How to celebrate your first writing failure

Rejected: I'm a real writerYou know you’re a real writer when you’ve received your first rejection. I received my first two on the same day—on a Monday, no less. I’m in the game now!

Rejection #1: The email announcing the semi-finalists for the ACFW 2013 Genesis Contest didn’t include my name.

From: Becky Yauger
Date: Mon, May 6, 2013 at 1:24 PM
Subject: [ACFW_News] Genesis Semi-Finalists
To: ACFW members

We are excited to announce the 2013 Genesis semi-finalists. There are ten semi-finalists in each of the nine genre categories who will be moving on to the second round.

Rejection #2: Three hours after the ACFW semi-finalist email—and sixty days after I sent my first agent query—I received a gently worded email from Rachelle Gardner, literary agent, with the word “unfortunately” in the first line.  (I really, really appreciated her encouragement after that “un” word, though! Actually, I’m grateful that she gave me any kind of response!)

From: Rachelle Gardner
Date: Mon, May 6, 2013 at 4:19 PM
Subject: Re: Follow up to the OC Christian Writers Conference
To: Natalie Sharpston

Dear Natalie,

Thanks for much for following up! Unfortunately I won’t be able to pursue this right now, but I am impressed with your writing and want to encourage you to keep seeking out publication. People need to read your stuff!


Rachelle Gardner | Literary Agent | Books & Such Literary Agency

Because I had mentioned the ACFW contest in my query letter, I wonder if the agent waited for ACFW to vet my novel before she sent her email. I’ll file that thought away for next time. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to announce my contest entry intentions in my query letter!

The next day, I received a generic email to all ACFW contestants. Dang it but it included the word “failed.” Couldn’t they have used “didn’t score” or something soft and fluffy like that?

From: Syndi Powell
Date: Tue, May 7, 2013 at 12:13 PM
Subject: ACFW Genesis Contest

Dear Genesis contestant,

The coordinators of the contest want to thank you for your participation in this year’s Genesis contest. While your entry failed to score in the top ten, it is our sincere hope that you will find much of value in the comments of the judges who scored your entry.

Please be advised that you will receive your entries and score sheets in a week or so.

Thanks again and keep writing!

I wasn’t shocked when I did not see my name on the semi-finalists list, nor was I surprised at the content of the agent’s email. I had been praying that God would prepare my heart for whatever the outcome. Please, Lord, help me take it in stride. Help me not be too discouraged if I don’t make it. I have so much to learn. But wouldn’t it be crazy awesome if I actually made the cut on my first try? I allowed myself to hope.

I tried not to be disappointed, but I was. Tried not to feel like a failure, but I did. I thought I was handling it well, but I keep waking up at four in the morning every day that week, thinking about my future as a writer, wondering if I had wasted my time, what was I doing this all for anyway? Oh Lord, help.

Here’s how I’m celebrating my first failures:

So much more to learn…  I’m writing for the love of it. I’m writing for the lessons God is teaching me. He’s been doing some serious soul work inside me, and if someday I get to make an impact on others with my words, wow. In the meantime, He’s working on me.

So many more stories to develop… My first novel may never see the light of day, but I had to write it to be qualified to write the next one. I’m three chapters in to my second novel and loving it.

So many more adventures to have along the way… My husband told me that making the first cut would have been way too easy. And no fun at all. He’s right. I know he is. I’m not at the end of this journey.

I hesitated to post this because it’s humbling to admit failure. As a new writer, I’ve soaked up the experiences of other writers via their blogs. Their transparency as they’ve navigated failure and disappointment has been a huge encouragement to me. I hope my experience helps them, too.

Do you agree with this statement? “You know you’re a real writer when you’ve received your first rejection.”

How did you handle your first, second, third, or 83rd rejection?

Leave a comment


  1. I was actually quite proud to received my first rejection! Any time an editor or agent takes the time to send me a rejection I feel like I’ve crossed a rite of passage. 🙂

    • Thanks C.B.! It does feel like I’ve crossed through a portal into the world of “real” writer-hood. I’m expecting many more “no’s” before I get that much anticipated “yes” and am glad to have this first one behind me. 🙂

  2. I’m sorry to see your rejection letter, Natalie. It is never an easy thing to face. Remember that this is not a rejection of YOU as a person, simply that at this time, your work did not get accepted. Next time it might. I view publication as a numbers game. That is why we all send out our submissions in mass until we get a bite.

    Hang in there and keep on writing! 🙂

  3. Sorry about the rejections, Natalie. They are tough to get at first, but I have learned a lot from the ones I’ve received (which are many). I think only writers who are passionate about their work can really see past the rejections. I’m glad to know that you’re still in the running.

  4. I’ve taught beginning adult writing classes for more than a decade, and eventually all of the writers will sell and publish something if they stay with it. But along the way, when anyone gets a rejection, this is the procedure: We all sympathize and commiserate. Then the writer has 24 hours to mourn, drink, eat ice cream, howl at the moon, whatever works.
    After the 24 hours, the writer submits to the next place or person on the list.
    Our rule is you always create a full writing plan of multiple submission places or agents or publishers–you never build with a single stone.
    Feel the pain, but don’t feel sorry for yourself. Don’t give up.


Leave a Reply

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

You are commenting using your 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: