Monday, November 15, 2010

Rejection? Never heard of it...

It's such an ugly little word, isn't it? Rejection. Stamped on an envelope or written into email, etched into the heart of a jilted lover or littering your childhood memories. Rejection is a part of life that most of us would rather do without. Especially writers.

I read an article about rejection today and it brought up my experiences with the nasty little bugger. You know, poor little Seers of Light was more often shunned than not in the beginning. And this was just based on a query letter, a point which could have driven me mad, but I had to get used to this kind of thing pretty darn fast.

In the beginning, you have an idealistic viewpoint, a real naive belief that you'll query your dream agent/publisher and they will respond immediately with the very best news ever. Rejection? What is this? You buy that fresh Writer's Market handbook, highlight and underline and draw squares and circles around the perfect matches. You research e-submission guidelines with care, and then you send out your envelopes and packages, prep your email queries and hold you breath while hitting send. You sit back and wait for the magic to happen...

Then you get kicked in the gut... repeatedly and with great indifference.

"I'm sorry, but, this is just not what we're looking for right now."

"Your story does not meet our needs at this time."

"Your book wouldn't be a good match for our agency."

"Though your story sounds fascinating, it would not be a good fit for our company."

And so on, and so forth.

And we take it so personally, don't we? At least at first. But, if you're smart and serious about this writing gig, then on and on and on you go, improving, digging up new agents, resubmitting, swimming in rejections all the while trying to somehow resist the urge to erase every single page of everything you have every written in a dramatic scene that involves a baseball bat, a computer and a drop from a second story window.

Okay, maybe not so overboard as that, but you get my drift. How do you field mounds of rejections and still keep your spirits, your love of writing and your dreams alive? Truthfully, part of what saves you is a thick skin, and you will develop it in time. In fact, if you are truly serious about a writing career, a thick skin is a must. But I don't want that to cause you to shut your heart off in the mean time. Your heart is what makes your writing worthwhile, so don't build an iron gate around the very thing that will really sell your work in the end.

I still have to repel rejection, you know. I have a few books published, but there are plenty of people out there who have never read my novels, who would dislike them based upon marketed genre alone. Actually, now that I've got The Light Series kicking, I'm in the market for an agent, myself, so I'm sure I'll run into good old Mr. R. Ejection again.

It's not so horrible, really, to be turned down sometimes. That process callouses your ego early enough to strengthen your resolve and remind you of what's important. It also results in needed improvements that you wouldn't necessarily be aware of without said rejections. I'll offer you an example. The very best advice I ever received came as a result of an agent who actually critiqued the first few chapters of Seers before rejecting it. Said agent told me that if I tightened up my dialogue, I'd have a first rate manuscript. This advice was the spoonful of sugar that helped the rejection go down, and it really did teach me an important lesson. It also added to my belief that everything is for a reason. Every step is needed, every interaction precious.

The second best advice I've gotten was the following, and it came from an author: The difference between those who succeed and those who fail is simple. Persistence. Stubbornness. Relentless hope. This's not an easy road for anyone. The vast majority of us who actually find a publisher have thoroughly worked our nooks and crannies of possibility, have made contacts and gotten our work into the hands of someone who cares to give it a chance. It's not just about submitting and waiting. It's about keeping your eyes opened, and more importantly, your MINDS opened, because you never know which dock your ship will crash into. I'm sure lucky the stars aligned in the right place with the right people. And I'm glad I took a brave step and went with an indie publisher. This has given me a huge appreciation for writing itself, and it's taught me more about marketing than I ever thought I'd know! I'm also glad I didn't toss out my manuscript with the first rejection letter.

No, I wasn't going down so easily. I knew in my heart that I wanted Seers in print more than anything else in the world, and I wasn't taking no for an answer. If you believe in your own story this much, don't you give up, either. Work it and improve it and perfect it and grow with the process, and enjoy every day for the gifts it brings. Rejections included.

So, what about your experiences? Are you drowning in frustration? Let it out. I'll sing you a song and feed you cookies and we'll keep on trucking down the road together. Tell me all about it.


Jennifer Lane said...

Hi Jen. I had many, many rejections in my psychology training, from getting into grad school to securing an internship to landing a job. And I think I took just about every rejection personally, as much as I wish I didn't. I haven't faced as much rejection with writing simply because I haven't been doing it very long, and I was lucky to find Omnific Publishing, a good fit for my manuscript. I definitely agree that perseverence is the key to handling all those rejections, to keep trucking despite the disappointment. But it's extremely challenging to acknowledge all the factors outside your control, and to maintain a "stiff upper lip"!

