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Saturday, June 30, 2012

The 5 Stages of Rejection Grief


All writers go through it. Yet not all writers recognize there is a real grieving process when we receive those rejections. I didn’t realize it myself until one really tough rejection that knocked me so hard it had me reeling through the 5 stages of grief.

It started when my writing mentor told me to scrap my 50,000 word WIP and start over. I was shocked. Sure, I knew my WIP needed help, but to trash six months of writing. She had to be mistaken. I slipped quickly into denial. Maybe a better term for that news was "shock and awe" because I was paralyzed for an entire weekend. I couldn't think, let alone apply any of the great teaching my mentor gave me to my current WIP which was technically dead to me at the moment.

After the anxiety of the weekend wore off, I went through a mixture of anger, bargaining, and depression. I don't remember the anger stage being strong, but the depression was incapacitating at times! I couldn't write or even read. What was the point! My story was dead, and I wasn't about to try and read someone else's story while I was grieving.

Then came the bargaining. Maybe, just maybe I could salvage the WIP. So I tried writing my historical romance in first person. I only got 113 words written before depression set in again, and I realized it was useless. If I turned my WIP into women's fiction as my mentor suggested, it would be a totally different story with a different feel and plot. Which was okay, but something I didn't have the energy to do. After all, I was still grieving.

So I started revisiting an old idea, close to my heart that I'd been afraid to write. First, I reread the seven pages, the only pages I'd written. My heart stirred. I felt new life coming back into my soul. So I read it again, and edited just a few lines and added a few more. Could I do this? I wasn’t sure, but I knew I needed some encouragement so I sent it out to some trustworthy friends. They confirmed I should be working on the story. And I did, but not before I allowed myself to grieve the lost of a WIP.

Rejection is not easy, but sooner or later if you’re a serious writer and put your stuff out there, you will experience rejection. The key to surviving it without taking down those around you is to recognize that a writing rejection requires a grieving process and each person needs to feel it and deal with it in their own time. But also know the only way to get past it is to sit back down and write. 

No matter how long it takes.

Gina Conroy, a.k.a. "the other Gina," is a monthly contributor to Novel Rocket. She's the founder of Writer...Interrupted and is still learning how to balance a career with raising a family. She is represented by Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary, and her first novella, Buried Deception, in the Cherry Blossom Capers Collection, released from Barbour Publishing in January 2012 with her second novel Digging Up Death recently contracted with Stonehouse Ink.


  1. You just described what I felt a couple weeks ago. I never thought of it as rejection grief, but that is definItely what it feels like. Thank you.

    1. I didn't realize it myself until this day! But it's so obvious now that we need to let ourselves grieve!

  2. I remember 1/2 through writing my first WIP I read how many authors shelve their 1st. I was confident that wouldn't happen to did, lol. It took some time to get over and writing the next WIP certainly helped. I'm still proud of what I learned while writing that first WIP, but of course it was mostly what not to do. Thanks for proving we are not alone.

    1. You're welcome,S.J.! I think writers are more alike then they realize! Yes, it's nice to know we're not alone!


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