Don't forget - today is the today your 100 word entries are due! Don't miss the chance to get feedback from published authors Roseanna M. White and Christa Banister. Not sure what I'm talking about? Click here for details about the current Go Teen Writers' writing contest.
When I asked the Go Teen Writer's Facebook group about writing fears of theirs, one of the prominent ones was "rejection." Rejection from publishing houses, even though they've worked so hard to make their novel strong.
Rejection is part of the writing life. Really, it's just part of LIFE. But since writing is a choice we make, when the rejection (or the fear of rejection) grows intense and strong, it's easy to think, "Why am I even doing this?!
This is normal. All writers go through it. Even those writers you love and admire.
Since the majority of those in the Go Teen Writer community are unpublished, I'll focus on dealing with rejection then.
First, I encourage you to accept rejection is part of this path. The rejections you get from agents and editors, consider those preparation for mean-spirited Amazon reviews or bloggers who bash books for sport. Or for the really tough ones - the ones that offer criticism that you maybe, sorta, if-you're-being-100% honest agree with.
When rejection comes - especially when you're just starting out - it's completely normal that you feel like the victim of a drive-by shooting. The first time I queried literary agents, I lived in an apartment by myself. It's not too far from where I live now, and when I drive by there I always think about standing in the little mail room, ripping open the responses. Trying to race back to my apartment before I burst into tears.
In the beginning, I put a lot of pressure on myself to take rejection like a pro. To not let it bother me. Don't do that. It's okay to cry and be upset. Thick skin takes time to build and even now I'm not so sure how thick mine is.
I started querying agents in 2001/2002. Most agents still preferred snail mail to email, and social networking didn't exist. (Groan- I'm old!) So this isn't something I struggled with when I was in the early stages of my career, but do not, whatever you do, write a nasty blog post about who rejected you or vent about it on Facebook. It's a bad, bad, bad idea. I hear rumors that one of the first things an agent or editor does after they decide they like your book is they Google you. You do not want to be caught writing something nasty like that.
Instead, have a friend you can call when you hear bad news. They don't have to be a writer, they just need to "get it." Roseanna is the person I make those kinds of phone calls to, and I'm the one she calls too. We've never discussed this, but we both have an understanding that in that initial conversation, WE are not the problem, nor is our book. THEY have the problem. THEY are short sighted. THEY just passed up a huge opportunity.
After whichever of us was rejected as cooled off a bit, then we might allow that maybe - just maybe - the person was right about this particular thing they said. But only that! The rest is hogwash! Oh, well, they did make kind of a good point when they said such-and-such ... and how could we incorporate this suggestion of their's into the manuscript, because that's really not a bad idea. In fact, hadn't we already decided that this character was a bit flat..?
Those conversations are the best. I encourage you to build that kind of relationship with someone.
So if you can't blast them on the internet, how should you respond when you get a rejection letter from an agent or editor? You write them a thank you note.
On real paper, with a real stamp, and all that good stuff. You tell them thank you for taking the time to look at your submission, thank you for the feedback (if they provided any), and you stick it in the mail within a day of the initial rejection.
This won't change their mind, of course, but it does take away the power the rejection has over you. I don't know what the science is behind that statement, but when I write my "Thanks for that great rejection!" notes, it feels like closure. I can breathe better after I drop it in the box.
Of course your rejection might be coming from a contest rather than an agent/editor. Back in 2008, I entered the first chapter of Me, Just Different in ACFW's Genesis contest. I'm sure I've mentioned this on here before, how I entered "knowing" the chapter would final. Uh, no. It did not. My judges were kind, but they were also honest. The biggest complaint was they hated Skylar. (Had I been on the phone with Roseanna, I would have said to her, "That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard! You're supposed to! What's the point of a reinvention if she doesn't need to be reinvented?!?")
But they were right-on with their criticism, and without it, I wouldn't have done my rewrite, and Me, Just Different never would have been published. I can see that now, but at the time, all I felt was the rejection.
This isn't to say that everything you read in a rejection letter is going to be good advice. I also had someone suggest to me that instead of dating, Skylar and Connor should become prayer partners. Maybe another writer could pull that kind of ending off, but not me.
And something to remember as you wrestle with rejection is agents, editors, contest judges, etc. are not rejecting you, just your book. I know how personal your projects feel because mine feel the same way. It's important to regularly remind yourself that they aren't calling you a self-absorbed brat, just your character.
When you get a rejection, or a particularly harsh critique from your writing group, don't be afraid to step back, and indulge in something that recharges you. For me, it's cooking something fun (read: time-consuming and messy) and having a movie night with my husband. What about you?