I am really excited to continue our 1 question interview series on Go Teen Writers! We debuted it in June with a question about the difficulties of the writing life and heard from some amazing authors. This month's question that we asked was:
How do you handle all the rejection involved in this business?
You have to develop a thick skin when you're a writer, or life is very, very challenging. If you can't survive critiques, you won't be able to get better. If you can't survive rejection from publishing houses, you're likely to quit before you ever really try every avenue to sell. And If you can't survive readers who don't like your work once it's out, you're likely to avoid writing another book. So keep your head on straight, eyes on your next goal, shake off the bad stuff, embrace the constructive criticism and MOVE FORWARD.
From Stephanie Grace Whitson:
By remembering that the business is ultimately in control of my heavenly Father, who loves me and who promises to work out all things for my good. That is a simple answer. Living by is not easy. Don't confuse "simple" with "easy."
From Hannah Alexander:
It took fourteen years for me to receive an acceptance letter. I had drawers full of rejection letters, and every time I received another one I told myself I was closer than ever to what I wanted. Very few people ever write without receiving rejection letters. What they do with those rejections is their choice. They can toss them away, or they can glean anything helpful from them and try hard to improve.
From Vickie McDonough:
A rejection is always difficult and disappointing. You have so much time invested in your book, as well as hopes and dreams. When I get a rejection, I sometimes shed a tear or two and mope around for a few days--eat some chocolate--but then I pick myself up and polish off the same synopsis and send it to another publisher.
I'm a Christian, and I fully believe that my career is in God's hands. That He has a time for each of my books to be published--and specific people He wants to reach with each story. If one book is rejected, I believe that it's not God's timing for that story. The main thing is, you can't let rejections get you down and make you quit writing. Rejections are a part of a writer's life. They make us want to work harder, be more creative, and to master the skill of writing better. When you get a rejection, you have a choice to wallow in your despair or to set it aside and move on. I say move on.
From Shannon Dittemore:
I'm not sure there is one way to handle it, but it's important that you have a coping mechanism in place because there will be rejection. They’re not rejecting you. You know that, right? They're rejecting something they don’t think they can sell. Take their feedback and chew on it, but don’t stew. Move on. Work on your craft, keep writing, and keep an eye open for someone who thinks they can sell what you do.
From Donita K. Paul:
Rejections from publishing houses used to bother me, but not as much now. When a publisher sends my book back, it does not mean that my writing is bad, it just means that they do not have a place for that piece of work at that time.
Reviews can be a type of rejection, too. I usually listen to moderate reviews (3 or 4 stars) because sometimes they have good points, and I know I have things I need to work on.
Harsh critics used to upset me a whole lot, but I have found that really nasty reviews (1 stars or “I only gave this a one star because there is no zero star to choose) are one of three things. One issue can be the reviewer hates Christians. This does not bother me because they have a problem with God, not me. The second type of unfavorable review is from a wannabe writer who is frustrated because they have not been published, and so they pick on people who are. I understand that because I’ve been in that position. But scorching another’s work is not profitable to anyone. I go by the old adage if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. The third type are people who need to sound like they are authorities. Writing a negative comment in highfalutin language helps them build their own ego, but it is not really about my work.
From R.J. Larson:
Seriously, rejections are part of the business because publishing IS a business. My husband and his sister are editors, so I know firsthand that editors each have specific tasks and timetables established by their particular publisher-employer. In addition, each publisher caters to specific audiences, and they publish predetermined numbers of books each year for those audiences. An editor might truly enjoy your paranormal steampunk romance, or your sci-fi take on Shakespeare, but if they've already filled those two categories in their schedules for the next three years, then they're forced to reject your manuscript.
Your best defense, besides chocolate, is a thick skin. Rejections are part of every author's life, even after they're published. Resolve to learn from each rejection. Take advice from professionals. Polish your work. Study your craft, develop your unique voice, network with other writers, and be ready to shine when an opportunity appears.
From Steve Rzasa:
Fortunately I haven't had to deal with much rejection. When I completed my manuscript for Commissioned -- which Marcher Lord Press acquired in 2009 and split into two novels, The Word Reclaimed and The Word Unleashed -- I sent it to several literary agents and publishers. I think the total was ten or so. All turned it down. The rejections were kind of a downer, but I did my best to leave things in God's hands and not dwell on disappointment.
From Anne Elisabeth Stengl:
Um . . . not well.
Okay, that's not entirely true! But I will say that the hurts and frustrations of the writing world are a lot harder to take than I ever imagined before taking the plunge. Every time a bad review falls under my eye (I try to avoid reading reviews as a rule, but curiosity killed the crazy-cat-lady, and I do ended up seeing them now and then), I am devastated. When a writer puts all that work and care into crafting a story, she wants to receive praise in return, or at the very least, a friendly pat on the head.
But is such a variety of readers in this world, no one book I write will please them all. It's impossible! I have had readers on one hand tell me that they hated what readers on the other hand have told me was their very favorite part of any one given story. Do I change who I am and how I write to please the first reader and, therefore, disappoint the second? Certainly not!
Ultimately, all I can do is keep in mind why I am in this business. I want to glorify God with my work; I want to be used by Him to bless and encourage others. I do this by telling the most entertaining story I can, filling it with the most real characters who spring straight from my heart. If those characters charm some but frustrate others, well . . . that's people for you, be they real or imagined!
When rejections come (as they always do in this field), my recommendation is to have a little cry, perhaps find a friendly soul to mourn with you over a cup of tea, grab a fluffy cat and give it a squeeze . . . then wipe your eyes and say a thankful prayer knowing that God has a better plan in mind. At first, it might be hard to say that prayer with sincerity. But given enough time, God's will becomes evident, and it is always better than my own.
What about you, Go Teen Writers readers? How do you handle negative feedback about your writing. Or if you haven't received much feedback yet, how do you think you will?