Friday, 20 April 2012

R is for Rejection

It's time for letter R in my A-Z series "26 Things that Made Me a Writer".

Rejections. They happen to the best of us. I had at least 12 for my first book (currently on the back burner) and goodness knows how many from magazines I've submitted to. I've never once received anything that approached personal feedback, but I still think they've helped me grow as a writer. Why?

For one, they make you more dedicated and committed to the craft. Once you've been rejected a few times then you work even harder to make everything you do the very best. I think writing a first novel is very much a discovery process, which is why not many get published. Although I didn't receive feedback from agents, gut instinct and comments from others (notably my wife) told me what wasn't working. Self-publishing negates the rejection element but you're not going to go far if your writing hasn't been edited and polished til you can see your face in it.

Then there is the "thick skin" aspect. You might get published but then there's every chance you'll have to deal with some bad reviews. If you never got rejected and followed a golden path to having your book printed then you might think people are bound to love it. Rejections teach you to be realistic.

And look at it this way: rejections aren't usually personal and by no means indicate you are a bad writer. It's just your query didn't grab that particular agent or publisher or it didn't fit with their list. Looking for the right one is like a needle in a haystack and the more rejections you get, the more you've narrowed down the field.

How do you handle rejection?


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I don't remember how many I went through with my first book, but I just shrugged it off and moved on to the next publisher.
Rejections in reviews are harder, but I've learned that they usually mean my book just wasn't a good fit for that person. When a common thread appears though, that's when we can learn and improve. (Which is why there is a female character in my second book - it was the number one complaint.)

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I once got a form rejection letter where there was a space after the salutation - Dear: _______. Someone wrote in the word "Lady." Not my full name. Not my first name. Not even any of my names misspelled. What could I do? I laughed. :)

Kyra Lennon said...

Rejections terrify me. However, I am going to have to learn how to deal with them if I'm ever going to get anywhere! Besides, I probably won't feel like a real writer until I've had my first rejection or bad review lol.

Shelley Sly said...

I agree that rejections help keep your perspective realistic. Those who can't handle rejection well are the ones who believe their books are 100% perfect from the first draft and refuse to change anything. (I've met people like that.) It's a shame, but we need even a small amount of rejection to help us see the truth.

Unknown said...

The way I handle rejection really depends on my mood. Sometimes I blow it off as a learning experience and move on. Other times I tell my husband I'm fed up with "Learning experiences" and would rather stay stupid and get an acceptance. :)

I had one rejection where the agent didn't even bother to sign her name! That one kind of stung.

But you are right - they do make me work harder. I see them as a challenge.

Michelle :)

Krista McLaughlin said...

I handle rejection with a little ice cream therapy, The Goonies, and then I fix it and try again. :)

Cynthia said...

I agree that rejection teaches you to be realistic about the publishing process. Whenever I get a "No, thank you" note, I keep in mind that this is simply part of the journey, and that I'm not the only writer who has ever encountered this. I also think of all the successful writers out there who have encountered numerous rejections before they were published.

Morgan said...

Oh rejection.


Great topic. I love the bit about the first book being the discovery process. I'm querying my second now, and the rejection I received during the first round has molded me not only emotionally, but strengthened my writing too. Though I didn't enjoy rejection at the time, I'm sooooo grateful for it. It's made me such a better person. ;)

Elise Fallson said...

Not sure how I'm going to handle my rejection letters. I guess I have to finish the damn book first. But I bet it's not going to be pretty....

Botanist said...

This is a topic that speaks to every writer out there. I decided to be proud of my rejections, 'cos they are hard evidence that I'm in the game for real.

Chuck said...

I take the aggressive approach to rejection (and I am NOT a writer so never been rejected that way...except on my blog by NO COMMENTS :))better to find out early that you are not on my intellectual level and cannot possibly open your mind to my concepts than to try and teach you what you will never grasp. Tomato...tomotto (doesn't work as well in print but you get the idea.) Moving on.

Leigh Covington said...

I love your positive outlook on this. Rejections are hard, but you're right... they do make us work harder to become better. I think that's the best way to look at it. Learn from it and grow from it. :)

Jessica Salyer said...

I'm with Elise, I guess I have to finish my book first. Then I'll find out how I handle them. Hopefully,I'll take them not too hard.

C.B. Wentworth said...

I've learned to take rejection as a "learning moment." If we go around thinking everything we write is perfect there is no room for growth. Rejection is part of the process and I've accepted the fact that its going to happen. Every writer pays that those dues!

Nick Wilford said...

Alex - So great that you could learn from the feedback in your reviews. I must read your books!

Madeline - Laughing's all you can do!

Kyra - We all join the rejection club at some point but rest assured that you are a real writer (a very good one but those get rejected a lot too!)

Shelley - Hmm, I don't think those people are going to get very far. It would be nice if we could get it perfect first time, but not going to happen!

Michelle - Sometimes you get them on a compliment slip - kind of a contradiction in terms! They are frustrating but they do make you work harder.

Krista - Sounds like a good recipe! Great movie. :)

Cynthia - Yeah, we are in great company. Even the biggest writers in history have been rejected.

Morgan - I think you are dreaming on your first book but after rejection it becomes much more real. That's how I felt!

Elise - Finishing the book is half the battle. Good luck!

Botanist - Good attitude!

Chuck - Well, that's certainly a hardline way to look at it - but yes, in blogs, no comments doesn't mean your post is worthless! Some things I read go over my head, for sure. :/

Leigh - It's best to take it as positively as possible (although I don't feel like that when I first open the email or letter!)

Jessica - Best of luck!

Nick Wilford said...

C.B. - Exactly. You said it better than me! :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Nick .. being told something doesn't fit .. isn't very helpful is it. But all writers seem to go through it - there's rarely - oh yes we'll publish that and you'll be living in gold for ever more.

Perseverance pays off .. cheers Hilary

Kay said...

Hi Nick, I wrote a blog spot about how I handled rejections:

with tips for survival... enjoy ;-)

T. Powell Coltrin said...

Rejection is difficult in all kinds of ways in life.

How do I handle the rejections from my writing. I throw a mini fit and say, "Fine, I'll never write again." By the time I get to the house (from mailbox), I'm over it and pull out my laptop.

A little dramatic I know.


Mina Burrows said...

Rejection letters are a badge of honor. Wear them with pride and...keep moving forward!

Nick Wilford said...

Hilary - I do wish they would go into a little more detail, but it's the nature of their job - they don't have time. At least us bloggers can help each other out!

Kay - Thanks, I'll check it out! :)

Teresa - We can be a dramatic lot! :)

Mina - Well said!

J.L. Campbell said...

Rejections are a way of life for writers. i get past them by focusing on the current project.

Nick Wilford said...

J.L. - Moving forward is the best way to go!