Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Tough Girl's Guide to Handling Rejection

By Tenille Brown (Guest Blogger)

I’m harder than a man on Viagra, or so I’ve been told.

The words first came from my husband when he noticed I was virtually emotionless during a heated argument.  I might have shrugged or narrowed my eyes, but I’m fairly certain I didn’t raise my voice or do any other thing that might get my heart rate up.  I’m getting older and I’d like to save my flutters for my children’s teenage years, thank you very much.

And I absolutely, for sure, did not cry.

The first time I was broken up with by a boy, over the phone, the week after senior prom, my eyes were dry.  I hung up the phone without much of a response, went to bed and showed up to school the next day like nothing was wrong.

After all, in my eyes, nothing was.

We hadn’t dated long and he had been honest and straight forward enough to give me his reasons for wanting it to be over.  I respected and accepted it and moved on.

Little did I know I would end up applying the same strategy to my writing.

My first rejection was fairly easy, I must say.  It had made it in the original manuscript, but was cut at the publishers’ which should have been devastating, but the editor was so helpful and had so many suggestions on my story and my direction, I felt like I should have thanked her for rejecting me.

When subsequent rejections didn’t go exactly that way, it occurred to me and quickly, that there wouldn’t always be someone there to pad my fall.  So, I did what I knew to do.  Reverting to old, comfortable habits, I began pushing my arms out in order to brace myself when or if I tripped.

I tell myself three basic things:

Don’t Get Too Attached

I write shorts – short fiction, erotica, and essays.  I like to get in and get out, not drawing any plot or idea out more than necessary.  That way I haven’t lain with my characters or my plot long enough to form any emotional ties.  That would be risky.  That might make me soft.

If I allowed myself to soften and get sentimental over every piece, and one of my darlings was cast aside, I’d be down to nothing by now.  The buzzards would be feasting on my poor, pathetic carcass.

That’s not to say that I’m made of steel.  I’ve been disappointed at missed opportunities and tortured by questions of what I could have done to make a piece work.  However, I can’t allow it to affect the way I work going forward.  What if, going forward, I start to change this about my writing and that was really the problem to begin with?

Set It…And Forget It

When I’m writing, I just do it. If a certain call interests, me, I attempt to write something for it.  Most times, it makes it to the submissions stage, sometimes it doesn’t get finished.  I just know that emotionally, I can’t afford to worry about it either way.

I like to love the story for what it is and leave it alone, giving myself the space to be able to not fret while it’s in waiting stage.

Once it’s left my mind, my fingertips, and furthermore made it into the editor’s inbox, it’s out of my hands, literally and figuratively.

It Is What It Is

I don’t expect or ask for feedback after a rejection.  I’ve learned to accept that just because it’s not someone’s cup of tea doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad tea.

I believe I’m a decent writer, but I don’t always knock it out of the park, nor do expect every ball to be a home run.  Hell, sometimes I don’t even make it off the bench.  I just know that I only have five to ten minutes to spend thinking about a rejection, otherwise I’m in danger of obsession – I know me.  Besides, ten minutes is plenty long enough to log the rejected submission in my rejected file and remind myself to look for appropriate places to resubmit the piece later.

Yes, there might be some denial and delusion mixed in here somewhere with all my tough girl talk, and maybe I haven’t wagered enough, or fallen hard enough, but right now, this is what works for me.

It might not be a habit many could adapt to or get on board with, but just like those rejected pieces, I realize, everything ain’t for everybody.

Does it sound like I’ve been hurt before and I’m willing to do anything to keep it from happening again?  Maybe you’re right, but I can bet you one thing, my stubborn ass will never tell.

Bio: Tenille Brown’s smut is featured online and in nearly fifty print anthologies including Chocolate Flava, 1 and 3, Curvy Girls, Going Down, Best Bondage Erotica, 2011 and 2012, Sapphic Planet, Suite Encounters, Open, and Best Lesbian Erotica 2013.  The southern wife and mother writes for Mischief Books, blogs at and tweets @TheRealTenille.

Here are some links to pictures for recent books I'm featured in:


Lisabet Sarai said...

Hello, Tenille,

I'm delighted to have you as my guest today. And I agree 100% with your comments. Obviously rejection hurts, but when one of my stories doesn't make the cut, I tell myself there's always another story, another collection.

Every ounce of emotion one spends on feeling dejected about a refusal is emotion wasted, emotion that might have been poured into writing something new.

Best of luck with your future writing!

Donna said...

Very inspirational words. Unfortunately, I still get a sick feeling in my stomach for a while when I get a rejection, but it bothers me for an hour rather than weeks, as my first rejection did some twenty years ago! (Okay, this was from, what I later found out was an ignorant, peevish editor at a Japanese publisher who called my book-length translation "wooden"). How I could have used your advice back then :). But I can still use the reminder today. The writing life is full of rejection at every turn and at every stage. Being strong, tough and determined is the only way through it!

Jean Roberta said...

Good advice, Tenille, and as you probably know, you have fans to compensate for the occasional rejection. What you're doing obviously works. However, the "don't get too attached" thing suggests that you've never considered writing a novel. Really? Many short stories seem to have novel-seeds in them -- they could grow into novels with enough attention. I don't know how novelists handle rejection, and I know from studying lit that most of them have to handle a lot before they find the right publisher. Please don't rule out the possibility of expanding an idea to something book-length because you don't want to get too attached. Wishing you success.

Tenille said...

Thanks again for having me, Lisabet. It was a pleasure and as always I look forward to reading more of your work.

Tenille said...

Thank you, Donna, and I'm glad you enjoyed the post. And "wooden?" Oh, my. That might have gotten to me.

Tenille said...

It's so funny that you brought up novel avoidance, Jean, because before I revised this post I had mentioned the reason I like writing short stories, not wanting to commit to a novel being it. There's a whole other story there ;). Thanks for reading!

P. Robinson said...

Loved reading your post. I think I'm attached while I'm writing stories and while the characters are developing but after I'm okay with letting them go, most of the time! : )

Beth Wylde said...

Wonderful post and advice. I do get very attached to my characters even though the stories are short but I've learned to accept rejections as they come, in this business you ARE going to get them and that's a fact from the very beginning. You have to go into this field expecting that and you can't be overly soft skinned to survive as an author either. ^_^ I know several big name authors who say they still get rejections and if they get them then i know some will come my way. Besides there are other publishers out there to submit to. If you get a rejection from one send the story out to someone else.

Tasha L. Harrison said...

Ha! Loved this! I have always believed that writing is some form of insanity in which we repeat the same activity over and over again, hoping for a different outcome but, it really is the only instance when that new or different outcome happens, it's enough to sustain you through all of the negativity. Great post!

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