Tag Archives: rejection

Repurposing Rejection

I have permission to repost here a wonderful article I read–you may want to check out hte newsletter writingworld and the author’s blog (listed at end of article0 for more tips on writing.

Reprinted with permission of Moira Allen and Isabella Akinseye from

     W R I T I N G   W O R L D

A World of Writing Information - For Writers Around the World


Issue 12:22         13,350 subscribers           November 15, 2012

FEATURE:  How to Repurpose Your Rejection


By Isabella E.C. Akinseye

‘Quitters never win and winners never quit.’ This rings true for

every writer who has ever faced a rejection letter. Even after

numerous publishing credits, one might still have that stubborn

piece that refuses to find a home after several rewrites and edits.

Rather than give up, sometimes a rejected piece just needs to be

repurposed to find its perfect fit.

Finding the Root Cause


While some articles only need to be tweaked and adjusted to make

the mark, others need to be given a totally new direction. But

before you go tearing your precious piece into shreds, take a

moment and reread the rejection letters. What are the editors

saying and, more importantly, not saying? An article may have the

perfect fit, but there might not be any room for it to be

published. Other times, the language and style used might not be

suitable for the intended audience. Has something similar been

published before or recently somewhere else? When no feedback is

provided, why not give the piece to members of your writers’ circle

to read and critique? This could be done anonymously, so they

remain as objective as possible. You should also allow some time to

pass so you can reread your work with fresh eyes. For a fee, you

can have your work professionally assessed by a number of reputable

literary agencies that charge reading fees or offer editing

packages. All these tips can help you get to the possible root of

the rejection. With new insight, you can then adapt your article

and resubmit. If all that still fails, then you should consider

doing the following:

Change Media


Words are not just meant to be read, they are also meant to be

heard. There is a huge market for audio material ranging from audio

books to spoken word poetry. Perhaps that poem of yours is better

performed as a rap. You could explore your new made-up words that

are hard to express in written form but are easily spoken.

I remember an exercise I once did on a writing course. It involved

descriptive writing: creating a setting and appealing to all five

senses. It did not have a real narrative. I forgot about it until I

was approached by a lady who worked with children who have had

problematic childhoods. She wanted to record some mental exercises

that would help them to relax, stir up their imagination and still

have fun. She already had material for us to record but I suggested

that we used my descriptive piece and infuse it with the exercises.

It worked and she loved it.

Change Genre


When it comes to stories, you can be flexible in the way you tell

them. The important thing is how you adapt them in order to attract

new markets. Your true-life story could be embellished and expanded

into a fictional story. You can even change the ending and let your

imagination run wild. Another example is to consider dramatising

the story. Perhaps your memorable Christmas experience would make a

punchy one act play. A self-help article could become animated

through the introduction of music, dance, costumes and special

effects through a short video. Always bear in mind that each new

genre poses its own pros and cons and this could affect the message

you are trying to pass across. Before you begin to consider

rewriting to fit a new genre, first nail down the essence or gist

of your piece and decide what you are willing to compromise on and

what you are not.

If your true life story includes other people playing major parts,

you have to be careful when fictionalising it, as merely changing

names and the setting might not be enough. In some instances, it is

advisable to get the permission of people who might or might not be

comfortable with the way you portray them. For the writer, this

presents a creative challenge to retain the essence of the

characters while finding a way to make the story more generic

without losing your unique treatment.

Change Audience


Sometimes, the barrier between you and a successful submission is

the wrong target audience. New and experienced writers must always

do their research, and this goes beyond reading submission

guidelines and sample material. It is also about following some

unwritten rules. Different markets in different countries have

their own stance on what is acceptable and appropriate for a

specific age range. It might be okay to talk about sex in Young

Adult novel for a more general market, while religious markets

might be totally against it.

Correctly Gauge the Readers’ Ability


When it comes to writing for children, the content is just as

important as the style and vocabulary used. A difference of one or

two years could mean the difference between preschool reading and

early years ‘school’ reading. Even if the story has the same appeal

to both groups, the comprehension levels are different and the

choice of words must match the reading level. In this case, it is

very helpful to go through similar books for a particular age range

and make notes on style, sentence construction, picture/text ratio

and subject matter.

Explore Multiple Audiences


It’s also possible that an article you wrote might have multiple

audiences, some less obvious than others. I wrote ‘How to Be a

Student Writer’ with a broad audience of writers in general in

mind. Yet after multiple submissions to more general markets, I

decided to adapt the piece as a literary workshop for students at

my alma mater. Here, I broadened my target audience to both

non-student and student writers. I realised that the article was

too basic and too specifically targeted to what might only be a

small minority of the readers of a general writing publication.

Another way to repurpose my rejected piece might be to submit to

student publications or rewrite it with a teacher audience in mind.

Prune the Extras


While I have discussed embellishing and expanding pieces in this

article, sometimes the opposite is required. Writers for younger

children have the hard job of making every word count. This

requires simplifying the story and sticking to only the parts that

actually drive the plot or concept further. For a nonfiction

self-help piece, you might be trying to advise on too many areas,

which could cause the reader to lose interest.

If narrowing your work down makes you struggle for words, it means

that you still need to do more research. Go beyond the traditional

media of books and consult audio-visual sources, websites,

magazines, films and newspapers, just to mention a few. But be

careful not to put too much emphasis on sources that have not

been/cannot be verified and those that have not stood the test of

time. It is better to use them for illustrative purposes or to show

another perspective. When it comes to the academia market,

Wikipedia does not cut it. You are better off scrolling down the

page and researching the sources cited in the article.



