Livia Llewellyn is one smart lady

On Livia Llewellyn‘s blog she goes through her year end summary and then talks about rejections in exactly the same terms that I think about them.


I don’t keep stats for rejections. In fact, I have a shocking admission: I don’t even keep my rejections. Listen, I spent twenty years being rejected by THOUSANDS of casting directors. It’s not like I have a huge list of all the people who didn’t put me in their play or movie because of A, B, or C – I did my piece, was told “no”, and moved on without feeling the need to memorialize it or keep some kind of “souvenir” of my rejection. It should be the same principle for writing – at least for me, if no one else I know of.

If the agent or editor asks me to submit again in the future, I make a reference in a spreadsheet. I do keep track of where I send projects to and if/when they return, so I don’t send it to the same place twice (hey, I’m forgetful, it could happen). And if someone gives me good editorial advice, I take note of it. But keeping a box of actual rejection papers? I have a box labeled “Contracts”. I toss the rejections in the trash. I have no idea how many rejections I’ve received. It’s not relevant. Saying “I have ‘X’ total sales” is more important than saying “I have ‘X’ total rejections”. I know this attitude goes against everything most writers believe about rejections, but there it is.

I’ve kept a couple of good personal rejections, but more because the content is useful than for a scrapbook. I can tell you that I had five rejections before my first sale. I could add up all the places that stories have been, because I do keep track of that to avoid sending a story to the same place twice, but I don’t think it matters. Thank you, Livia, for saying it so well.

Did you know you can support Mary Robinette on Patreon!

3 Responses

  1. Aliette de Bodard

    I keep track of personal rejections and invites to sub again, so I know which editors are likely to take a better look at my stuff next time.

    I am totally in agreement with the policy of throwing rejections: they take up space and I remember what the non-form ones said anyway (I have a pretty good memory for that kind of thing).

    I do keep track of who rejected what so I don’t make a complete mess and re-sub.

  2. Evan Nichols

    You’re absolutely right.

    However, I keep rejections. I’m fond of things like checklists, spreadsheets, and statistics for tracking my progress (but self-publishing yields far fewer rejection letters!). For this sort of thing, though, I don’t believe there’s a right or wrong way of doing it.

    IMHO, there is no Magic Formula for Success as a Writer, but everything I’ve read on the topic seems to boil down to these three points:
    1. Keep writing.
    2. Keep submitting.
    3. Keep learning about the business and craft of writing.

    Which of the myriad tools, tips, tricks, suggestions, and how-to’s one uses are a matter of personal choice. Sure, lots of writers keep rejection letters, especially at the beginning of their writing careers. But if that doesn’t work for you, there’s not much point in doing it.

  3. Rick Novy

    If I get a hard copy rejection in the mail, I throw it into the file that hold my hard copy of the story. I never look at them, so I don’t know why I keep them other than I’m a packrat and keep a lot of stuff I don’t need. My spreadsheet holds all the real info I need about every story in submission and in print. I do confess to counting the rejections once, but that was only to throw some numbers at a new writer who was frustrated after her first rejection letter. Anyway, everybody finds a system that works for them.