Not long ago, Rebecca asked how to get through rejection. Shortly after that, a cousin sent an e-mail saying she'd just gotten her first rejection and asking for advice on what to do next. Since I've gotten the same question from two directions, I thought I'd answer it here.
Here's basically what I told my cousin:
Congratulations! Now that you've been rejected, you're an official writer! Keep that first letter and start a rejection file. Then FILL IT UP.
One major thing working against new writers right now is the economy. Publishers have come back to reject manuscripts they've previously accepted because they're cutting back on how many they're publishing at all. Other books are getting release dates shoved back. So it's not always a matter of quality. Sometimes it's about plain old numbers.
With the typical timeline, Tower of Strength (which was just released this month) would have come out last September, and my next book, which I turned in October 08, won't be out until Spring 2010. That's about twice the lag time I'm used to.
But after all the horror stories I've heard, I'm just counting my lucky stars that I'm even getting another book out at all. The bottom line: breaking in as a first-time writer is harder now than ever before.
That, and if you didn't ever get rejected at all, I'd have to hate you. (It's a rite of passage for writers. Everyone needs that experience!) This isn't to say you're doomed and shouldn't submit. Just know that you need to up your game. Prove that you're the best person for the job. Rise above the competition. Polish, polish, polish.
I've got a pretty good-sized rejection file going back to 1994. It's part and parcel of the whole writing gig.
My best advice on getting through rejection:
1) Drown your sorrows in your food of choice. Then:
2) Analyze the feedback you received (if any) and see if it has merit. Is there a kernel in there you can use to improve, or are they totally up in the night? (I've had both experiences. Sometimes the commentary is just plain dumb, and other times, I can think, even if it hurts, "Yeah. I guess I can see that.")
3) Consider submitting the same piece to another publisher, possibly after a rewrite, and most definitely after you cool down.
4) Regardless about what you decide on #2 and #3, immediately move on to another project. Don't stop writing, or you'll get yourself into a self-doubt rut. Keep the wheels turning.
5) One huge shot in the arm is hanging out with other writers. Find a local writing group (early on, I found a lot of support in my local League of Utah Writers chapter). Consider attending the 6th annual LDStorymakers Writers Conference April 24-25, which will be in Provo this year. It's a great conference (and I'm not just saying that because I'm on the committee). Being with other writers can energize you like nothing else can.
Hang in there! Rejection stinks. There's no other way to put it.
For any other writers out there, feel free to throw in your own rejection advice in the comments!
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