It's apple picking time in many areas of our country. When I look at this basket of apples, I have visions of apple pie, apple cobbler, apple cake, applesauce, apple dumplings (my husband's fave) or just the goodness of a fresh, raw apple.
In our writing world, we can compare our submissions to the basket of apples. We send our precious words to editors with the aim of being published. Our hopes are high but we are realistic enough to confirm the thought that chances of being rejected are higher than of being accepted. We fill our apple basket with work that has been published and we toss those worm-eaten apples, our rejections, into the trash. Usually in disgust.
Don't trash the rejections. Like the not-so-good apple, we can salvage something. We cut away the bad part of the apple and use the rest. Why not cut away the bad part of the rejected piece and use what is left? Take the remainder and build upon it to make it a better piece of writing.
Take a good hard look at the rejected submission. I would suggest doing this a few days after getting the bad news. The same day you have emotions spinning through that wouldn't allow you to look as objectively as you can later. If you are lucky, the editor sent a note with the rejection saying why they did not accept it. But that happens only occasionally. If you get a note from an editor, pat yourself on the back. It means they did like something about your writing and perhaps they hope you'll submit again to them. Any editorial comment is encouraging.
Mark the areas that are of importance to the piece in one color. Choose a different color to mark the places that could be cut--maybe redundancies, rambling away from the topic, poor grammar, boring dialogue--whatever it might be. Go line by line to check relevance. Essay writers sometimes forget to include that all-important 'universal truth' which is most important in essay writing. The fiction writer might have left out information the reader should have. There are any number of things that can either be omitted, changed, or expanded upon.
When you go apple-picking this fall, or buy them at a roadside market or the local grocery store, think about those rejections. When you peel and slice apples for a pie, consider those rejected pieces in your files, the ones you kept. Take that first bite of a warm apple cobbler and remember that you're going to work on those rejected treasures of yours.