Rejection is an issue every writer has to deal with constantly during his career. And I won’t lie to you; it always stings.
Few things in life are worse than someone you never met informing you the product of your numerous hours of hard work is wanting. You’ll likely mutter a curse and pour yourself a drink. Worse, you’ll begin to doubt yourself.
Who am I kidding? It really is crap, isn’t it? Why do I bother?
These thoughts will likely assail you with every rejection letter when you first start out. But I’m telling you, don’t listen to them.
The most important thing about coping with rejections is that the quality of your work may very well have nothing to do with the editor’s decision. Many publications invite popular authors to submit in order to attract customers with the power of their reputations. Obviously, the works of these writers are given priority and the editor has to weave the rest of the issue or anthology around them. By the time you submit your story, there’s no telling how many slots are left or what kind of flow is emerging. So if you receive a form rejection letter (a standardized reply that cites no specific issues with your work), chances are your piece may just not “fit” with the stories that have already been accepted. Yes, the situation still stinks, but it’s nothing to get bent out of shape over.
Personal rejection letters can be a bit more difficult. These are the ones where the editor lays out precisely what problems he has with your narrative. Be assured that most editors are very polite and aren’t going to set out to give you a scathing critique. Often, the reasons they provide for their decisions make sense after giving the work another reading. These people make their living reading fiction and separating the bad from the good, so they do tend to know what they’re talking about. That said, there is no iron rule that you must take all of their suggestions. If you truly feel their opinion is off-base, submit somewhere else and see what the next editor says. However, if you keep getting the same complaints, it’s a pretty good bet that you’re the one in the wrong and that revisions are in order.
Finally, it’s vital to know that being aware of flaws in your narrative is a good thing. You can’t improve a weakness you don’t know you have. So the next time you’re about to open that e-mail you’ve been waiting on for months, remember, acceptance or not, the story only gets better from here.