back.
The final question is, what do you do with your rejected piece?
Submit again: In some cases, try again without revising. Maybe the piece wasn't right for that particular contest. It doesn't mean your work is bad! Go ahead and send it somewhere else. My rule of thumb is I wait for three rejections before I touch the piece again.
Consider Revising: If the contest provided some feedback, you may consider revising. Take another look at the story. Are there ways to revise it? Can you make it sound better or tighten up the language? Did you miss one of the contest requirements? It doesn't hurt to look it over.
Blog it: Sometimes if you can't get a piece published, it doesn't hurt to either blog it or post it on Wattpad. There's nothing wrong with sharing your work on another platform!
There's nothing wrong with getting rejected. It helps you grow as an author and prepares you for sending out some of your larger pieces. Rejection is all part of the process, and the best thing to do is to learn, grow, and keep writing!