Dealing With Rejection
It’s a nasty little word isn’t it? As writers, we face it. A lot. I personally have never gotten comfortable with it. Then again, rejections no longer send me wilting to the floor in tears.
Two years ago, a writer friend told me an agent “chose to resist” her work and it was an aha moment for me.
Chose to resist.
How fabulous is that?
So much better than rejected. From that point on, when I received one of those dreaded rejection letters, I simply congratulated myself for sending the manuscript out (again!) and moved on. Sure, there were times when a particular dream agent’s or editor’s resistance hit me a little harder than say a non-dream agent’s or editor’s rejection would, but on those occasions I allowed myself a pity party for the remainder of the day. That was the deal with myself. Whether it was first thing in the morning or late at night when I received the rejection, I allowed myself to feel horrible until I went to sleep. For me, anything beyond that was counter-productive and suppressed my creativity.
And I hate that.
So, let’s talk about an action plan for when someone chooses to resist your work.
Feel awful about it, but set a deadline. You cannot make it open-ended or your creativity will be zapped. Even if you have to write it down, force yourself to set a time limit. Repeat after me, “For the next (insert however many hours) I am going to allow myself to feel really crappy about this agent/editor choosing to resist my work.”
Pull out that chose-to-resist letter and see if there are any nuggets you can pull from it. I once received a rejection from an agent that said (and yes, this is verbatim because I still have the letter.): “I really, really loved all of your characters and thought your pacing and dialogue were working overall, but it just didn’t stand out enough in the already crowded romantic suspense subgenre. I think you are very talented and would be happy to look at other projects in the future.”
At the time, that letter sent me to my knees. When reading it, all I saw was that I’d done a good job and it still wasn’t good enough. Luckily, that very night I was having dinner with my critique partner and we had a joint pity party. I cried, I moaned, I felt sorry for myself. I had a martini. J It was a world-class pity party.
The next day, after my allotted pity time, I pulled the letter out and analyzed it. Yes, it was a rejection, but she talked about my strengths, told me I was talented and that she would look at future work. As rejections go, this was a darned fine one. A class-A rejection. I kept the letter on my desk for a long time. As other rejections—maybe not so nice ones—came in, I went back to the class-A one to remind myself that a top agent thought I had talent.
Bottom line here, find the nugget that will sustain you.
Keep writing. Take any nuggets you receive and build on them. If someone says your plotting is fabulous, try and improve it. Whatever it is you are good at, keep doing it and try to make it better. Conversely, if there are areas you need to improve on, work on them. Study craft books, reach out to writer friends for advice, do whatever you need to because if an agent or editor says your dialogue needs work, they’re helping you. They could be sending you a form letter, but they took the time to give you specifics about areas to improve on and that means you connected with them on some level. Think about the vast number of queries agents and editors must receive. If you connect with them, you’ve done something right.
Surround yourself with people who will support you through the tough times. I have the good fortune to have wonderful critique partners who are all too willing to talk me off ledges. And they have. When someone called one of my characters an a**hole, my critique partners were the first ones to tell me how much they loved him.
And by the way, that character is the hero in the book referenced above in the class-A rejection from the agent. Even better, that book was acquired by Carina Press last fall and released this week. Man Law saw its share of rejections, but some of them were promising rejections and they kept me motivated to find a home for my challenging hero.
So, you see, just because an editor or agent chooses to resist it doesn’t mean the book won’t get published. If you stay the course, improve where you need to, make adjustments as necessary, you will find the editor who loves your story.
Adrienne Giordano writes romantic suspense and women’s fiction. She is a Jersey girl at heart, but now lives in the Midwest with her work-a-holic husband, sports obsessed son and Buddy the Wheaton Terrorist (Terrier). She is a co-founder of Romance University . Adrienne’s debut romantic suspense, Man Law, will be released by Carina Press on July 4, 2011. Her second book, A Just Deception, will be available from Carina Press on September 5, 2011.