Anonymous said...

How long did it take you from starting Seers to having it in print? I remember how excited you were.
I have a story I wrote in three months, I find the text too simple but that is how I wrote it and I am unsure of how to change it. I have played with it for a year because I have no idea what to do next. Can you give me some direction. I have never written anything before; I am sixty three so need to get moving with it. LOL

Jen said...

Jen, that is the toughest part, by far, to maintain your will to continue when you're being pelted by no after no. But, again, it's part of fighting for what you love, you know? Whatever it is that fills you with happiness and makes you feel wonderful to bursting, that will carry you through a lifetime of fulfillment if you nurture it and never give up on it, you know?

I struggle with keeping the faith and hope, too, when things get hard and it's tough to see the light at the end of the tunnel. And you know, something as simple as listening to inspiring, uplifting music can reinvigorate you. (I also have a strong spiritual belief system that involves purpose and destiny and all that good stuff, but that's not for everyone, I know.)

If you've made it this far, you're meant to go further. Good to see your face on my blog, darlin!

Also Jen

angel said...

hey girl,
Im in the middle of this process. it is HORRIBLE! but im pushing through. I love critique of any kind and finally found a group of support that has helped. I did my research and my query and i KNEW it was rough...but i had little choice but to throw it out there. happily I found some support that really helped me with the query and first pages etc...

so i feel your pain. literally. but i suck it up and keep diving in.

thanks for the words of wisdom.


Jen said...

Amoco, you ROCK! I'm so excited for you, taking on this adventure. Okay, so in answer to your questions, from the time I finished writing Seers to the time someone accepted it for publication, it took me about a year and some months.

With regards to how you go about the process of trying to get published, after I finished writing Seers, I began researching how to submit and who to submit to. There are a few points you need to have down before you try to submit a query (or a pimp your manuscript letter) to agents or publishers, mainly how to write a proper query letter and synopsis, both of which are vital tools in the process. Make sure, of course, that your manuscript is as polished as you can possibly get it. Then you'll need to research who accepts the genre of novel you have written (start with the newest version of The Writer's Market Handbook from your local book store), and once you've compiled that list of agents and publishers, you will have to follow their guidelines about how to query and what they require when you do. (Some you can query online, some via snail mail. Some want a synopsis with your query letter, some want a synopsis and first three chapters, etc. etc. It differs from one company to the next.)

That's where you start. You can also feel free to ask me anything you like. I'm happy to answer. :) The internet is chalk full of guidelines and forums and aids for writers, as well, so you're not alone!


Jen said...

Anna, critique groups who are going through what you're going through are brilliant ideas and I'd highly recommend them to anyone beginning this process!

Good luck with your writing, dearie. I hope all your best dreams come true!


KarenG said...

Love this post, Jen, especially the part about the cookies LOL. It reminded me of the line from Back to the Future, where Marty tells his *dad* "Hey, this is really good, you should get this published." And *dad* says, "Oh, no, I couldn't take that kind of rejection." Ha! You're so right about the persistence, with a thick skin thrown in.

Jen said...

Karen, cookies really do help. :) LOL. Any your comment brings up a good point. We really are experts in taking rejection, aren't we? Writers are probably some of the most sensitive souls out there, and yet we venture into the very line of work that would torture us most. Of course, the work is also unthinkably rewarding, so, it balances out.

Theoretically, an author should reasonably be able to take on the world after so much, eh? :)

Tracitalynne said...

I went to art school, where a big part of the curriculum is how to give and how to receive criticism. It's tough, for sure, but so, so valuable. Other people can see your work from a new viewpoint, and see things you never did, and never would have. There comes a point (when you go through 3-6 critiques a semester for 4 years!) when you welcome the criticism, you can accept rejection without letting it reflect on you, the person. My senior year, my so, so respected and amazing professor basically tore me a new one for An Hour. Literally. I watched the clock. And the rest of the class just sat there in shock. At the end, one woman came up to me and said, "I can't believe you didn't cry." and I said, "He wouldn't have spent the time to do that, to think of all the ways in which I failed, if he didn't believe I could do better." Sometimes it's just you who has to know you can do better. You have to get to know yourself and know that you are good. Good, even, with a capitol G.

Excellent post, Jen. Inspire people to put themselves out there! xoxo