Episode 188: Learning How to Take Rejection

On June 18, 2022, Kasie and Rex were back in the studio talking about rejection. Here are the show notes:

Theme for the day

Learning How to Take Rejection


  • SCWA’s Annual Conference is open for registration
  • Rejection sucks but here’s why it happens
  • How to roll with rejection
Photo by elifskies on Pexels.com

Link to the podcast

Segment 1

It’s that time! Time to register for SCWA’s Annual Conference if you haven’t already done so. The price goes up on July 1. What do you get at the Fall Conference? Keynotes from the youngest and first black female poet laureate in Alabama history, Ashley M. Jones and author, cultural critic and book editor Leigh Stein whose Twitter account is on fire as she examines exactly what social media is doing to us as individuals and collectively. Not one, but TWO literary agents will give keynotes as well so all those “How do I get an agent?” questions will be answered.

The conference is at Pawley’s Island at the beach so that might be reason enough. It’s October 21-23 and more faculty and details can be found here.

For those of you who are travel shy or just prefer to learn from the comfort of your own home, SCWA is offering a virtual option as well. It’s not the same conference, but it does feature some of our faculty from the IRL version. Check out the virtual conference – it’s a cheaper option. October 7-9 featuring Hub City’s Meg Reid, agent Michaela Whatnall, editor Katoya Ellis Fleming, and many more.

Okay. Rejection. Got another one this past week. The journal is called The Rupture and they didn’t want my short story, So Close. Today we’re going to talk about all the ways writers get rejected and what you can do about it.

My Submittable account has 88 declines in it dating all the way back to 2012. A bunch in 2013, a pair in 2014 and 2015, a few in 2016 and 2017, and the bulk of them in 2018 when I went on my submit-every-week tear and racked up 52 “no thanks yous.”

Is that how you build calluses? Well, yeah. Get told “no” enough and you get used to it.

We all have our great rejection stories. What’s yours?

Segment 2

Frank Herbert’s Dune was rejected 20 times. Here’s a good article on LitHub quoting famous authors like Maya Angelou and Ray Bradbury on rejection. To a one, they all say while rejection is discouraging (and hurts) it didn’t keep them from revising and resubmitting. 

“Rejection can simply mean redirection,” Maya Angelou said.

“I discovered that rejections are not altogether a bad thing. They teach a writer to rely on his own judgment and to say in his heart of hearts, ‘To hell with you.’ – Saul Bellow, as told to The New York Times in 1985

So you’re a writer and you have to submit somewhere to get published. Where do you find the places you submit? How does that process work?

I use Submittable but also my agent keeps lists of places the pay for short stories and I submit to those places, many of whom use submittable but some do not.

This is a great collection of actual rejection lines famous authors received. Sylvia Plath was told there wasn’t enough talent for them to take notice. Ha!

This is a webpage dedicated to initially rejected books. Talk about finding your niche.

Does it matter if they say nice things to you? Is there such a thing as a “good” rejection?

What are some reasons pieces are rejected? Here’s a list of 10 reasons from a random person:

  • The story doesn’t make sense.
  • The story is unbelievable.
  • The author overuses adjectives.
  • Nothing’s happening.
  • A major element is left out.
  • The author is unable to imply information (and instead narrates everything in painful detail)
  • The story is vile – shock and awe alone do not make a good story.
  • The story is under-formed – flash fiction fail.
  • It’s out of order (chronologically, in a bad way).

Segment 3

Here’s a list focused specifically on short stories and has a lot to do with craft:

  • You’re trying to do too much in a small space.
  • It’s just a snapshot, not a complete story
  • The reader needs to read something else to understand what’s happening
  • It’s practice for something else
  • No character to really embrace
  • There’s no hook
  • It’s not a fit for this particular publisher or journal
  • You’re out of your depth
  • It’s unpolished
  • It’s basic – the same as everything else

Segment 4

So what should you do?

Keep submitting. Look for the “right fit” outlets. More on the show.

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