Talking to Story: Rejection, and why it doesn’t matter

Story: What’s wrong, spanky? You have such a sad face today.

Me: I had a story rejected.

Story: Oh, I’m sorry. So what?

Me: What do you mean so what? I had a story rejected today by an editor. I’m supposed to celebrate that?

Story: No. But why do you care?

Me: What do you mean?

Story: Why do you care if a story got rejected? Do you think you’re the only writer to have a story rejected? Happens all the time to amateurs and professionals alike. It’s part of the process and part of the business.

Me: Yeah, but it was my story.

Story: Oh, I see. You are feeling sorry for yourself. Look, you are wrong about this and I’m going to tell you why. You just said it was your story. Not it’s not. It’s the reader’s story. No matter who that reader is, a beta, an editor, a friend. You name it. The story ceases to be yours and becomes theirs when they read it.

Me: I’m not following.

Story: And that wouldn’t be the first time. Listen, when a reader picks up a story something magical happens. He begins a synergistic relationship with that story. Reading is a private experience. What the reader experiences and feels and sees and understands as he reads your story belongs solely to him. Okay, you wrote the story. I am not arguing that point. And from a legal standpoint the story and its intellectual property belongs to you. But when the reader reads the story it takes on a completely different quality apart from those more mundane things. What the reader sees and feels you have no control over whatsoever.

Let’s say you wrote a science fiction story. But when the reader reads it he thinks it is a horror story. Who is right, the guy who wrote the story or the reader who reads the story?

Me: I’d have to say both.

Story: Maybe there’s hope for you after all. What you see in the story and what someone else sees in the story can be quite different, and yet both can be correct interpretations. Sometimes these viewpoints conflict, even down to a disagreement about the quality of the writing. It doesn’t mean one is correct and the other is incorrect. It simply means two different people view the same thing in an opposite light. And there’s no getting past that as long as you’re dealing with human beings.

Me: So you’re saying I shouldn’t care my story got rejected.

Story: I’m saying you should not live or die by rejections. Everyone gets rejected. Gone With the Wind got rejected. Bit whoop. It happens. Maybe the editor left a note or two about something he thought you could elaborate on. You don’t have to take that advice to heart, but you do have to note it. So my advice is learn what you can from it, and move on.

Me: Well, he did say he wanted to see any other stories I might have and to send them in.

Story: There, you see? He’s not rejecting you. He’s rejecting the story. It’s not personal on his part. And I don’t care what any other writer thinks, the story is not you. Once you send it off to be read it becomes the reader’s story to interpret and enjoy. You have no control over that. Absolutely none. So if you find someone who reads a story of yours and doesn’t like it, move on. Write another story. Maybe they will like that one. Who knows? The main thing is, don’t give up and don’t wallow in self-pity. Writing is hard enough without that malarkey.

Me: You are telling it like it is today, Story.

Story: Writers write for different reasons. Some write for themselves, some write for other people. The successful ones write for the story. Maybe it’s a subtle point, but once you understand it you realize what other people think is not as important as you first imagined. Write a good story. Believe in your work. Send it out. Then start the next story. Write for the story itself. Not the market, and not the editor. Do it for the story.

Me: Well, I still feel a little blue even though I understand what you are saying.

Story: That’s understandable. Tell you what, maybe a bowl of ice cream will make you feel better. Then we can get back to work on a brand new story that I bet the editor will like.

Me: I like the idea of a bowl of ice cream. Story, you always make me feel better.

Story: That’s why I’m here. Now, let’s stop the gabfest and grab that bowl of ice cream. I’m hungry, too. Got any whipped cream?

Rejection is hard, but it's not the be all and end all of your writing life. Learn what you can from it, and start your next story.




2 Replies to “Talking to Story: Rejection, and why it doesn’t matter”

  1. How many bowls of ice cream required to write a trilogy? Hmm…that would make a good piece of some sort. Anyway, thanks for another dialogue with Story, this time about how to handle rejection letters (with possible suggstions). Posting a list on the freezer door (behind which is the most medicinal ice cream) of at least 10 very famous books that were initially rejected has helped me.

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