Sometimes these rejections will hurt your feelings. Perhaps you're thinking, How could that publisher possibly not want this brilliant gem? My mother LOVED it! (Why You Should Never Trust Your Mother's Judgment When It Comes To Stuff You've Created is a whole other blog post for another time.) Some of them will make you mad. Sometimes, you'll think the publisher is a complete buffoon. Maybe you're right. (Probably not, but maybe.) So how, as a writer, do you deal with rejection?
In my experience, writers usually react in one of the three following ways:
1. You decide that your writing is crap, and vow never to write again (that'll show 'em). I'm sure we've all felt this way, but I really can't recommend this. If you truly have a passion for writing, you're going to keep writing. If you suspect your writing really is terrible, yet you love doing it, take some classes. Learn to write better. Hone your craft.
I'd also highly recommend forming a writers' group, either in your town or online, to provide feedback and critique to help you improve your writing. The only potential downside to this is that you might be required to bribe people with cookies to get them to attend the meetings, but trust me, it's worth it.
2. You decide that the publisher/editor that rejected you is an idiot, and start an online media campaign slandering them.
Yeah, I don't recommend this either. The writing community is small—particularly if you write within a specific genre—and people talk. Specifically, editors and publishers talk. To each other. About writers they refuse to work with. You don't want to be on that list. Trash one editor or publisher, and you might find yourself blackballed from thirty other publications.
If your first instinct is to publicly trash and humiliate someone, I would highly recommend attending anger management classes.
3. You decide to call your BWF (best writing friend), commiserate, eat some DoubleStuf™ Oreos, and move on.
Yes. Yes! Do this. Without a doubt, this is the best possible action you can take.
As I've mentioned repeatedly, everyone gets rejected. Nobody is going to understand what you're feeling quite like another writer who has also gone through the unpleasantness of being told his or her story wasn't good enough.
I have two BWFs I like to whine to when I'm feeling particularly down. One, we'll call her "K," can always be counted on to tell me that either the publisher must be crazy, or that my story might not be as brilliant as I'd suspected (sometimes we need to hear the truth). If she's not available due to her own rejection grief, or vacation or something, I reach out to "R," who is very good at making me laugh at either the editor's folly or my own. Inevitably, I will eat some Oreos, take another look at the story, and either rewrite it or send it on to the next market.
As a writer, you need to develop a thick skin, or at least some sane coping strategies (Oreos). Having been on the other side of the coin as an editor, I can assure you that there are often legitimate reasons why a story gets rejected, none of which involve either the publisher or the author having completely lost their marbles:
1. You didn't follow submission guidelines. They're there for a reason. If you can't take the time to follow them, maybe the editor can't take the time to read your story. Maybe you think that's petty, but it's incredibly disrespectful when you don't take the time to read the submission guidelines.
2. Your story needed some serious editing. This is why you need to take classes/form a writers' group/buy and read a copy of Words into Type. Many times, the meat of a story is good, but it has so many grammatical/proofreading/content errors that it's not worth an editor's time to fix it for you.
3. Your story just isn't a good fit. I know it sounds like a line, but it's very true. Most of the time, it all comes down to the story being perfectly good, but just not right for the market you submitted it to. This is when you brush off the rejection, eat some Oreos, and submit it somewhere else.
Overall, rejection is not the end of the world. Not even close. But any writer worth their salt (in the wound) should develop a routine to deal with these inevitable disappointments. Have I mentioned the Double Stuf™ Oreos yet? Really, their therapeutic properties cannot be underestimated.