Writing Tips: How to Handle Rejection

26 Feb

Quick Update: My author page is now on Facebook. Please support me by clicking here. You’ll get the latest updates, and my current status has a surprise that isn’t on my website yet! I’m REALLY excited, so check it out, and you’ll get an advantage on other readers when I offer an upcoming competition ;]

Rejection is everywhere: we break up, we get fired, we lose friends—and we survive them all—yet, when our art is rejected, many feel completely defeated, and they never get out there again. This saddens me. This is how art dies.

Rejection happens to everyone, and, if it hasn’t already, it will happen to you—but you cannot let criticism get you down.

In terms of the writing industry, many writers, professional or not, already know about the long-hated query letter. My favorite metaphor for writing one is the ballerina having to explain why she can dance instead of showing off her abilities. However, whether we like it or not, we have to face the reality of the query eventually.

In the future, I plan on posting about how to write an effective one, but there are plenty of posts like that out there. Instead, I wanted to share one of my favorite blogs that handles rejection: Rejection Love Letters (Or How to Lose Agents and Alienate Publishers)

John Tompkins is a writer trying to get his book published. Currently, he’s sent out 93 queries, and he’s received 36 rejections—all of which are scanned for fellow readers and writers to see. Not only is this brave, but it’s encouraging. I say this because Tompkins does something I’ve never seen done before: he translates the rejection letters into a love rejection, causing the normally petrifying letters to morph into humorous material.

For instance, “Love Letter #28” is a rejected letter he titles, “In honor of Valentine’s Day, I’m calling this one: If I’m not busy, I’ll call you.

Immediately, I’m in a fit of laughter, but I’m also astounded by Tompkins ability to shift rejection into humorous determination in order to move forward. This attitude is one of the most positive things I’ve seen from a writer in a long time. It’s a beautiful way of looking at an aspect of the publishing industry where many lose themselves.

So—in terms of this—I find John Tompkins to be a wonderful and daily reminder of how to be positive about something that can be extremely upsetting. Perhaps you can think of query rejections like rejections of love—“Find someone who loves you just the way you are” (Love Letter #34)—and remain positive as you move forward.

As Richard Bach said, “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit,” and we can all learn from Tompkins’ positive perspective to continue moving forward in the journey of our successful dreams.

Never give up!


This is just another hilarious example of his blog.

This is just another hilarious example of his blog. Check it out if you’re feeling down or you just want to laugh. It’s also great to read if you’re feeling a little alone in the query letter madness.

41 Responses to “Writing Tips: How to Handle Rejection”

  1. Nicole Bross February 26, 2013 at 1:20 am #

    What a great site! I love his attitude. It’s a good reminder that rejection isn’t the end of the world.

  2. C. Brady February 26, 2013 at 1:43 am #

    Great post!

  3. Mike February 26, 2013 at 1:58 am #

    Nicely stated Shannon. I love your allegory to the ballet dancer – it speaks volumes (sorry, couldn’t resist). Your selected Bach quote is only 100% unarguably incontrovertible and already helping me see myself from this new perspective. So you’ve really tidied up my mind this day and you have my gratitude. As for Mr Tompkins, he’s a rare man indeed but no thank you – he must be made of sterner stuff than I.

    • Shannon Thompson February 26, 2013 at 3:51 pm #

      I think many writers can relate to your emotions towards Tompkin’s blog. He’s very bold to share such (sometimes personally) information. For instance, you don’t see rejection query letters on many author pages, even though they were surely rejected at some point.
      We, as a society, only want to share our accomplishments, and pretend we made it over night, when, in reality, it takes years to become an “over night success.” That’s okay.
      You’re not alone with not wanting to share things like this. That’s why I think it’s so wonderful when someone breaks out of that and gives others a way to vent while also being entertained 😀

  4. slepsnor February 26, 2013 at 5:47 am #

    Great site. I’ve received some priceless rejection letters in my time, but I never would’ve dared to post them on-line.

  5. fallonstoeffler February 26, 2013 at 6:12 am #

    I am well familiar with the rejection letter (and email!) I’ve had about 8 rejections last week for stories I sent to lit mags within the last few months. It doesn’t dishearten. And the paper copies I get in the mail, I save them because hey….at least I was brave enough to send the query out in the first place!
    Keep querying people! 🙂

    • Shannon Thompson February 26, 2013 at 3:47 pm #

      I love what you said, “hey….at least I was brave enough to send the query out in the first place!”
      That’s such a great attitude. Reminds me of what my father says, “You can’t win the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket.” With writing, you can’t get that agent/publisher you want, if you don’t try.
      Great addition to think about!

  6. PÖ3TIC February 26, 2013 at 6:48 am #

    Something I’ve been thinking about lately is that since the advent of computers, pay pal, tablets, etc it has become increasingly easy for a writer to publish themselves and handle the sale of their book online without ever dealing with the publishing industry at all! With all the social media we have you would think that promoting your own book or writing would be easier than ever and much more cost effective! I think it’s time writers stopped thinking inside the publishing box and started taking their success into their own hands!

  7. cdekeers February 26, 2013 at 7:15 am #

    The ‘online submission’ has democratized writing submissions and so more and more people are reeling as the result of reading their first rejections. Your last sentence sums it all up!

  8. storytellerdavis February 26, 2013 at 7:18 am #

    Brilliant. Love the blog. Rejection is terrifying. 😛

  9. P. C. Zick February 26, 2013 at 7:31 am #

    I keep reading more and more about successful writers. They are the ones who persevere. The Richard Bach quote is spot on. Thanks for sharing some good advice.

