Being a writer is hard business. You do most of the work alone. Whatever you’re writing about swirls around in your head all waking hours, interferes with your personal life and sometimes invades your dreams. You’re rarely satisfied with what you’ve originally written, spending exponential amounts of time above and beyond rewriting, deconstructing, rearranging, inserting, trimming (murdering adjectives/incinerating adverbs) — and agonizing. And when you think you’re done with a piece — all polished, spell-checked and formatted, you submit (and somewhere deep in the recesses of your mind this is done on bended knee and prayers to the literary deities).
What happens next, in almost all cases, is… rejection! Usually this is accomplished via the standard form letter/e-mail — “Thank you for your story. However we have not chosen to include your work in our magazine.” This sentence is often followed by, “Please understand, we receive ten g’zillion submissions each year and are unable to make specific comments on each piece. Good luck with your writing.” Kind of cold, but think about the poor editors. They probably do have to sort and read through ten g’zillion submissions, and if they took time to write a nice, personal note to each writer whose work they rejected they’d never have time to publish anything!
Now, If you happen to be lucky, you’ll get a bit of feedback. This is always good, even if the comments are negative, because you’re given some idea why your story didn’t work for them. This could be as simple as it wasn’t the right genre or word length, to as complex as the story wasn’t fully developed or was poorly structured. If it’s the former, do more homework before submitting. If it’s the latter (or something similar) reconsider your story in light of their criticism. After all, these editors know a thing or two about writing. If it takes some of the sting away, think of these criticisms as ‘post-it notes’: small reminders of what you need to do to become a better writer.
Most important of all, don’t get too discouraged. Getting a piece of writing rejected isn’t a failure. Nobody gave you an ‘F’ or a ‘D’. What the rejection means is, “We are returning your work because we believe you can do better with it.” Take the rejection as an opportunity to improve your craft: to do better research about where you’re sending your writing; and, to do a better job writing.
But more than all that keep writing, keep improving and keep submitting your work.