Rejuvenating Rejections

By Kate Carroll

As writers, don’t we all strive to put our best work out there in hopes of it someday flying off bookshelves everywhere?

So, it’s a hit to the gut when a rejection appears in our inbox. After days, weeks, months, and maybe even years, a sterile rejection is all we have for our hard work.  Maybe we get lucky and get great news.  But maybe not. We may find a few words in the letter to soothe our bruised egos. But maybe not.                                                                                     

Now what?

One thing I’ve learned on my writing journey is that sometimes I need to find a different way to tell the same story. Not earth-shattering news for many of you, I know.  But it can be overwhelming when staring at a rejection without a plan. Let’s face it, our creative work is personal, and it is hard to look at a rejection through a different lens.

I finally learned that if I apply a “system” to reworking a rejection, I often come up with fresh eyes, new ideas and a better manuscript. Hard to believe that could even happen – I thought it was perfect already! LOL. Humility helps, too.

With each story, I apply changes to see if I can create the “wow” factor to woo the next agent or editor who will evaluate my work.

Here are a few things to try with a rejected picture book manuscript before you dump it into a drawer.

1.   Decide if you should rewrite it in a different person or tense. Sometimes changing from third to first person or past to present tense can open up your character to new imaginings that you missed before. This work sounded overwhelming to me when a critique specialist suggested it, but now, it’s one of my top “go-tos” when attempting to get more movement out of a piece.

2.   Go back to basics! Take some time to read successful authors again.  Study what they did. Remind yourself of the basic picture book formats and the elements of story. Do you think you nailed character, setting, motivation, theme, etc.?  Is your book fitting into the genre easily, or is it forced? How about word count? Read books on craft, follow blogs and take advantage of the many virtual events that can help raise your writing up. Did I mention go back to basics? 

3.   If you wrote your story in rhyme, try it in prose or vice versa. Is your rhyme, meter and rhythm spot on? Competition is stiff, so don’t scrimp on the time that it takes to perfect your manuscript.



4.   What can you do to make your manuscript stand alone? I recently had a rejection from an editor “who wanted something more interrupting to happen.” What exactly did that mean? After fooling around with it, I took it to my critique partners, and they had a wealth of ideas. NEVER underestimate the importance of a great and trusted critique group! 

5.  Don’t forget to consider curriculum standards in a revision. Is there a way to introduce them into your story? Finding a way to tie in concepts of geography, sight words or science into your story gives it another layer. And just like a cake – the more layers the better!

6.  Back matter matters. Adding an author’s note, an activity, a recipe or any pertinent information enhances the power of your piece. It gives your work authority.


Perhaps these ideas are repetitious. But when the rejection letters pile up, it often takes a little encouragement to get back in the game. We can’t apply bandages to our writing wounds, but we can bravely adopt a “never give up” attitude and get back on to revising the next best thing.              

Good luck on your rewrites!