Write It Sideways

Does Studying Rejection Letters Hinder Writers?

Misery loves company, and there are few things a struggling writer enjoys more than basking in a famous rejection letter.

We’ve all gone to pages like Famous Author Rejection Letters and 30 Famous Authors Whose Works Were Rejected Repeatedly, where we can make ourselves feel better by reading about the experiences of other rejects through the ages—modern authors like Stephen King, J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer, and historical greats like Ernest Hemingway, Oscar Wilde and Anne Frank.

And what about those of us who spend a lot of time reading the rejection letters of our peers, or other writers we follow online?

We frequent sites like Duotrope Digest’s Recent ResponsesLiterary Rejections on Display and RejectionWiki to see who else is being rejected, and by whom. We’re desperate to know whether our own letters are form rejections, tiered rejections, or personal ones. We want to know how many people are rejected, and how many are accepted.

But is reading rejection letters of famous authors and fellow writers actually helpful, or is it a waste of time and a potential roadblock to our development?

Pros of Studying Writing Rejection Letters:

Cons of Studying Writing Rejection Letters:

Obviously, there is no right or wrong answer to this question, but I’m quite interested to learn the opinions of other writers, both new and advanced.

And now for a personal rejection…

As if by design, just a few hours after I finished writing this post I received a rejection letter from One Story, which said:

Thank you for sending us [title].

This story was passed around to all of the editors. Unfortunately, we couldn’t come to a consensus, but we were very impressed by your writing. We hope that you will feel encouraged by this short note and send us something else.

We look forward to reading more.

As much as I tried desperately not to read too much into it, I couldn’t help but search Google to see if it was a form letter.

It appears that,”This story was passed around to all of the editors. Unfortunately, we couldn’t come to a consensus,” is personalized and “we were very impressed by your writing. We hope that you will feel encouraged by this short note and send us something else,” is part of a higher-tiered rejection (as in, not the standard rejection letter, but a form letter nonetheless).

Of course, one can never be totally sure, but I am sure of two other things:

  1. No matter under which circumstances my story was rejected, it was still rejected.
  2. I’ll be sure to submit to them again in the future.

What do you think?