See all posts
19 January 2012 ·

Rejection Letters and Shattered Dreams

To my discouraged writer friend

I don’t blame you for feeling down  – rejection stinks. You’ve worked so hard on your novel; you love your characters so much, you know it’s better than some of the trash you’ve seen on the shelves… so why hasn’t anyone published it?

The truth is, I don’t know the answer.

It might be that it’s brilliant, and hasn’t found the right publisher yet.

It might be that it’s a work you had to write as part of your writing apprenticeship, and although it’s helped you grow in your craft, and brought you joy in its creation as well as despair in its rejection, it is in some way too personally yours for a publisher to risk investing in.

It may be that you will never know which.

So while you wonder, the choices are:
1)   Give up; take up sky diving or brain surgery instead. Or, more seriously – take a holiday from writing, refresh yourself and then make your decisions. 

2)   Pour every atom of your energy into having this work published. Some people do this, and it works. Others do it, and it comes close to destroying them. You need to decide whether doing so will move you forward or stunt your growth. 

But this is my preference:

 3) Recognise, acknowledge and honour your legitimate grief for your hopes for this creation.
Meditate, do EFT tapping, talk it out, exercise it out… whatever works for you.

When you’ve dealt with it, you’ll be able to put the loved work aside, and start a new one. Ideas are infinite. You’re a writer: you will find more. You’re a human: your love will grow to accommodate your new story and characters. Like any new relationship, you need to let go of the old love and throw everything you have into the new one.
In six months, in a year, in twenty, have another look at your first love. Maybe the time will be right for it – you’ll dust it off and someone will leap at it. Maybe you can use the setting and characters in another story. The worst-case scenario is that it will show you how you’ve grown.

And while you’re deciding, don’t forget that nearly all of us whom you see as successful have been through this, and still go through it in varying degrees. Sometimes all we can tell ourselves is the mantra: it’s never wasted. 

Good luck!

I never save rejection letters, but this is a pretty rejected looking page from Nim at Sea. 


  1. Jo What lovely, calm encouraging thoughts. Especially the one about starting work on something else - I think so many people get stuck if a book doesn't get published. You have to keep writing.
    January 20, 2012 at 8:23 am · Reply
  2. Wendy Orr Thank you, it's good to know you feel the same way
    January 20, 2012 at 8:25 am · Reply
  3. Sue Bursztynski Nice, Wendy. I;'m one of those who tries and tries and then puts it aside to write something else. I went through just about every YA publisher in Australia with my manuscript - some of them two or three times! I put it aside for years and then - amazing! I got it out again and sold it, at the start of last year. Who would have thought? Between this book and the last time I tried I've done about six books and plenty of articles and short stories.
    January 20, 2012 at 1:20 pm · Reply
  4. Wendy Orr Sue, that's truly inspiring – and the best example anyone could ask for of what I was saying. Thanks so much for sharing.
    January 20, 2012 at 1:22 pm · Reply
  5. Dee White What a lovely post, Wendy,

    My most recent book, Harry's Goldfield Adventure was first rejected twenty years ago. The timing wasn't right and neither was the writing:)
    January 20, 2012 at 1:58 pm · Reply
  6. Wendy Orr Nice to know someone else had that big a rest too! The Princess and her Panther was rejected by my publisher 20 years before it was reborn in its present format. It can happen...
    January 20, 2012 at 2:00 pm · Reply
  7. Tania McCartney Gorgeous, Wendy. Thank you.
    January 20, 2012 at 5:36 pm · Reply
  8. Wendy Orr Thanks, Tania, and yes, Dave, rejection letters are a fact of life for most writers, especially when we're starting and haven't built up a relationship with a publisher yet!
    January 21, 2012 at 7:33 am · Reply
Add a comment

← Back to all posts

Wendy Orr is a Canadian-born Australian writer. Her books for children and adults have been published in 27 countries and won awards around the world. Nim’s Island and Nim at Sea have also become feature films, starring Jodie Foster and Abigail Breslin (Nim’s Island) and Bindi Irwin (Return to Nim’s Island.) Her latest book is Cuckoo’s Flight, a companion to the highly acclaimed Bronze Age novels Dragonfly Song and Swallow’s Dance. Read full bio