Rejection sucks. But no one ever said writing would be all fun and games.
If you’re a writer, you’ve probably had your fair share of rejections. While we’re usually able to bounce back quickly and submit again, sometimes it’s important to reflect on why we’re getting rejected. If you’re used to getting a big fat stack of “No” in your inbox, then it’s time to stop sulking and start figuring out the problem.
Here are the top ten reasons you keep getting rejected:
1. You aren’t reading publications before submitting.
If you haven’t read at least one story or poem from a magazine, then you are wasting your time submitting. It’s important to read what they publish to get a feel. Besides, why do you want to be published in something you don’t want to read? I recommend reading at least one full issue before you submit in order to get a good sense of the type of work they publish. Yes, that will take a lot of time, but it will be time well spent.
2. You aren’t reading enough current writers.
Yes, we all know you write exactly like William Faulkner, but how do you stack up with today’s current writers? It’s important to read what’s currently being published. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that all the best writing was done years ago by dead white guys. You need to expand your horizons and read a wide variety of modern writers.
3. You are saving your best work for The New Yorker.
Everything you send out should be your best work. If it’s not your best, then hold onto it until it is your best. Don’t send your worst stuff to an inferior publication. Take your worst stuff and either make it better or bury it forever.
4. You aren’t revising enough.
How many revisions did you go through on the last piece you just submitted? If the answer is zero, one, or two, then you definitely aren’t putting enough time and energy into your writing. Your stories will never be the best on the first or second try. Revise, revise, revise!
5. You aren’t letting other people read your writing.
You don’t have to workshop everything you do, but if you never let anyone read your writing, then you aren’t going to gain much critical insight into what you could be doing better. There’s an old saying that we’re our own toughest critic. For most people in the writing world, this isn’t true at all. It’s often hard to figure out what’s wrong in your own writing. Find a writing friend who is ruthless and share your work.
6. Your writing isn’t unique.
Are you writing the same old plots in the same old style with the same old tropes? Stop. You need to write something that hasn’t been written before. With thousands of new pieces of fiction and poetry published every day, you have to do something to set your writing apart.
7. Your submission isn’t a good fit.
The number one reason why a story gets rejected isn’t because it isn’t good enough to be published. It’s because it’s not right for a specific publication. It may all go back to reading publications before submitting, but getting acceptances really does come down to finding a perfect fit. Great stories get rejected by mediocre publications when the fit isn’t right.
8. You aren’t following guidelines.
Are you single spacing when they want you to double space? What about the time you went twenty words over the word limit? These things matter a lot to publishers. If you want to get on the fast track to rejection, then don’t listen to what they want you to do. If you want a better chance at acceptance, then follow all submission guidelines no matter how petty they might seem.
9. You are submitting too frequently.
The more you submit, the more you will get rejected. It’s a numbers game, but it’s also common sense. If you are submitting twenty times a day, then when are you finding time to write, read, edit, or research? Slow down your submissions and work on the more important things. And don’t overdo the simultaneous submissions.
10. You are a writer.
We all get rejected. If you don’t want to be rejected, then either stop being a writer or go live in a cave. If you opt for the cave, chances are one day a big bear will come by and reject your work.
If you find yourself getting rejected at every turn, then it’s time to reevaluate what you’re doing. By putting more time into your craft and making more sensible submission choices, you can improve your acceptance rate.
What are some other reasons why your stories are getting rejected? Share them in the comments below.