How One Writer Turned Painful Rejection into Triumph

Have you faced rejection as a writer that made you just feel like giving up?

If so, I recently came across a story I just have to share with you.

I am lucky enough to live near a very fabulous and well-supported public library. Our regional library system puts out a substantial quarterly newspaper full of interviews with local authors, which I usually devour.

One story in the most recent issue knocked me flat.

It was an interview with Marissa Meyer, author of the hot new young-adult series Cinder (Book One of The Lunar Chronicles) and its forthcoming sequel, Scarlet, due out next year.

In the first novel, Cinderella is an android in a dystopian future, and she holds the fate of the world in her hands. It sounds awesome — can’t wait to check it out!

But that wasn’t the amazing part

In her interview, Meyer related that she faced a lot of rejection in her early writing career, before finding a major print publisher for Cinder (it’s an imprint of Macmillan).

In fact, at one point she had entered a short-story writing contest with a tale that was the germ for her hit series…but failed to win.

She later learned she was one of only two people who had entered!

She had a 50 percent chance of winning, and still lost out.

Now, you’ve got to admit that is flat-out painful to know.

What was her reaction to this embarrassing defeat?

“My favorite part of this story is that, in the end, only two stories were submitted to that fateful writing contest…and mine didn’t win! But thank goodness I came away from it with such a fun idea.”

She suffered a truly embarrassing defeat…and still came away with the notion that she had a great idea. She moved forward immediately, emboldened to continue fleshing out her idea until it became not just a novel but a full-blown, four-book series.

If she’d been the sort of writer who implodes at every rejection letter, none of this would have ever happened. Her vision of a cyber-Cinderella would probably be at the bottom of a drawer somewhere, never to be enjoyed by anyone.

She wasn’t crushed

Fortunately, Meyer’s self-confidence and her belief in her skills as a writer weren’t altered by this contest defeat.

She held the keys to writing success in her hands:

  • Believe in yourself
  • Don’t worry too much about what others say
  • Keep writing
  • Don’t give up

Next time you get a rejection letter, give a thought to the fact that all writers are going through this. It’s not about you. And it’s really no big deal.

It doesn’t mean you should stop writing.

You just haven’t found where that piece of writing belongs yet. But there are always more places to try.

How have you transformed your writing rejection into success? Leave a comment and share your story.

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20 comments on “How One Writer Turned Painful Rejection into Triumph
  1. 16 publishers rejected A Time to Kill by John Grisham before he found an agent who eventually rejected him as well so by the looks of it, writers are bound to experience pain first before reaching nirvana.

    Carol, this reminder is right on time, I just got a note from Rock Solid Finance along the lines of “does not fit with my current guidelines”. The owner was so nice to explain why he can’t use my article now and proceeded to suggest some topics I can explore.

    Rejection is something that we have to get used to because we perpetually send editors pitches.

    Heck, we have to live with this fact.
    Anthony Dejolde recently posted…Be Bold, Write Sexy ArticlesMy Profile

  2. Erica says:

    To paraphrase something Stephen King states in his book “On Writing,” if you’re not getting rejected, you’re just not trying hard enough. Thanks Carol. Now, I’m going to get started on an idea I have for one of my favorite magazines. I’m probably going to get shot down, but that’s okay. I still like my idea and want to write it.
    Erica recently posted…From Corporate Copywriting to Freelance: Getting Your 3 Cs in LineMy Profile

  3. Ruan says:

    Hi Carol,

    This is indeed an amazingly inspiring post! Fortunately I have not been rejected before but I’m never counting out the possibility that it may happen in future.

    I have one of the essentials you mentioned which I believe is THE single most biggest determining factor whether you make it or break it as a freelance writer – BELIEF.

    As with most things in life having belief in your own abilities and talents and “keep on keeping on” but especially in freelance writing there is just no way you will ever keep on “failing”. Sometime or another you’ll find the place where your piece belongs and that’s all you need to find – from that point onward life gets easier.

    Although I am experiencing relatively good success at the moment with my writing, I believe that I have not yet found my ‘home’ to my writing but there’s no giving up either – I know it’s built and is standing on a foundation of rocks, somewhere out there…
    Ruan recently posted…Content Traffic Generation: 5 Guaranteed Strategies Freelance Writers Should FollowMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      If you’ve never been rejected, I can only assume you’re only writing for your own blog. Anybody who pitches publications gets rejected — I’ve never heard of anyone who has a 100% acceptance rate! I feel good that I usually can get a response on about 50-60% of what I send out.

  4. Interestingly, mixed in with RSS feeds for the first batch of comments my e-mail delivered a real, genuine rejection (well-seasoned with apologies for not being able to accept more or offer detailed critiques) from the Richard J. Margolis Award Committee. No doubt a form letter, but an acknowledgement nonetheless; and a well-written, tactful one.

