Living With Rejection
By Bob Saenz
When new screenwriters are in their honeymoon period, that time when all is unicorns and rainbows and they’re sure their first script in its first draft is going to bought by their choice of studio, the specter of rejection is the last thing on their mind. Their script is just TOO good to be anything but snapped up in a bidding war.
Then… reality steps in. For some it’s quick. For others, they fight it. Then, there’s anger, hurt, depression. Some with just quit. Why? Rejection. They don’t understand. It’s not fair.
Well, first off, it’s absolutely fair. Producers and Reps have every right in the world to pick and choose which scripts and writers they will get behind. It’s about what their needs are and what they like. It’s about the quality of the writing and the quality of the story and what they’re looking for at the time.
The one thing writers need to understand is that rejection isn’t personal at all. It’s not about you as a human being. They don’t know you personally. They don’t want to know you personally… unless you have something they want. Rejection is purely about the words on that page. The story and how you wrote it. They’re not looking to hurt you. It’s a business decision. I know this a hard pill, but you need to not take it personally. Otherwise, you’ll quit after your first dozen rejections. Honest. I’ve gotten hundreds of rejections over the 25+ years I’ve been doing this. If I took them personally, I’d be working at Home Depot now instead of writing.
The vast majority of your queries and reads will end in rejection. 99% of requested scripts are rejected. 95% of queries are rejected. New writers get rejected all the time, but so do experienced professional writers. Every day. I’ve got 17 produced films, I’ve sold 3 other film scripts not made yet, and a pilot, and get hired to do writing for hire on a semi-regular basis, and my work gets soundly rejected on a completely regular basis. Same with every other professional writer you know about. And the ones you don’t know about, too. It’s the one thing we all have in common. Brand new to Pro.
The one thing we don’t have in common is how we react to that rejection. Rejection is something to learn from, not to ruin your love for writing. It’s ok to get upset because you’re let down. Expectations will always be high no matter how you try to tamp them down and the disappointment from rejection is real. But it’s also something that occurs daily for most every writer waiting to hear about their projects.
You can let it get in the way of your goals and get upset for a few minutes, that’s understandable. Then you just let it go. I know it’s tough, but true. It’s a rejection. This is an undisputed fact. Once someone has rejected your script it’s over. There’s no arguing. There’s no talking them out of it. It’s a done deal. You. Can’t. Change. That. Outcome. And please… please… don’t contact the people who rejected you and ask them why. It’s a waste of your time and they hate it and they remember who took the rejections well and the writers who didn’t. The ones who took them well went away until they had something new to query.
Remember this too. No matter what they say in a rejection email, no matter how complimentary they can be, it’s still a NO. It’s always a Pass unless they say Yes. And if you don’t hear? If they ghost you? After a couple of months, it’s a Pass. You let that go, too. You don’t bug them no matter how much you want to.
You got a rejection. So, then what DO you do? Take stock of yourself. Are you still breathing? Yep. Will you still wake up tomorrow? Probably. Are you the same person you were before they said “No”? Yep. It’s certainly not the end of you or the world. One person said, “I can’t use your script.” That only leaves you with 100,000 or so people to go.
Here’s the deal. You only need ONE person to say “Yes”. One person to read your work and realize “Hey, I can make money on this.” or “This writer can make me money.” Remember what I said about it being a business?
You can mitigate your rejections by never sending out a script before it’s actually ready to be seen. Something that most new writers fail to do. By having it be a good story told well. By querying it the right people. By not sending your horror script to a producer of Hallmark Christmas films. By targeting your queries. By writing a short sweet query they can read in 25 seconds or less.
The one thing you can’t do? Stop them. They will come. Sometimes fast and furiously. Just shake it off, put your head down, learn from it, and plow forward. Keep writing. Keep improving your craft. Work hard. Write hard. Market hard. Keep networking.
Trust me. It’s worth it when you get that first “Yes”. And you can’t get one of those if you give up because you got rejected too many times.
You can follow me on Twitter @bobsnz