Thursday, March 26, 2009

Rejection Stinks

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!

Today's tour stop:

aMAYzing Wonder Woman


Kristina P. said...

Sounds like great advice in general!

Kimberly Vanderhorst said...

I can't wait for my first rejection letter because it will mean two things. That I finally finished the darn thing, and that I got up the nerve to submit it.

Shelle-BlokThoughts said...

Never wrote anything worth rejecting in the first place! lol!

If I ever get the courage to turn anything in...I'll remember this post and refer to it!

Nancy Campbell Allen said...

That's good advice, Annette. Rejection does stink, but the perseverance pays off.

There's some comfort in the fact that most of us have been there before. Just keep busy and keep writing- that's the one thing a writer can control.

Heatherlyn said...

I read an article about an author who had 300 rejections before her first manuscript was picked up. She's now a very successful award winning author. I think it is to be expected. :) But it is good to hear that it is normal and common, too.

Rebecca Blevins said...

Thank you for answering this! Now if I ever get anything published, I'll be looking forward to my first rejection letter. (Well, almost.)

I'm going to come back to this post at that time and read it over and over again!

Really great advice!

Chas Hathaway said...

I was once talking to a friend who was preparing to undertake a major project. In essence, he said to me,"my goal is to have the most glorious failure possible!"

I've thought a lot about that. The riskier the endeavor, the more likely the rejection. The more time and energy consuming the project, the harder the failure.

I think that's the way it is with writing. We need to put our heart and soul into the project, then polish it over and over and over with criticism, revision, and rewording until it scarcely resembles the original product.

Then, when our hundreds or thousands of hours of blood, sweat and tears only lead to complete rejection, we will know that our writing is finally ready to take on a life of its own.

- Chas

Anonymous said...

Can I print this and hang it up on my wall? Seriously. It's WONDERFUL advice, especially the part about "keep writing" to get through self-doubt. You're awesome, Annette. Just awesome!

Melanie Jacobson said...

I wish I could say that I'm looking forward to a rejection. At this point, I almost don't want a letter because I'm afraid it will be no. But then, I guess I'd at least know what the next step is...

Laura said...

There's a lady in my writer's group who introduced herself as never-been-published and never-been-rejected. And I said, "And never submitted anything." She nodded.
There's only one way to go from typing to published, and that's try and try some more.
Totally agree on the favorite food theory. That's why dark chocolate was created!

That Girl said...

Cool. I'll have to bookmark this for when I finally get the courage to submit something.

Rebecca Irvine said...

Learn to believe in yourself and your goals! And eat your food of choice for 24 hours after every rejection.

Luisa Perkins said...

I follow this exact format whenever I get rejected (which is about weekly). I have success to announce today, however! :D

Kathy P said...

I am just getting started... really. Just getting started with writing. I find the story takes on a life of its own and becomes very close to your heart. I can hardly bear to tell anyone about it. I don't know how I could not take rejection personally. Thankfully, I am a small ways off from sending in the manuscript. Maybe I can toughen my skin a bit.

Janelle said...

I've had some rejection, but none of it for writing. I see that some of your advice still applies. But I don't think I'll dedicate a file drawer regular old rejection.

Anonymous said...

Oh I am so with Kim's comment!
I am actually 3/4 of the way done with my first novel. I mean, what I hope will be my first published novel. For now, I'm just writing the story, getting it on paper. I haven't done any editing and I know there's loads to be done. I don't even know where to start. I'll do major editing and revising first and then I'm thinking I'll send manuscripts to some of my family members and have them do some editing. But then whwat do I do? Do you have any posts in yoru archives on that?

Annette Lyon said...

Summer, Do you mean how do you submit a manuscript or where to look for a publisher or agent? If I know what specifically you're looking for, I can point you in a direction (if not here, then elsewhere).

C. Michelle Jefferies said...

Summer, don't send it to family they're going to tell you its great and doesnt need any work. Find a writers group and let them hack at it untill it bleeds red ink. Then, learn to love the process of revising knowing that your making it better. Good luck.

Yeah, rejection is hard, I just got my 5th today from 13 submissions. And I'm down a little thinking that i'll never get accepted. However, I know this is the best thing I have ever writen and that there's a home for it somewhere. Of course the little chocolate covered doughnuts are helping the mood a little. :)

Danyelle Ferguson said...

I just got my second rejection ever this past week. My first rejection was sad, but not too bad. This second one was really hard. After working with the publisher, I totally thought they were going to pick it up. I was extremely disappointed they decided to pass. But at the same time, they gave me lots of great feedback.

So I cried a few minutes, then went dancing with my hubby that night. Exercise really helps me feel better (it's those awesome endorphins) and it also helps me focus and get back on track.

That same manuscript that got rejected is not in the hands of two more editors. I'm keeping my fingers crossed and hoping for a great big YES!!!

Thanks for this great post. I'm glad I came across it today.

Julie Wright said...

Rejection bites, but this is all great advice!

Jodee said...

Hello Annette,
It's me your "rejected" cousin! Thank you so much for the emailed advice I was happy to see it posted here as well. I've been waiting 8 weeks now to hear back from one publisher and I think I'm going crazy! I decided to fill my time editing another piece. Thank you as always for your great encouragement and advice. Love Jodee


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