    (If anyone is interested in exploring this annual award for “a promising new journalist or essayist whose work combines warmth, humor, wisdom and concern with social justice”–the prize is $5,000 and a one-month residency at Blue Mountain Center–their Web address is http://award.margolis.com/.)
    Katherine Swarts recently posted…In Your FaceMy Profile

  5. Debra Weiss says:

    I love that she kept going! I’ve often found that good things come to those that have the courage and tenacity to chase their dreams.

  6. Erin says:

    If every writer let rejection dictate their confidence as writers, we would be deprived of many of what today are considered the greatest books ever written. Famous rejections include William Faulkner, James Joyce, and Ana├»s Nin to name a few…Even the great Gertrude Stein submitted poems for more than two decades before having one accepted.

    Imagine how different the literary landscape would be had they all given up?

    No one likes rejection–I hate it too–but whether you want to write magazine articles or the next great American novel, rejection is part of the journey.

    Great post, Carol!
    Erin recently posted…What are Professional Freelance Rates? Part IMy Profile

  7. Anita says:

    It’s really true that the key is to keep trying. I used to let a rejection letter stall me for a long time – sometimes more than a year. I’m learning that the odds improve by submitting lots of queries/articles. Last week I got an email that began, “Thank you for your submission…” and I thought, “Another rejection.” But I read on and was pleasantly surprised that the magazine wants to print my article.
    Anita recently posted…books every child should readMy Profile

  8. Amandah says:

    I’ve entered many writing contests but didn’t win. The rejection stung at first, but I got over it.

    A few months ago, I read an article in Writer’s Digest by an author who won a contest at the age of 10 because she gave the judges what they wanted. She didn’t even like what she wrote, but won the contest because she played up to the judges by submitting writing she knew they’d love.

    I wouldn’t get too hung up on rejection, especially when it comes to publishing your own material. Most literary agents and publishers have their favorites and won’t go beyond their comfort or likable zones. Thank goodness for self-publishing, Many authors have self-published and then were signed by a BIG NAME publisher. Sometimes, things don’t happen the way we think or expect them to happen.
    Amandah recently posted…Tap Into Your Magnetism and Attract the Favorable Publicity You Want and DeserveMy Profile

  9. Engelia says:

    That is such an inspiring story. I am working on my first manuscript as well as submitting to contests and journals for my short stories along the way. I have been rejected several times over for my short stories, even nano fiction but I always keep in mind that I am a single person of many. Keep on trucking!
    Engelia recently posted…First or Third Person Writing- Can’t DecideMy Profile

  10. I find it less surprising that the contest judges preferred the other story, than that only two people entered. Did the contest have any value beyond the practice opportunity, if that few were paying attention? Or is this an example of how so many would-be writers are too lazy to search for hidden opportunities that may be as good as the big-name contests?
    Katherine Swarts recently posted…In Your FaceMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      I don’t have any intel on the contest, Katherine…but I was just blown away by this author’s reaction to the news that she lost against only one other candidate.

      How many of us are that fired up about our writing? We need to just press on, if we’re passionate about what we’re doing.

  11. Rich says:

    I believe I’ll be the best writer of this age. Every rejection is just another step up, not back. Whether a rejection or an acceptance, its still a step forward. Moreso than not, the life of a writer whom is highly regarded will have more lows than highs. Whats interesting about easy?

  12. Terri H says:

    I can definitely relate to this. I always see rejection as a step in the right direction. Considering the amount of the pitches an editor receives on any given day, I find it a compliment when I actually get a response even when it is a rejection. That rejection means the editor thought I was worth responding too and gives a glimmer hope that I will someday break into that market.
    Terri H recently posted…The Reason Why I Love Rejection (And Why You May Start Loving it Too)My Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      I feel the same way — knowing that most editors don’t respond anymore unless they’re interested, I consider a note that says, “This one isn’t a fit, but try us again” as big encouragement.

      I got one of those from Parade magazine a while back, and I simply MUST get in there! Working on more pitches for them.

      • Terri H says:

        So funny you mention Parade! I just got a rejection letter from them last week! I was so excited when I got it. I’m crossing my fingers for us. Hopefully, we’ll both see our bylines in there sooner rather than later!
        Terri H recently posted…5 Life Lessons I Learned from Sharing an Office with a Recent College GradMy Profile

      • Lisa says:

        Hey Carol,

        I once got a rejection from Parade, too. I had an interview with Terry Bradshaw about his anxiety and the importance of getting help. Bummer! They already had that as part of a bigger piece. Ugh. They just used it as an intro and it was only a few graphs.

        But you’re so right. Don’t ever give up! Writing, like all the arts, is subjective. You’re gonna see a lot of idiots without a clue what real talent is. That is their problem. It doesn’t mean you’re not good. You just have to find your niche and keep at it.

        Rags to riches stories like J.K. Rowling’s will inspire you, too. Read those. Read how Patricia Cornwell got 17 rejections before getting a contract. There’s a long list somewhere of great writers who got tons and tons of those nasty things. You have to shrug and say as George Harrison sang, “All Things Must Pass.”