Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Rejection. Is there a word that writers hate more? It seems to be the part of the writing life that we all dread, and yet we all have to face it.

If you want to be successful as a writer, you have to submit your work to editors and agents. These are people who get far more material than they can possibly use. Yet they have to weed through it all to find what they need or want.

Intellectually we understand this concept. Yet it is truly painful when we get rejected. We know that they are rejecting our work, and not us, but in many ways our work is us. Our stories and characters are our offspring, born of our hearts and souls. So how do we learn to accept the negatives without losing our way?

There are lots of types of rejections, of course. There are the form letters, sometimes not even well copied, that get stuck in the package and sent back almost immediately. This usually means that the story didn't grab them by the end of the first page and didn't read any further.

Then, you have the jotted notes on the manuscript itself, which means someone at least saw the item, if not read it all. And sometimes these can be constructive criticism, ideas that can help with future submissions.

The best rejections are those which request changes or another manuscript to be considered. When you get those, you know that you are getting close, and that publication may be near.

We have to look beyond the rejection at why it was rejected and focus on that. It could be that it just landed on an editor's desk on the wrong day, but it could be that there just wasn't enough of an opening hook. So we just continue to work out the bugs in our manuscripts and submit somewhere else. Or we may have another story to tell. If you can view each rejection as a learning experience, you are that much closer to seeing your name on the cover.

As writers, most of us go through all of these types of rejections. We just have to keep writing, keep submitting, and keep improving. In time, we can all succeed in attaining our dreams. Those who allow these rejections to stop them will never make it. But those of us who keep going have a potential for success beyond our dreams. Well, maybe not beyond our dreams. After all, we are writers. Who can dream better than us?


Carla Swafford said...

You got it right, girl. In a black folder on my desk I keep all my rejections. This is more to encourage me to keep trying. Deep inside I want to prove to these editors and agents that they made a mistake by passing me up. Even if the writing read like crap and my stories were filled with clich├ęs. **grin**

Considering the tons of rejections that Stephen King, Louis L'Amour, Sherrilyn Kenyon and many other wonderful authors received, I can handle as many as it will take to have one editor or agent to say, "I love it!"

Angel said...

I tend to view rejections in the same way as criticism from critique partners and contests. You have to look at the reasoning behind it, go away for a few days, then look at it again. Does it make sense to you? Does it resonate within your writing spirit-kind of an AHA, even though I don't want to believe it? Or does your mind reject it for logical reasons-it just doesn't work for your plot or voice, etc.?

This makes it easier to dismiss those form letters, though they still sting. And turns the more helpful ones into another step towards a better product.

But only after a few days of whining and fuming. :)

Deborah Matthews said...

And it doesn't matter how many books you've sold, you still face rejection. Unfortunately, rejection is a fact of life for a writer. We just have to act like a duck and let it roll off your back. That's not to say not to pay attention to any advice offered.

It is frustrating to receive a form rejection, but understandable with all the manuscripts editors and agents receive. It's all a matter of luck. Having the right ms. on the right editor's desk at the right time. That's why networking, such as RWA, can be helpful. You can learn what an editor is looking for.

Christy said...

Which came first - Rejection or Chocolate? Or was chocolate invented because of rejection or was rejection...Well, you get my drift.

I also have a thick folder of rejections. The first ones -- years ago -- made me cry. What! How could they reject my baby?

Now, though there's still a sting, I'm much more philosophical. Yes, I still pout, moan and sometimes even a sniffle will escape. But after my chocolate feast and requiste queasiness -- I move on.

Rejection is just a part of our job. Doesn't make it any more pleasant but we're in a whole heap of good company. So let the good times roll.

And if it takes a thousand rejections to get to that one Yes. Well, doggone it, I'm going to be standing in line, waving my hand, clutching my 999 rejections and screaming, "Here I am!"

Paula said...

One of my (extremely) guilty pleasures is watching American Idol. It's mostly dreck, but there are interesting lessons to be learned about following your dream.

In the early stages, when the judges have selected a final 32 or whatever number of finalists, the finalists have to go before the panel to be told whether or not they'll be among the ones who'll move on to the voting rounds.

This year, there was a pretty, talented young woman in her twenties who told the judges, when they told her she wasn't moving on, "My career is over." All three judges had the same reaction: "You're twenty-six and talented--how can you say your career is over?"

I think that every time I hear a writer say, after a rejection, "I'm thinking about giving up writing."

Especially early in your writing career, you tend to put colossal importance on every single rejection, as if this is the one that's going to make you shut down your computer and find another dream.

Sometimes, that's exactly what happens. Writers, tired of rejection, set it aside and do something else. And you know what? Good. If they really CAN set it aside and do something else, I'm not sure they would ever have had what it takes to be a published writer.

It's a cruel, harsh and competitive business. You have to believe in your talent, be willing to work long and hard, and be willing to pick yourself up and dust yourself off when you're slammed with rejections. It's the only way you'll ever make it to publication.

Look at rejections as opportunities, especially the ones where editors give you personal feedback. Advice from an editor is gold. Get as much out of it as you can. Learn from it, use it to make your writing better. And then use it as a stepping stone to take you that much closer to your goal of being published.