After 25 years, it was time to clean out my editorial files. Each held treasured letters and years of correspondence with editors who have shaped my writing.
Then I reached the last file, “Rejection Letters.” Feelings of failure crept back as I chucked it in the garbage—but I pulled it back out. As I reread the personalized form letters and handwritten notes, most of them said my work did not match their current publishing needs.
But I hadn’t remembered the compliments: “I love your writing,” “We were inspired by your piece and found it well written,” and “Please send us more ideas.”
Those rejection letters pushed me to write better. To grow. If I didn’t hit the mark, I determined to nail it the next time. I studied issues of the publication and their writing guidelines more carefully. If I was too wordy or unfocused, that meant I didn’t do my best self-editing. A ruthless self-edit is non-negotiable.
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One of the toughest editors I ever worked with made me cry when she called my work “fluffy.” I saw myself as gut-level honest. When she pointed out the dreaded fluff, she helped me write my most authentic book to that date (Donkeys Still Talk, NavPress: 2004).
Does my writing still get rejected? Yes. Oh, it’s less often now, but it still hurts. However, once the sting has passed, I take a look at the editor’s comments, swallow my pride, and start over.
Now I realize my rejection letters are too valuable for the junk heap. I’ve put them back in my file drawer, this time in front.
Virelle Kidder is a CWG mentor, conference speaker, and author of six non-fiction books. She is working on her first murder mystery, bracing herself for rejection. www.virellekidder.com