Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Rejected Again? What Are You Doing Wrong?

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 FacebookTwitterPinterest, 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.

The route.

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.

Behind me.

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.

Above me.

Off the bridge now, and a view looking back. Hey! I just ran over that. Nice.

On solid ground again.

Almost there...


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 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."

Guys, we need to calm down and train for the long haul! It's important to our craft. It takes time to become an expert at anything. And even then there is no guarantee that anyone will notice us. There are a lot of talented people out there who haven't been published. And there are a lot of amazing published novels out there that never got discovered. 

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?


  1. I love the pictures! And also the name "Dismal Nitch". I checked out the website--neat history behind it!

    Thank you so much for this post. I've been querying this particular manuscript of mine for only about a month now, so I don't have many rejections built up for it, but I'm sure this post will come in handy later (here's for looking on the bright side, though!). One of my favorite pieces of rejection advice is from Stephen King, who said he had a nail in his wall to stick all his rejections on. At one point, apparently, he had so many rejections that he had to replace the nail with a spike. If Stephen King can get that many rejections and still persevere, so can we, guys.

  2. Stephen King's story in On Writing helped me too, Linea! When I read that, I told myself to expect at least 50 rejections before I got published, so I celebrated those first few rejections as the first steps to my ultimate goal. I think I only received 25-30 before I sold my first article, though some of the rejections that came on my novels did hurt quite a bit.

  3. Oh, this is such a good post! I haven't experienced outright rejection yet, but that's because I haven't yet submitted anything.

    You make a great point that writing is a marathon. My fantasy novel has taken close to eight years to reach completion (and even now I'm not quite there yet). Not saying it needs to take that long for everybody, but for this particular book, for ME, yes. People sometimes ask me how the book's coming, or when I'll get published... I sometimes get the sense that, "Hey, it's taking you forever. Is it ever going to happen?" I just smile and update them and know for myself that it'll happen at the right time. Because like you said, it's important to respect our dreams. I want to produce something excellent, and excellence takes time!

    1. That's an awesome attitude, Tracey! Way to practice patience. :-)

  4. Thank you for this post! I don't usually see writing compared to a marathon over sprinting, so I'm very happy to see I can take lots of information away from this.
    I've never really thought of writing as anything more than a long play. There's so much work out of my control. I'm happy to just finish projects and work on improving myself as a writer. That to me is so much more rewarding, knowing that if I do reach the end of that long marathon and get published (expecting at least fifty rejections or I might be disappointed XD) I can look back and see all the milestones on the way.

    1. A long play is a nice comparison too, Kelsey. And it is so much more rewarding when you work really hard for something for a really long time. Keep it up! :-)

  5. I need to keep reminding myself that...It's sometimes difficult when you've invested many, many hours into something, and you still don't have anything concrete to show for it. You might know how far you've come, and your mom might have a tiny bit of a clue ( :P ), but others will not understand. You kinda have to create your own version of success.

    On another note, I've been to Astoria! I live in the middle of Washington state, and we usually go to Long Beach for vacation. It's a lovely place over there. I love eating fish and chips in Astoria with a view of the river. Seems proper. All the Lewis and Clark stuff over there is pretty cool too.

    1. I totally understand. One of my pet peeves is when I tell people how busy I am, but they never understand. They think I'm home all day writing books, having fun. I must have loads of free time. But I work 50 hours a week at this gig! Gah!! Only writers understand that.

      Nice! We love the Lewis and Clark stuff too. And the old war bunkers. We went to Long Beach too and saw Jake the Alligator man. My husband has had a Jake the Alligator man bumper sticker on the last three vehicles he's owned. He's obsessed!

    2. hi! You ran a cross country marathon? And I thought a 5k was hard!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! How tiring was it?

  6. This is awesome, Jill! Congrats on finishing a 10k without stopping! That's a huge accomplishment! I love running so much, so it made me so happy to see you post about your race. The most I've ever raced is a 5k, but I have run more than that in practice, and I'm going to run my first half marathon this spring after the cross country season is over! It's really cool that you got to run on a bridge. The view looks beautiful, but sadly, I would probably be too scared to run it because I'm pretty scared of heights and I can't even handle being driven over a bridge. Since I'm on my school's cross country team, a lot of the courses I run are really interesting, but I'd say my most interesting run was on a trail that ended at an ice cold stream with a waterfall that we all jumped into after the run. That or the time I ran on this really hilly course covered in ice and snow. Needless to say, we were all slipping all over the place. I also ran a few miles on the beach once when I went on vacation. Even though I ran on the part of the sand a bit firmed up by the water, it was still a really painful run, but also beautiful since it was around sunset time.

    Anyways, I like how you said that writing is a marathon and not a sprint, because that is so true. I have to remember not to rush myself and expect results right away. I used to be one of those writers that needed to get published as a teen, but now I'm realizing that it's better for me to take in the journey gradually and really get good at my craft without judging my success by how quickly I get published.

    1. Thanks, Ana! :-) Wow, that run that ended at the waterfall sounds like it was fun. And way to go on signing up for that half marathon! That's a big run. I think most writers start out sprinting. It's so much fun and you're kind of clueless and in love with the idea of your first ever story and the dream of selling it. But at some point, the people who stick with it get to the point of realizing that this is fun, but it's hard work as well. I'm glad you've figured that out, Ana. And that you aren't going to judge your success by how quickly you get published. That's too much pressure to live up to! Keep up the marathon pace and you'll get there. :-)

    2. I do cross country too ana! I am the second to worst runner at EA High School's Cross Country team .Most of our trails are boring but I like our home trail best. The final away meet was at Morhead High's trail. Their trail was miserable and boring. I got my worst score ever there. My best is 29.40 and my worst is 34.50 .Yours?

  7. Thank you for this! It came at a good time.

  8. I have not been rejected (yet) but I loved this post. Fantastic.

  9. Thanks for the great post! I never thought of connecting running and writing in that way (I ran my first 10k back in June but haven't run since). I like the idea of persistence, steadiness, and endurance. I try to "sprint" too much in my writing sometimes.

    1. Another runner! That's awesome, and congrats on running your first 10k, RM!

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  10. Thanks so much for this awesome post! I've been trying to get published for a couple of years now, and sometimes, it does get really discouraging. So thanks for the reminder, that writing is a marathon not a sprint, and the most important thing is to do it for me. :)


  11. So I am not the only one who sees writing like running a marathon? How interesting!