5 November 2015

Dealing With Rejection

There are many different kinds of rejection. There’s the flat-out no, the more polite “no, thank you” or a let-you-down-easy “This just isn’t right for our publication at this point in time.”  There’s the dreaded radio silence or the bounced-back email.

Rejection might just be one of the worst feelings in the world. But, when you’re just starting out in your writerly career, it’s an important experience to have. It’s something to learn from—how to avoid making similar mistakes again, and how to improve upon your first submission. Rejection (and feedback, if provided) will actually improve your skills as a writer. Rejection can be the catalyst to work harder, or learn a new skill, or improve upon your email or pitching technique. Rejection can also be a great opportunity to challenge your work, and yourself, to come up with something even better than you first thought.

“There is a folder on my computer called “pitches”. If an idea gets accepted for publication its file gets moved out of the folder and in to “work in progress”. If not, it is left to languish in this elephant’s graveyard of unwanted thoughts until the end of eternity/hard drive,” Voiceworks Editor, Elizabeth Flux, says.

“Every year this folder gets bigger – and that’s not a bad thing. No-one likes rejection; we take it personally, we interrogate exactly why our idea wasn’t chosen when someone else’s was, and we wonder if it means that all other ideas we have will never be good enough. Rejection hurts, but it’s also an important part of growing as a writer. Sometimes rejection is short and curt (“We’re going to pass on this, thank you though.”) and sometimes it is long and in-depth (like what you get when you submit to Voiceworks – not that I’m biased or anything).”

“Rejection is a road we all walk down. Repeatedly.”

Here’s a few things we’ve learned along the way:




Rejection isn’t personal:

When someone says ‘no’ to your writing, it’s easy to take it personally. It’s your ideas, in your words, on your pages, with all the blood, sweat and tears you’ve put into it. Of course they hate you, right?!

Wrong. And they probably don’t hate your writing either! Rejection comes for a number of reasons, and very rarely are those reasons personal. Often, your piece isn’t quite right for a publication at that point in time, or your style of writing doesn’t fit what they’re looking for. Sometimes your ideas have already been covered, or maybe it’s just too niche for their particular audience. Sometimes you don’t have enough experience under your belt, or your pitch wasn’t quite up to scratch. Rejection hurts, but that doesn’t mean that your work isn’t any good.

Rejection is kind of a good thing, actually?

Because it should push you to work harder. This doesn’t mean you should bombard the editor with a gazillion emails demanding they provide feedback or read your revised work, but it does mean that you can learn from your experience and build up your skills accordingly. If an editor does provide feedback, learn from it. You can make sure you don’t fall into the same traps with your writing again.

View rejection as a challenge to overcome. Try pitching the piece to a different publication! Read an edit your own work with a fresh set of eyes and a new perspective on the piece. Correct little mistakes you hadn’t noticed before. Write, and rewrite, and rewrite. You will learn so much in the writing and editing process, that even if the piece never gets picked up, you’re a better writer after it all anyway.

Dealing with rejection:

It’s okay to be a little upset or frustrated if your piece has been turned down. You might feel like your hard work has gone to waste or you might become disheartened to pitch again, and that’s okay! Accepting rejection is a process, and you don’t have to jump back on the pitching horse right away.

  1. Send a reply to the editor, thanking them for their time and consideration for their work. If they haven’t provided you with feedback or an explicit reason for not publishing your work, you can ask them (if appropriate) what could to be improved upon for next time.
  2. If they have provided you with feedback, have a quick read over it.
  3. Go do something relaxing! Take a little while to relax, destress and accept your editor’s response. Read a book or go for a walk, and take some time to yourself.
  4. When you’re ready, return to the piece and read over it (slowly!). Track your edits and changes as you go, and go back to the drafting stage of your ideas if need be. Write and rewrite sentences, change the positioning of your paragraphs, strengthen your intro or conclusion.
  5. If you want to continue shopping the piece around, really focus on your pitch and email. You can read our ‘Pitch Perfect Guide’ to get all the tips and tricks on constructing the best pitch you can.


Ways to avoid rejection:

It’d be easy to say ‘write well!’ and you’ll have no issues, but that’s not always the case. As we’ve already covered, you can write incredibly well and still have a piece rejected for any number of reasons. However, there are a few things you can do to ensure that your piece shines as bright as it possibly can.

  1. Spell check. Please, for the love of god, use spell check.
  2. Read your piece aloud. Does it make sense? Is your punctuation and grammar sounding good? Does it flow?
  3. Pitch well. The quality of your pitch is just as important as the piece itself. All the details you need on this are right here.
  4. Does the style of your writing coalesce with the publications style? Or is your own unique voice important to the piece? Use your own judgement for this one, and remember, style guides are your friend!
  5. Really think about how to make this piece great, and why you should be the person to write it. If the issue or idea at hand is something you care about, your piece is guaranteed to be even more brilliant.
  6. Don’t rush! Obviously, meet deadlines, but don’t rush the creative process. Take your time in drafting, writing and editing. Weed out the tiny little mistakes. Sometimes all your piece needs is a little TLC.


Having your work turned down isn’t the end of the world, and we hope that you gain skills and knowledge from the experience. Voiceworks Magazine provide feedback for every submission they receive, regardless of whether it makes it into the pages of the magazine. Use that feedback, and those experiences, to fuel your passion as a writer and artist, and make something great!