Taking the Sting Out of Rejection

Have you ever noticed that the only people who are interested in talking about their rejections are those who have found success?

Ray Bradbury has had a thousand rejections over his 30 year career. Judy Blume received “nothing but rejections” for two years. Meg Cabot’s Princess Diaries got rejected seventeen times before it was finally bought. Dr. Seuss’s books got rejected more than 15 times before the author finally found an editor who would accept his work. Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind was rejected 38 times. How does this information help those of us who are currently in the throes of querying?

Well, it’s nice to know that we’re not alone. We’re probably not the only ones who have questioned our general worth, writing talent and basic knowledge of the English language. We’re probably not alone in having wondered, Is this really worth it? It’s reassuring to know that with determination, a willingness to learn and grow, and sometimes sheer stubbornness, publication can happen. It really does take just one yes.

I like to think I learned from the rejections I racked up while querying Forget Me Not. I took note of the things agents mentioned when I got those rare personalized notes of No Thanks. I analyzed how Forget Me Not did (or perhaps did not) fit into the “What I’m Looking For” guidelines of an agent who passed. There were a few occasions where I queried agents who I was certain would cart-wheel with glee and request the full manuscript after reading my query because, according to their guidelines, Forget Me Not was exactly what they were looking for. Not so much.

I learned from those rejections, too: Writing is subjective. It’s all about personal taste and connection.     

As you may know, I’ve started a new project, WIP, as I lovingly refer to it. As I’ve stated before, I kind of love it. As compared to my last project, WIP is finding its way onto my computer screen much more organically. I’m writing what I know. I’m stealing from my own experiences. I’m borrowing traits from the people in my life. I’m letting the characters lead the way and resisting the occasional urge to force plot elements. Even though I still have those moments of self-doubt, moments where I delete my last 500 words and start all over again, WIP feels like it might just be really good.

The reason WIP might just be really good? I learned from the rejections I racked up while querying Forget Me Not. And that, I think, is why many published authors wear their rejections like badges of honor. Rejections are proof that you didn’t given up. They’re proof that you’ve learned.  

For now, a full copy of Forget Me Not sits in the hands of a very cool agent, one I’m dying to hear back from. Until then, I’ll be plugging away on WIP. Maybe when I’m published, I’ll brag about my rejections too.

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