Dealing with Rejection

As a writer currently down in the query trenches, there is no other feeling like the excitement and terror you simultaneously feel every time you hears that ting of your email notification. After the initial fluttering has worn off, one of two things will happen: 1) Your heart will begin to race as if Speedy Gonzales is in your chest, because hey wow, you just got a response from a literary agent, or 2) You will want to curl up in the fetal position because you’ve snapped in your frustration that it isn’t a response, it’s just yet another random college from who-knows-where asking you to apply to their school.

For all of you seeking traditional publishing or still working on your WIP (Work In Progress), that means you haven’t reached this phase of your writing journey. But for some of my older friends on this site (and some of you determined whipper-snappers), you know these feelings all too well. So whether you’re someone like me, who is furiously trying to get his/her book agented before they graduate just so you can finally prove to your parents that you do have talent and that an English degree would be worth it; or, if you’re someone who simply wants to prepare themselves for the painful process of rejection and querying, then read on.

Here’s the thing: You are going to get rejected. I too was one who started the querying process with stars in my eyes and the ego of an Ayn Rand protagonist. I just knew that the first few agents I queried were going to be duking it out at who got to be my book’s agent. I just knew that they were going to respond overnight after sending it out, because how could they ever put down my book? Unfortunately for little naïve Audrey, that wasn’t the case. However, that being said, I also believe that this is an important phase for all writers, when they realize that their book may not be the one to change the world, or at least that it still had some problems and may need a little revision. That’s the nice thing about writing- you see your story as it will be, not as it is. Like any loving parent, who may have a toddler who is rude to strangers, makes messes every time you blink, and who can’t keep his dirty little fingers out of his nose, you still love your manuscript. And you love it for the same reason you started it: You see its potential.

And that’s where the downside comes in. Because all we can see is our stories’ potential to become great, that somehow meshes with us thinking that it already is great. And when you first begin sending off queries to agents, showing them your beloved baby, saying, “Look how beautiful she is? Isn’t that character arc great? I bet you cried at that one scene. I sure did,” you are going feel like that agent has just slapped you and your baby across the face when you get that automated rejection response for the first few times.

So here’s what you do, my friends. Nothing will ever stop you from looking at your book and going, “No, I believe in this.” Sure, there are days when you hate it, when you wish it was better, but if you’re passionate about this story, then you will always come back to it, because you know it’s worth the world’s time to read. And that is the simple truth to dealing with rejection. Hold onto that belief that you can do this, that you want this more than anything. Don’t let yourself feel personally attacked by any agent who says it isn’t the right fit for them. It isn’t personal. The book just needs some work. And for the love of all things holy, do not stop writing because of rejections.

Not long ago, I received a rejection letter. But oh no, this wasn’t any plain old rejection letter. This was a letter written by an agent who had said she wanted to take a look, that my story sounded interesting. So I sent her the manuscript, elated at getting a full request. And recently I got my response. The worst part about her answer wasn’t the letter itself (it was actually quite kind), it was the knowledge that this was an agent who was interested in my work, who had read the whole thing, who made me believe that I could do this, and who had still said no.

Listen, you’re going to get a lot of nos. It’s going to hurt- a lot at times. But you and I are writers. We are passionate about the world. We love to create people and stories that make us laugh and cry. Not everyone will love the stories we make. But that’s really okay. There’s a quote somewhere out there by Dita Von Teese that says, “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.”

If you take away anything from this blogpost, let it be this: Whenever you feel crestfallen because you just got rejected, take a quick break. Go for a walk. Eat a huge bowl of ice cream. Cry a lot. Exercise. And after your break, write. You know what I did after I got rejected by that agent and fell into the awful abyss called a pity-party? I wrote this blogpost.

Don’t ever stop writing. Trust me, that’s the last thing you should do. Writing will help you continue to see your book’s potential, and will help you grow as a writer, despite all the rejections. Let’s face it, writing was the only thing keeping you sane anyway, why stop after a couple people said no? If you find you simply cannot face your story at a time like this, then write about something else. Write, say, a blogpost. Or a different story. Or just write in a journal about how much rejection sucks. Anything will work, as long as you don’t stop writing. Whenever I’m down about something, the number one thing that cheers me up is the thought that at least I can write accurately about how *insert frustrating/sad/hard situation* feels. Sure, it was easy to imagine before, but don’t forget, life is just fodder for writing. And that includes rejections.

Always remember the real reward is in the writing, not the publication. If anything, focus on that. There’s someone out there (several someones, actually) who will love your book. And now that you’ve had a moment to lick your wounds and return with confidence, go find the agent who adores your peaches.

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6 thoughts on “Dealing with Rejection

  1. I’m stuck on my book because of self-doubt. I don’t think i can make it ever be good enough to publish…and to think that great novels like Harry Potter got rejected so many times. Makes me think about how competitive this is…and perhaps writing during free time isn’t enough for publishing. That’s my thoughts…the depressing thought about writing.

    1. Aw, dont feel bad! It’s like I said, if you’re passionate about your story, you CAN get it published. If you find you’re not happy with it anymore, then that’s okay too, because it just means this novel was practice. I trashed 3 manuscripts before deciding to run with one. Don’t feel sad, remember, “You’re not finished when you lose. You’re finished when you quit.” 🙂 Keep writing!! You got this.

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