My writing week #18: Rejection

I felt the sting of rejection last week. And the week before.

I didn’t like it.

One rejection hurt more than the other. I’d poured a lot of hope and heart into this particular story; I’d even used the photo that inspired it as my desktop image for months (visualising it happening, putting it out there…). Those who read it pre-submission (fellow authors) said things like:

“This is quality stuff – with all the elements of compelling, engaging short fiction. Your characters are so realistic, as is your dialogue; and I love the way you have been able to evoke time and place so effectively. There’s something quintessentially Australian about this story…”

“That is one very powerful story indeed. I didn’t – I couldn’t stop reading it. The language, the imagery – the Aussieness, it’s lovely and also incredibly real and sad.”

I was on tenterhooks for months … and then I heard that the long list was announced … and there was no email with my name on it. No snail mail (I went out of my way to my PO Box to check). I held on to hope for the whole day just in case cyber-post had been delayed, but finally, I had to accept it: I didn’t make the long list.

I had a little cry. A bit of a pity party. And then I straightened myself up and thought, ‘Jeez, those other stories must be bloody terrific!’

The next day, I started writing again.

The second rejection was for a literary magazine. The story in question had been highly commended in a competition … but it didn’t make the cut for this magazine. This time my reaction was a little different. A cross between “Meh!” and “Hmmph” sums it up.


Is it wrong for me to want my work to be recognised at that level? Hell no! I’m allowed to aim high. I don’t want my writing to be nice. I want it to be arresting. To compel. To evoke emotion. And yes, there are certain writers out there, ones I have met and admire, whose high opinions I would greatly value.

Once again, I shrugged off rejection and kept writing again. I’m not going to wallow. At least, not for more than a day.

I still don’t like rejection. I don’t think I ever will. I’ll always have a little cry. I’ll feel a bit fragile, disgruntled, deflated, doubtful, frustrated, sorry for myself, and jealous …  and that’s okay, right?


Rejection happens. Even when you’ve got books published, won awards, and made a name for yourself (I’m still working on two of these). Expecting it not to happen is pointless.

No matter how beautiful your work is (or you think it is), the thorns or rejection will still get you at some point. And it never feels good.


Rejection does, however, have value, despite the pain. Most of our self growth comes through pain, so why should this be any different for our writer self?

It’s because of rejection that I’m learning about the publishing world, about the market as a whole and my own market. It’s because of rejection I’m asking hard questions like: Is it (was it) good enough? Can this story be improved? And are you going to let this knock you over?


Rejection means I have made an effort. I put myself out there. And I’m going to keep trying.IMG_3833



Monique Mulligan

Monique Mulligan

0 Responses

  1. Like everything bad, we can choose to treat it as a learning opportunity. And why not? Every cloud really does have a silver lining. But you will be disappointed Monique, because you care and invest so much precious time and earnest energy in your craft. I know you’ll stick at it. Thanks for the inspiration.

    1. I have a hunch you’re not so different, Michele. High hopes/high expectations … they often lead to disappointment. But we are both strong women and we will keep going.

  2. Well done Monique. At least you did it and it went out into the world. I hope that this week you have some good reviews to balance it all out. Keep on writing!

    1. Thanks, Delores. It is hard putting your writing out there. And I’m glad I did; I know it’s a good piece of writing even if it wasn’t right for this comp.

      I hope there are some good reviews, too.

  3. Hi Monique, I applaud you for putting yourself out there. I am like a tortoise and poke my head out and back in again, I can’t cross that line in the sand and maybe never will. Your story just wasn’t right for that publisher/competition. That doesn’t mean that it’s not good enough, as I’m picking your story will be pretty bloody good x

    1. Rae, you cross that line so well in your blog. You make me laugh every time I read it.

      It took a long time for me to put myself out there. The first time was excruciating. It gets easier to submit, and I do think there’s a lot to learn about choosing the right comps and so on.

      In this case it came down to wanting validation from certain people. People I look up to as writers, aspire to. I wanted them to say, this is good enough for us. When you have such high hopes, the fall can be hard… but even though I might look like I’m a delicate flower, I don’t blow over easily 🙂

  4. Rejection of our writing doesn’t necessarily mean our work is not good. It means that the publishers have too much choice. Someone else’s well written manuscript might seem more viable in a commercial sense, and so it is chosen.


    1. So true, Maureen. There are many factors that influence a rejection – market, timing, and so on. And sometimes, our writing isn’t as good as it could be.

      The really hard part, after the sting, is figuring out if your writing does need work (and sometimes, as you say, it might not) … and if it does need work, then learning from it.

  5. Rejection really hurts, and I hate how it feels. Unfortunately, it’s a fact of the writing trade, isn’t it? I must admit, I don’t often submit, partly to space out the rejection and disappointment, but also because I’m mainly working on my damn novel! I know that, over time, the rejections for that have become easier to accept. You have a good attitude to it—onwards and upwards, as they say!

    1. Spacing it out is a good tactic, Louise. We all have our limits.

      I certainly didn’t expect two in one week and that smarted. Kind of like a band aid being pulled off.

      I know what you mean about the novel – it’s hard to find the time to submit to comps etc and do all the things you’re supposed to do to get agents and publishers interested … and finish the novel.

      1. Two in a week is too many! Last year, I decided against entering the Dorothy Hewett Award because I’d had enough rejection for one year. You’ll get there though–I have confidence in you. And having nearly finished The Point of Love only confirms that.

  6. Consider your rejections to be purple hearts. Share them with your writer friends and compare war wounds. They are symbols of your bravery. 🙂

  7. Nice post, Monique. For what it’s worth, I didn’t make it to that longlist either, so we can consider ourselves rejected together!

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