No writer worth his or her salt can say they haven’t been rejected at least once, and many writers have enough of those lovely form letter slips to wallpaper entire rooms. How do they deal with that awful term, rejection, without taking it personally? And how to maintain a modicum of dignity and confidence in your abilities when you get one, or horrible to contemplate, more of those awful letters in your mailbox?
It’s hard at first, no doubt about it. But that’s the first thing aspiring writers must learn. Take every bit of information stated in that letter, whether a form letter, a form letter with slight notations, or, even better yet, a rejection written personally by an editor, and put it to good use. Now, one may wonder what’s to cheer about when reading a personally penned rejection letter. Well, let me tell you, from a vast wealth of experience, mind you, that such a note is to be treasured. You’ve succeeded in capturing an editor’s attention, enough so that he or she felt compelled to offer you either advice or encouragement or criticism personally. And more often than not, those preprinted form letters with snippets of handwritten info on them are to be hoarded and gone over with a figurative magnifying glass, for they may provide you with a bevy of helpful information.
Like what? Well, for starters, a comment like, “While your writing style captured our interest, the topic of this piece is not right for us”, tells you that your work is professional enough to be considered, but that your query or proposal didn’t pique their interest. You just need to keep seeking the right agent/editor/publishing house to grab it. Take that as encouragement and get that baby out in the mail again.
On the other hand, a comment like, “While your story idea seemed intriguing, your writing style needs work”, may lay you low for a day or two. Still, look at what was said and analyze it. Okay, your story is appealing, there’s a plus. But your writing needs work… hmmm, what did they mean by that? Check your manuscript or query for spelling errors. Read your work aloud to see how it sounds to your own ear. Are your sentences short and choppy, or do you tend to go the ‘run-on sentence’ route? Do your POV’s switch back and forth so fast your head starts spinning? Take an objective look at your work and read it like you’ve never seen it before. Never be satisfied with what you’ve written. Always lean towards improvement.
What about a comment like, “While we liked your idea, we just don’t feel this is something we can market at this time”? Do you toss the manuscript into a cupboard and forget it? No way! Send it on to the next publishing house or agent on your list. Remember the old adage, “Different strokes for different folks”.
Are rejections something to get angry about? Not if you’re serious about your writing career. You will develop a thicker skin, believe me. And after the first dozen or so, you won’t tend to take those rejections so personally. Do they sting? Of course. Can you maintain your dignity after receiving rejection after rejection? Definitely. How? By maintaining your determination to become published. Don’t get swell headed and think that your manuscript is perfect and that everybody else doesn’t know a good book when they see one. They do. Don’t ever think your book can’t stand another edit or proofing, because if you do, you won’t grow as a writer.
One agent or publisher may not like your work. Another may. It’s all a matter of personal preference. To cut back on the amount of rejections you receive, make sure you research the houses and agents that publish your kind of book. Don’t send a romance query to a house that specializes in non-fiction and vice versa.
Can rejections go overboard? You bet. This author received a rather nasty rejection once, wherein the agent penned a scathing lecture on how that particular novel would be better used as, well, I won’t say, but it did have something to do with a bathroom…. Uh-hum… anyway, this author did get rather offended and in a burst of anger, crumpled the offending missive and threw it away. On second thought, I retrieved the letter and put it in with all my other rejections that I was saving for who knows what. A year later, that particular novel was published and nominated for an award. In a moment of intense satisfaction, I merely sent the crumpled note back to the agent who penned it, tucked inside a complimentary copy of my novel. Ah, satisfaction guaranteed.
So, bottom line, use rejections as a tool to better your writing, your style, and ultimately, yourself. Use them to grow, to learn and to understand that there are as many different tastes out there as there are people. A rejection is, after all, a mere piece of paper. Use the power of your pen to overcome the obstacles in your path and continue to strive to get your foot up on the bottom rung of that ladder. You can only go up from there.