Rejection, Working through it.

funny-office-Tina-Fey-X-men1I’ve seen it hundreds of times, and guilty of it myself:

Bouts of severe depression after a rejection slip.

However, a few things come to mind:

  1. Don’t submit something that’s a first draft – EVER.
  2. Just because 1, 2, 3, 10 people reject it, doesn’t mean you should stop submitting.
  3. Every manuscript is rejected a few times before some place accepts it.
  4. Instead of expecting agents and editors to fight over who will accept it, expect rejection slips.
  5. Don’t stop the world to wait for these rejection letters – write through them.

With these ideas in your head, here’s some ideas on how to better cope with each item:

1. You wrote a book, a short story, a novelette, a giant piece of prose: congrats! Now, put it aside (see yesterday,) and work on something else. Let it brew, bake, grow, and sit for a bit. After it has time to ferment, go over it with a fine-toothed comb and make some rough editing passes. Once a rough-pass makes it more presentable, give it to a writing group, a critique group, or people who know how to edit (avoid friends and family since they will just say “This is nice…” without offering any criticism you can use to improve the story. If there aren’t any local writing groups, join some online Facebook, Google+, or Reddit writing groups if you happen to be introverted like me… it’s easier to not take anxiety medicine and face a large crowd of people from behind your washing machine than hiding behind a bookshelf in your library. Trust me on this one.

2. People expect “My story is different. Everyone will love it.” or “I’ll be the exception to the rule.” No. None of us are. Stephen King’s Carrie had over three dozen rejection letters before someone picked it up. The Diary of Anne Frank was repeatedly rejected. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was rejected dozens of times before she started giving it away to children, Ursula LeGuin’s first few books, George Orwell’s Animal Farm… most famously, Agatha Christie, yes, THAT Agatha Christie, had over 5 years worth of continuous rejection slips before someone took a chance and published her first book. Keep submitting, and while you’re waiting, keep writing more stories.

3. Playing off of the above paragraph, until someone becomes a “big-name” author, and even after then – unless there’s a contract signed for a book deal – every new manuscript must be shopped around by an agent. That means more rejection letters and more disappointment. I have more form letters in my email from agents and editors saying “Dear Mr. Tallant, We feel this manuscript is not something we have the capacity to sell at this time. Good luck in the future.” I’ve learned long ago to keep dancing, despite people throwing tomatoes.

4. No one is going to beat a path to your door. Even when/if you sell a million copies of a title, there isn’t guarantees of an author doing it again. The great writers of our time don’t have this happen except for a select few. Keep writing, keep learning, and for Dog’s sake – keep enjoying it. The moment this turns from Fun into a chore, is the day all “give a damn” goes out the window.. I’ve been there a few times myself. See the tomatoes line from above. That’s when I start throwing them back.

5. What I mean by “expect rejection slips” is this: When you submit a piece to an agent, submit to multiple agents at a time. And I don’t mean 3. I mean, literally – and I use this word LITERALLY: 50. This is known as the “Shotgun effect.” By sending out to as many as possible, you receive the largest amount of feedback you can. Most agents and editors will send back form letters. The “Dear Mr. Tallant, Your book is the most bizarre thing I’ve ever seen and thankfully you’re in another state since I believe you need your meds adjusted.” (Actual line from a rejection slip) will come in after a few months…but the ones that come in and say “Dear Mr. Tallant, Your book is well written, except I’m not sure how to begin selling an urban fantasy story about a war-torn criminal mastermind when the protagonist is a suicidal polydactyl feline.” (another real rejection slip.) See which one you can use? The constructive criticism one give me an idea on how to perfect the story for future use. By maximizing your possible outcome, you broaden your audience with agents alone. The second part of the line is “Writing through them.” Agents have other clients. They aren’t waiting for your golden ticket to appear in their inbox. Sometimes, it takes months, if not longer, to respond. Write something else. The sequel, a short story, a song, anything else.. just keep writing. Writing more will help you improve while increasing productivity and shows everyone that you want to write. Because what happens when an agent sends you a message saying “Hey, this is awesome! When is the next one going to be finished?” and you go….Crap.

Food for thought on this dreary December day…

-Chris

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