On one of my writer's lists, someone posted a question about how we handle rejection.
Many people say, "Oh, I write, but I never let anyone see it." That‚'s fine. We all write for personal reasons. Publication isn't every writer's goal.
Submission is a huge leap. Some people never recover from that first experience because they make the decision not to. They decide that their ego is too fragile, or that they have too delicate of an artistic temperament to withstand the criticism.
Some rejections I handle better than others. I submitted three stories to one anthology because I wasn't sure what approach they wanted to the theme- subtle or overt. They took one story and rejected the other two. I did the dance of joy for the acceptance and shrugged off the rejections. Then I put the rejected stories in the mail to other editors. (One has been placed already. The other made the first round of cuts and I expect news back soon.)
Some rejections I know I deserved. I knew the story wasn't ready, but the deadline was looming, so I sent it anyway. Looking back, I'm grateful those stories didn't see the light of day as they were. The editor saved my reputation. I'm trying not to humiliate myself like that any more.
I'll admit that a few rejections get under my skin. I have yet to figure out why I get so down about some while others hardly affect me. For the ones that I take hard, I set a deadline to mope. Three days of the blues about does it.
Now I'm particular about editors I'll submit to. Since I'm picky about who I'll work with, I submit less, but my acceptance rate is much higher. Part of that is that I'm submitting better stories, but it's also because of the editors I submit to. If the editor is published, I read their writing. I read their other anthologies. I do my homework and check reputations.
Many writers obsessively study rejection letters. We try to find deeper meaning in every word of what is basically a form letter so that we'll understand the true reason why our story didn't make the cut. It doesn't work any better than reading tea leaves. (Your story's got the GRIM!)
So here's my checklist:
Writing is art, publishing is a business. Was my cover letter artsy-fartsy, or was it a professional business letter?
Did I follow the guidelines exactly?
Was my story the best it could be?
Did I fit the theme? (this one can be subjective)
If I pass all of those, I figure that my story didn't grab the editor, it was too similar in plot or style to something they already accepted, or it simply wasn't meant to be. Notice that there's no place on that list for "They don't understand my art," or, "Those talentless bastard hacks," or, "It's a conspiracy by the elitist New York establishment." If that's the way you handle rejection, then you aren't ready to submit. But if you never submit, you'll never know the satisfaction of your first Yes. So set aside your inner diva, get a professional attitude, find the right market for the right story, take a deep breath, and let your story go.