R is for REJECTION – SOMETHING MOST WRITERS FACE AT LEAST ONCE
This one is the toughest of all – Learn to rise above it
As many writers in Los Angeles will tell you, rejection is an “R” word that is the toughest of all to face. Our city is filled with authors all competing for the attention of readers, many presenting talks, workshops or readings. There are only so many opportunities for appearances, so that may be how rejection is felt by published writers. Or, your book, story or article was submitted and you watch for that letter, email or phone call telling you, “We love it, we want it and watch for the contract.” Instead you receive nothing or almost worse yet, a stiff form letter or post card saying, “Thanks, but no thanks.” Occasionally rejections come in the form of a personal note. That might mean it got their attention and they actually read it , but something just didn’t gel.
PUT ON A BRAVE FACE—KEEP AN OPEN MIND
Resist the urge to swear, break into tears, give up writing, or any of the multitude of reactions a rejection often triggers. You are not alone. And, it doesn’t just happen to writers. People need to develop a veneer against over-reacting otherwise known as a “thick skin.” Let’s face it. Everyone is a target for rejection: the salesperson whose proposal falls flat, the politician who tries to float a bill, the parents whose child didn’t get into the school of their choice. It seems most of us involved in any form of the arts has an inside track.
When you learn to keep an open mind instead of falling apart, the reaction could be positive. As a writer, the first thing you should do is try to figure out what went wrong.
ANALYZE THE POSSIBILITIES
While there is every possibility that the problem simply was your writing—believe it or not, that does happen—maybe there were other factors. You chose a publication or agent who doesn’t publish or represent what you submitted. That happens very often with new writers. Make sure it’s a match before you click “send” or drop the package in the mailbox.
Maybe the writing was good, but didn’t fit the guidelines. Make sure again you review the topic, word count, format and everything else generally found in the guidelines. Sometimes a simple rewrite (if resubmission is allowed) will result in success. If you can’t resubmit, rewrite it anyway and choose a new target. I’m no stranger to rejection. I recently had an article rejected because the editor felt I didn’t stay on topic. The problem was the actual topic title yielded no resources or information. I searched and searched the internet to no avail, and finally did the best I could. It wasn’t good enough. I asked if I could resubmit under a more appropriate title, and the answer was yes. My work wasn’t for naught, but I should have questioned the title in the first place.
Reread what you submitted. Now that you’re giving it a second look, could you have done better? Unfortunately, the answer is often “yes.” Does it warrant a rewrite or is it beyond help? Is your time better spent on a different project? This one is tricky. If there’s a definite market for your book or topic, and you have been able to spot the problems, run it past a few writer friends. Listen to their evaluation. You might be surprised. Be sure to tell them you want an honest critique and don’t look for people who will tell you what you want to hear. It is so important for a writer to have writing buddies who will give that honest feedback. It’s how we learn. It’s how we grow.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO MAKE YOURSELF FEEL BETTER
I always stress this point: Remember, it isn’t personal. A rejection should be based upon a professional evaluation of work you submitted and it should be from the aspect of quality, marketability and suitability. That’s it. Cut and dried. Some rejection letters really are nasty. Read between the lines. Maybe this person is so stressed they simply can’t find it in their soul to be courteous or nice. Maybe it was a bad day. Maybe it was a wealth of other conditions. Or, maybe you just didn’t measure up. By the way, unless that rejection was from an agent or publisher you really dream of charming, or your next query will go to a different person within the firm, wipe them off the list. You don’t need nasty in your life.
If it’s the clear the problem was with the writing, learn from the rejection. Look for the weak points and be on the alert for them in future endeavors. I found, for example, that I overuse the word “that” frequently. Now when I see the word, it jumps out at me and I can decide whether or not it is necessary. I delete it if it won’t be missed. That’s just one little thing. We all have our quirks. Do your sentences run on? Was this particular piece filled with information dumps? Those are the kind of questions to ask instead of simply getting angry.
SALVATION IS IN ATTITUDE
Attitude means a lot here. Strive to minimize the feeling of devastation. I have a writer friend named Fred who is the poster boy for this section. Some of my readers will instantly know who is he is. Fred has found the formula. In a flippant way, he might announce something like, “Hey, I just got rejection number 642,” or “Guess what? I got beat up again.” Does he stop writing? Absolutely not. This fuels his fire. Imagine the delight and congratulations from all his writer friends when he made yet another announcement. Was it rejection 643? NO. Fred was finally able to smile and say, “They took my book.”
DON’T BE RESENTFUL
It is very easy to say, “Those jerks don’t know something good when they see it.” Think about some of the hopefuls trying out for talent shows—the ones who obviously have no talent, or just aren’t good enough yet. Then picture how mad some of them get when they aren’t chosen. The ones who give a gracious “thanks for the opportunity, I’ll be back,” have probably resolved to work on their act while the first group is consumed by anger. Neither may have what it takes to make the cut, but certainly the second group feels much better about themselves. Enthused and infused with desire to do better. Now think about some of the contestants who worked and learned after being rejected by American Idol, and came back to make it into the finals.
This might all seem elementary, but it isn’t. Some very talented people I know have allowed the anger and devastation resulting from rejection to stop them in their tracks. They will never know if they could have submitted their work somewhere else, polished it, or taken the rejection as a learning curve and later produce a winner. Resentment triggered by rejection eats you alive—don’t let it. Sure, maybe the reality is that the novel never will win a Pulitzer. Maybe it never will get published. But hold your head high and let that knowledge come from within yourself, not as the immediate reaction to rejection.
For more information about Morgan St. James, visit www.morganstjames-author.com website or the Silver Sisters Mysteries website. Morgan frequently speaks and gives workshops for published and aspiring writers at conferences and events.
Writers Tricks of the Trade is a regular feature in the Thursday Las Vegas edition and the Friday Los Angeles edition. Look for Spotlight on Tuesday in Las Vegas and Wednesday in Los Angeles to read about local authors, events and organizations.