  10. Gwen February 26, 2013 at 8:56 am #

    What a great post! How encouraging for the up-and-coming. I will definitely check him out.

  11. billiescauldron February 26, 2013 at 9:23 am #

    This story reminds me of the story and Jacob struggling with God. People who take struggles and turn them to humor laugh with God.

  12. Derek Rizzo February 26, 2013 at 11:22 am #

    I love it. If you love something you must keep plugging along, and not be deterred.

  13. rbdavis5 February 26, 2013 at 12:58 pm #

    well timed & well put.

  14. N.G. Davis February 26, 2013 at 1:29 pm #

    Thanks for sharing that link. Pretty awesome.

    I may have to throw a couple of rejection letters up on my own blog, both from queries and from producers who replied to my manager after we took my script out. The brutality never stops!

  15. L. Marie February 26, 2013 at 2:15 pm #

    Having received many a rejection, I couldn’t agree more. Love the Richard Bach quote. So true!

  16. yhosby February 26, 2013 at 2:32 pm #

    Reblogged this on yawattahosby and commented:
    Rejection happens. Shannon A. Thompson’s blog has an encouraging post on how to deal with it. Like she states, “When our art is rejected, many feel completely defeated, and they never get out there again. This saddens me. This is how art dies.”

  17. Papizilla February 26, 2013 at 3:36 pm #

    Reblogged this on The Ranting Papizilla and commented:
    Check it out people!

  18. WyndyDee February 26, 2013 at 3:36 pm #

    Reblogged this on Wyndy Dee and commented:
    Good Advice…Rejections are hard, but are part of the process for most everyone! Take it as a chance to improve for the next time.

  19. Liberty of Thinking February 26, 2013 at 4:51 pm #

    “Richard Bach said, “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit,””
    Great, I’m already the second half of it, the first should be there too, just can’t see it… yet:-D

  20. jackiehames February 27, 2013 at 10:40 am #

    Reblogged this on The Spidereen Frigate and commented:
    I think everyone needs to see this.

  21. Jennifer Brown February 27, 2013 at 12:48 pm #

    Thanks for the “like” — nice to have one from a published author. Am also going to check out the Love Letters. Keep up the good work and great tips. Love the quotes.

  22. C February 27, 2013 at 4:01 pm #

    I just started to follow your blog because it seems very interesting. And it really is! Keep it up. I just want to present you this award. (:

    • Shannon Thompson February 27, 2013 at 8:15 pm #

      Why thank you ::blush::
      I hope to continue the interest.

  23. margaretjeanlangstaff March 1, 2013 at 10:12 pm #

    You have just described the way the way the world works! Never take “no” for answer! It’s the secret of the ages. Great post

  24. Lucienne May 31, 2014 at 10:35 pm #

    Today, I went to the beach with my kids. I
    found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She put the shell to her ear and screamed.
    There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear. She
    never wants to go back! LoL I know this is entirely off topic but I had to tell someone!

  25. Stephanie May 12, 2015 at 11:10 pm #

    Article writing is also a fun, if you know then you can write otherwise iit is difficult
    to write.


  1. Make 2013 “A Year of Failure.” It may be the quickest road to success. | GlobalEd - February 28, 2013

    […] Writing Tips: How to Handle Rejection […]

  2. Links for readers and writers | Fraser Sherman's Blog - March 3, 2013

    […] feel bad about what you read, even if most people think it’s crap. •Shannon Thompson on rejection. •There’s a lot of information online. Here’s some advice on sifting the true from […]

  3. Rejected and Dejected | Reading, Writing, Ranting and Raving - March 4, 2013

    […] Writing Tips: How to Handle Rejection (shannonathompson.com) […]

  4. Rip, Shit and Bust: dealing with post-rejection stress disorder | Fifty Shades of Tribute - Sasha Cameron - March 5, 2013

    […] Writing Tips: How to Handle Rejection (shannonathompson.com) […]

  5. style me ceo - March 5, 2013

    […] Writing Tips: How to Handle Rejection (shannonathompson.com) […]

  6. When We Write Letters, Part VII | A Word or More - March 10, 2013

    […] great blog posts tell you how to format and write the letter. They know more than […]

  7. My First Rejection Letter | Jennifer M Eaton - March 22, 2013

    […] Writing Tips: How to Handle Rejection (shannonathompson.com) […]

  8. How I Handle Rejection | Shannon A Thompson - March 23, 2013

    […] have discussed this before. In my post Writing Tips: How to Handle Rejection, I commended John Tompkins for his positive (and hilarious) attitude towards rejected query […]

  9. Rocking Rejection | Kimber Vale - April 1, 2013

    […] Writing Tips: How to Handle Rejection (shannonathompson.com) […]

  10. Rejection to a writer is like blood to a surgeon | Broadside - April 4, 2013

    […] Writing Tips: How to Handle Rejection (shannonathompson.com) […]

  11. I’m Back :] | Shannon A Thompson - June 12, 2013

    […] February 26, 2013 I wrote Writing Tips: How to Handle Rejection, and I discussed John’s entertaining ability to be honest about rejections from the […]

  12. My Year in Review | Shannon A Thompson - January 2, 2014

    […] The busiest day of the year was February 26th with 717 views. The most popular post that day was Writing Tips: How to Handle Rejection. […]

  13. #MondayBlogs: When Writing is Not All You Do | Shannon A Thompson - May 4, 2015

    […] in February of 2013, I wrote a little blog post called Writing Tips: How to Handle Rejection. A huge part of this post was dedicated to John Tompkins. At the time, he wrote a blog called […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: