(Yeah, we’re starting a discussion on writing submission rejections with a movie analogy—stick with me it’ll make sense soon enough.)
So, ever seen a good movie? I’m assuming you thought yes since you’re too distinguished to respond out loud to a blog post. And here’re some more questions you’ll likely answer similarly. Ever seen a movie that was well made—good acting, direction, cinematography–but not your cup of tea? How about a movie that was fine, but not really what you were in the mood for? Perhaps you went into a romantic comedy and got more romance than comedy. Ever seen a great movie that wasn’t in your favorite genre? What about a movie that was really good, but similar in tone or theme to something else you’d seen recently?
You just rejected all those movies.
And there’s nothing bad about any of them. The word bad was never mentioned. Not even the word okay. That’s all good stuff getting rejected because you, our fictitious movie editor, can only acquire your very favorite material—the absolute best of the best you can find over a particular period of time.
This is exactly how book and magazine editors operate (and now book agents as the industry shuffles a lot of slush to their doorsteps.) While they’re certainly rejecting some material that never should have seen the light of day, they’re rejecting a lot of material that’s not in any way bad—it’s just not exactly what they’re looking for at that exact moment.
This is the primary reason rejections have never really bugged me. First, it’s the story, not me, being rejected, and second it’s not even necessarily being rejected because it’s bad. In fact, I’ve always thought of rejections as something of a badge of honor. It showed I was doing the work necessary to eventually succeed. Occasionally some editor went out of their way to scribble a personal note of encouragement on one which was a nice bonus. For many years, I kept a few rejections framed over my writing desk for motivation and it wasn’t necessarily the personalized ones.
Rejections are just another part of the writing business. The time to worry about them is when you aren’t getting them at all because that generally means you aren’t submitting anything in the first place and that’s the only way you’ll be sure never to sell.