Saturday, 21 March 2009

Rejections and painless shredding.

When I first began sending my work off, I almost looked forward to getting rejection letters. It meant someone had read what I’d written. Okay, they hadn’t liked it, but they’d looked at it.

In the case of the D C Thomson magazines, you often got a reason for the rejection which was very helpful. But it was the last line, the one that asked you to send in more of your work that was so encouraging. So hand in hand with disappointment came hope.

These days I still don’t look forward to the thud of the fat brown envelope coming through the letterbox, or the email that contains the words unfortunately or sorry.

I had five this week. That’s not a bad week. It’s not a good one, but I’ve had much worse. A dozen in a day. That’s hard.

By the time the stories come home after being away for several weeks or sometimes months, I often don’t recognise them. Did I really write this? I check the name on the title page – apparently I did.

I went through the stories last night. The first one had only had one outing, but it had been written for a very specific market and would have needed too much work to make it fit anywhere else. I didn’t like it much anyway. It went in the shredder.

The other four I read through and I’ve rewritten one. Cut out a character, tightened it up and reduced the length to fit another market. Three more to go. They all need to be rewritten to make them suitable for other markets. The originals all need to be shredded.

I’ve also been reading through my novel in progress. I’ve got about thirty-three thousand words written. I hope to do a little more on that this weekend. And then there are the three brand new stories I am working on and hope to get finished this weekend. It would be so much easier if it was piddling down with rain.

My message for today is don’t let rejection cut you up. Look at what comes back, see if you can improve it and if you can’t, stick it in the shredder and forget about it. Move on. Write something else. Write something better.

And a shredder is a great investment. Being paranoid about people looking through my recycling and having a good old laugh at my rubbish stories, I used to tear them to shreds and it used to hurt. My thumbs throbbed, my fingers ached, my wrists twanged. And all that time you’re rip, rip, rip, you’re acutely aware that it’s your own hard work you’re tearing to pieces. A shredder does it in seconds. Far less painful.


  1. Interesting view on rejection. I always look at what comes back, I see if I can improve it or do a re-write but I don't have the bottle to shred it!

    Years ago, a writing tutor advised the class never to throw anything away and I can't get out of the habit. Now, you've inspired you say, move on. Write something better.

  2. I used to hang on to everything I wrote. It's a good thing to do at first and it's not easy to make the decision to get rid.

    If you feel anything at all for it, don't shred it! Only do it if you are absolutely certain you're done with it.