What happens when you have put all these tips into practice and

still have no success? You have to think out of the box and

innovate. This could mean identifying a gap in the market and

creating your own niche genre, or merely spinning the wheel in

another direction.  A problematic submission that you are

passionate about and believe in could force you to exploit new

media. It might mean assembling your target audience physically or

in cyberspace and then finding a unique way of sharing your

material. If you are able to sustain the momentum and generate

enough demand, you will not only be grinning to the bank but more

importantly, you will become a specialist in the field.

Keep It for a Rainy Day


A writing sample is helpful to a jobseeker. It is always good to

have them, even better when they are published. However, some

writing samples can have become dated and no longer be as relevant

as they were when they were written. I was once commissioned to be

a guest Arts editor in Arik Wings, the in-flight magazine of Arik

Air. I interviewed a film director as well as five authors and did

a review of Sade’s new album ‘Soldier of Love’. Only the interviews

made it, even though I was still paid for all three. I was later

told that some advertising had come in and my review had to be

sacrificed. So when it comes to markets in need of music reviews, I

now have a solid one in the kitty. In the future, it could also

serve as a reference point for a more general piece on Sade as a

group and its music.



If all else fails and you still want to get that rejected piece out

there, consider self-publishing. This can be done free on the

internet on a personal blog, Facebook or a website you run. You

could also invest your money and self-publish in print, audio,

audio-visual and e-book formats. You can go through reputable

self-publishing firms or do the work yourself or a hybrid of both.

This might be your best bet when it comes to personal stories such

as memoirs, biographies and family history, which are unlikely to

attract a publisher unless you are a celebrity or known public

figure or have done something extraordinary. The downside is that

it might cost you a lot of money and the only reward is the

satisfaction of sharing your story — but for some writers, this is


Never Give Up


In a writing life, rejections are as common as a cold. In the

newbie days, a lot of your learning (even after doing courses) will

be on the job and the most valuable lessons you will learn are

about getting up, dusting yourself off and soldiering on. But even

for the experienced writer, new markets pose new challenges and no

matter how far you have gone, you never get ‘there.’

A rejected piece forces a paradigm shift. It is about seeing

solutions and new ways of pushing your creative boundaries where

others see problems. So before you start a new writing project, why

not revisit your old work and get inspired as you make repurposing

your rejections one of your writing resolutions for 2013?


Isabella E.C. Akinseye is the Creative Director at Quill and Scroll

Creatives (http://www.quillscroll.com/), a creative writing,

editing and publishing firm based in Nigeria. She recently

graduated with a BA Education with English and Drama from the

University of Cambridge, where she wrote for The Cambridge Student,

became the editor of Aspire magazine and had her opinion piece

published in the international digital edition of the Times Higher

Education. Her work has appeared in True Love West Africa, Rivulet,

TW magazine, Exceed, Beyond Weddings, NEXT newspapers, Style House

Files and TIEC Group, among others. She co-runs the Bookaholic Blog

bookaholicblog.blogspot.com. She is currently working on her first


Copyright Isabella E.C. Akinseye 2012

This article may not be reprinted without the written permission of

the author. (Note from Joan–I obtained permission)

Find Isabella at www.quillscroll.com and bookaholicblog.blogspot.com




Somehow being turned down for a gig, either in a showcase or from my own solicitation

does not carry the same sting as a form letter rejection of a writing piece.


Even after 35 years of professional writing, (mostly non-fiction), my fiction and poetry, plays and creative non-fiction are rejected and it hurts. The sting to pride is great–they didn’t like me or the pen I rode in on. Logically, having been an editor myself at various points in time, I know that rejection does not always mean they do not :”like” you. A magazine or online source is not a friendship group. Sometimes a good piece is simply the wrong fit for the upcoming issues or for that publication entirely.


Non-congruent fits with the publication mean your (my ) research has been thorough. Wrong for upcoming issues or not quite right mean that you (I) have not hit the mark with that story , even tho it is the type of story that magazine uses.


But form letters still hurt. There is no escaping them. Editors cannot respond to the volume of manuscripts they receive using personal notes. SO, when we get a personal note as I did a few months ago from one of the magazines that I am targeting, it was a joyous rejection. Yep, she rejected my work, but said she could not wait to see the next piece. Unfortunately, earlier this week I received a form rejection of that next submission. Instead of stepping up, I took a step back on the rejection scale.




So, what to do? Cry? Withdraw? Sulk? Self-publish? No. I will wait a few days, and then give the story a cold hard look. Deep in my heart, I knew I was taking a chance on sending in this one because the protagonist is twelve years old. Even though I am aiming at an adult audience, I think most will view it as a YA.  Now I need to do another market search and see if I need to adjust the length to meet the needs of a YA market.


Rejection means revision to me. A wake-up call on where I market an item and a time to give my literary gem a bit more polish before sending it off on its way to an audience of readers.


So, to all those out there who fear rejection, I say–it’s a paper monster. When you get one, make it into an origami crane. Send the email ones back into cyberspace and go back to work. Work is the cure for rejection. Persistence, work, a stamp, work, an email and work.!


 Question: Wht would you think of Tuesday-Thrusday guest blogs? A lagniappe of sorts?