Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books for teens in lots of weird genres like, fantasy (Blood of Kings trilogy), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). Find Jill on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or on her author website.
I want to encourage those of you who've received rejections recently and are feeling discouraged. I'm going to start by showing you the adventure I went on this past weekend. Bear with me. I'll get to the rejection part eventually.
How have you dealt with rejection in the past?
My husband loves Astoria, Oregon. This is a seaside town on the northwestern corner of Oregon at the mouth of the Columbia River. Many movies were filmed here such as Goonies, Kindergarten Cop, Short Circuit, and Free Willy. We have been to Astoria many times. We have done everything there is to do---some of it multiple times. My husband loves the old houses built on the hillside, the Astoria Column, the Flavel House Museum, the Maritime Museum, the Bowpicker fish and chips boat (so good), the trolley, the Oregon Film Museum (which is in the old jail house that was used in the Goonies), and above all, my husband loves the bridge.
The Astoria-Megler Bridge stretches 4.1 miles across the mouth of the Columbia River from Astoria, Oregon to Point Ellice near Megler, Washington. When Brad heard that there was a 10K run that went over this bridge, he wanted in. And so he and I downloaded a 10K app onto our iPhones some seventeen weeks ago, and we trained for the big day.
The big day was last Sunday.
We awoke early the morning of the race and ate some breakfast to keep us energized for the long trek ahead.
I heard there were some 3500 people running or walking in the Great Columbia Crossing. They shuttled us across the bridge in Astoria Oregon School District buses and dropped us at Dismal Nitch, Washington. There we waited an hour and a half for the start. Brad said goodbye (because he's faster than me), and off we went. The picture doesn't do justice to the experience. There were so many runners, so much color, and it had rained the previous night. That with all the trees made a wonderfully fresh smell through this first part of the race.
Approaching the bridge.
Entering the first span on the northern end of the bridge.
Whoa. A long way to go.
Fast-walkers. I followed these ladies for quite a while, then they just got too far ahead. That's right. They were fast-walking faster than my slow run! I was impressed with their endurance.
Entertainment along the way. These guys rocked!
And potty breaks too! I love the line that had already formed when I passed by. LOL! Not for me, thanks. My goal was to run the whole way without stopping.
Going up. Finally. The view behind me.
Getting closer to the highest part.
On the high cantilever-span.
Off the bridge now, and a view looking back. Hey! I just ran over that. Nice.
On solid ground again.
We did it!
And they gave us snacks! Well done, race coordinators. I inhaled a banana, mozzarella stick, and a juice box in less than sixty seconds.
They haven't posted the results for the 2015 race yet, but I know my time. I did the 6.2 miles in 1:26:01 and came in 931th place. I probably would have gone a little faster if I hadn't been taking so many pictures. But I was running for the experience of it, not a fast time. I heard the fastest person did the 6.2 miles in about 35 minutes! Impressive. Most impressive.
So what's the point, Jill?
I have two. Here's the first: Publishing is a marathon, not a sprint.
We live in a world of instant gratification, and it's messing with creativity! Too many writers just want to get published and hold their book in their hands or see it for sale on Amazon.com. I get that. Totally. And you can achieve that goal by sprinting ahead. But that type of behavior doesn't tend to produce quality. If you want to be successful, you need to train.
There is no way Brad and I could have ran 6.2 miles without stopping if we hadn't been training for seventeen weeks. During those first few weeks of training, we couldn't even run fifteen minutes without stopping. That's how out of shape we were. (I do sit in a chair all day long...)
The same analogy applies to a piano player who has a natural talent and can sit down and play just about anything by ear. That's awesome and it sounds pretty good. But it's not going to produce the same level of skill as a concert pianist who's been practicing for decades. The amateur piano player can't fill Radio City Music Hall with an audience of eager listeners like the concert pianist can.
Which do you want to be? Amateur or professional? Both are fine goals. But you need to choose. You can't put in little-to-no effort and expect the rewards of someone who's been hard at work on his craft for years. That's just unfair. Respect your dream, man, and do the thing right.
Jeff Goins said, "Patience is a writer’s most important virtue."
So, what do we do when we experience these types of rejections? We keep at it. We submit again. We get another opinion. We learn. We practice. We write a new book. We continue to create, which brings me to my second point:
Do it for you.
Writing is subjective. Publishing is a business. Junk sometimes sells better than literary genius. Hard work does not necessarily equal success. While hard work increases your chance of success, it's not a guarantee. Life isn't fair.
Not very uplifting, I know, but I'm trying to point out that you can't control your success. There is no checklist to the top. You might do everything right and still face rejection. And that stinks. And it's discouraging. That's why you've got to write because you love it. Because it thrills you. Because it puts a smile on your face. Because it teaches you about the world and yourself and makes you a better person. Because it gives you a voice, even if it's a small voice.
If you submitted a green (sprint-worthy) manuscript to a publisher, ignored submission guidelines, or stalked an editor into the bathroom until she gave you her card, perhaps you deserve to be rejected. But you might not be doing anything "wrong." The rejection might not be about you or your story at all. It might be that the agent or publisher tried a book like that, it failed, and they aren't willing to take the same risk again. It might be that your book is in a saturated genre. Or perhaps the publishing house used up its full budget for the year.
The truth is, real writers get rejected. A lot. It's part of the job. So you might as well decide not that you're not going to let the thing destroy you.
If you've been rejected:
-Grieve. It's okay to grieve the dream, especially when you've built it up in your head for so long. Take a few days off and just be. Ponder. Remind yourself why you write.
-Read. This helps me. I read certain types of books for fun. If I'm at a low writing point, entertaining myself is a must. And eating chocolate.
-If you're published, you might pull up some old fan mail or look at some of your positive book reviews online as a reminder that you're not a complete failure. This isn't to give you a big head, but to get that head of yours in the right place. You can't please everyone and should not try to.
-If the editor or agent gave you a reason for the rejection, consider it carefully. Hey, it's your book. You can do whatever you want. But sometimes the critic is right and you'd be wise to at least consider that information and ask yourself if there is something you can learn through this.
-Make a new goal. Maybe you're going to rewrite the manuscript. Maybe you're going to submit it elsewhere. Or maybe you're going to work on a different story. Goals are good. They give you a place to work towards.Remember: Writing is a marathon, not a sprint. Enjoy the run.
How have you dealt with rejection in the past? In what part of your writing process could you use more patience? Do you need to set a new goal right now? And if you've ever done a long-distance run, where is the most interesting place you've run a race?