3 Ways Rejection Letters Can Actually Help Improve Your Writing

improve your writing

Nothing quite stings the way a rejection letter does. It takes guts to pour your heart out in writing, and courage to send it along to an agent, editor, or publisher. The last thing you want to get in return is a letter or email detailing just why your piece won’t be published. Here is the good news: rejection letters can actually work for you to help improve your writing. I know it sounds crazy, but it is true. Rejection letters are actually one of the most helpful tools in your writer’s toolbox. Read on for three simple ways to decipher and utilize the ever-dreaded rejection letter, and turn that “no” into a “yes.”

1. Improve Your Writing by Understanding Rejection Letter Language

While some responses may simply contain one line: “we regret to inform you that we cannot accept your (fill in the blank),” many contain hints and clues for ways to improve your writing.

When you do get that gem of a letter where the respondent took the time and energy to give you advice, actually read through what they say. It is hard to receive constructive criticism from someone who has already made up their mind about your work, but they really are trying to help you improve. Did the agent or editor note a specific part of your writing that needed a little extra care? Take stock and see if they pointed out a mistake that you habitually make with your writing.

For example, if the letter says something about “not connecting with the writing” or “not feeling strongly enough about the material,” this is a big hint to the writer that they need to learn how to flesh things out to make for a more interesting piece. 

2. Learn the Levels of Rejection 

Rejection letters take on a language all their own, and there are levels to them. As mentioned above, there will be days you get a single line in an email. These letters are the most frustrating, as no feedback is provided to aid you in your writing journey. The writing world has modernized, however, with email being the primary means of communication between writers and publishers.

Depending on the volume of submissions received by the publisher, you will likely get a more personal note. More often than not you will find that these letters will at least give you some idea as to why your piece was not chosen for publication. These may not list specifics, and may even come as a form letter, but there will be a few bullet points that the editor felt needed addressing.

The best type of rejection letter to receive — besides no rejection letter, of course — is one that was tailored to you specifically. These are the letters you should print and save. Not only will it drive you to finally land that acceptance but these letters are like having a writing tutor right at your desk. These letters typically pinpoint specifics that the publisher or editor feel you need to work on and why. Heed these words. Put the pain of being told “no” out of your mind and break down what the letter says. These are custom instructions on how to improve your writing. These are, after all, industry professionals who know their stuff when it comes to structure and content.   

3. Re-submit Your Polished Piece

Sometimes, publishers or editors may reject a piece but will offer an invitation to revise and re-submit your work. Many writers can be gun-shy about resubmitting work that has already been rejected. However, you should not be afraid to put in the work, after all, this is akin to getting free writing advice from an expert in the field.

If you get the opportunity to re-submit, you should absolutely take it before submitting to somebody else. Typically, when you get this type of clearance in a rejection letter, it means that the reader or editor liked what you sent them a great deal, but just a little more tweaking is required to make it perfect. Taking their words into consideration and executing them on the page will show this industry insider that you are willing to go the extra mile, which can do wonders for your writing career.     

Remember-even Stephen King was rejected…a lot. In fact, Carrie was rejected by so many publishers that he threw the manuscript in the garbage can. His wife eventually dug it out, dusted it off, and sent it off to become one of the most iconic horror novels of all time. A rejection may seem like the end of the road for your piece, but in reality, it is just the beginning of a very important process. This is a great way to see how you respond to criticism, be it constructive or not. Use this thick-skin-building experience to improve your writing and you will go from rejected to accepted in no time.   

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Kathleen Wolak

Kathleen Wolak is a writer and blogger from Hamden, CT. Her work ranges from historical fiction to horror and everything in between. When she isn't writing, she is either hiking or binge-watching Bob's Burgers with her dog and her husband. Facebook: Kathleen Wolak Author Instagram: @themostawkwardauthor Twitter: @wolak_kathleen

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