Recently, I was a guest blogger at NHRWA author Mary K. Stone’s blog http://marykstoneblog.com/ I decided to upload that entry to my site as well, so check it out here and then visit her website to see what she’s up to.
I’ve loved crossword puzzles since I learned how to spell, probably because I love words so much. My favorite birthday present when I turned 8? A dictionary.
So, what’s a 9 letter word for: refusal, dismissal, forsaking?
Here’s a hint: the answer starts with an r, ends in ion and can make you cry your eyes out and eat an entire package of Milano cookies in one sitting. Make that 2 packages.
Got it yet? Yup. REJECTION.
Some other words used to define rejection include: turning down, spurning, repudiation, and, my absolute favorite: the brush-off.
As a writer I have experienced my fair – and unfair – share of rejection from everyone from editors to literary agents, to publishers. I‘ve had synopses discarded, proposals denounced, queries snubbed, and outlines slighted.
I’ve been rejected in person, in print, in emails, in snail-mail, via phone and even once in a text.
I’ve experienced rude rejections (Ms. Jaeger, please do not query us again as we do not accept what you write) and form letter rejections ( Dear Writer: Thank you for your submission. We will not be asking for any further work from you)
Being a writer is fraught with enough problems without adding rejections to it. Finding time to write, liking what your write, having other people like what you write; editing, revising, restructuring; plot arc construction, motivation, goals and conflicts for the characters; deciding on a setting, theme, names of characters. The list is as long as my ingredients list for fruitcake!
The first time I ever got a piece I ‘d written rejected by an editor, I was 25. I’d already had over a dozen fictional story stories published in literary magazines, and had been writing non-fiction articles concerning health care and nursing for several years. I’d sent an article proposal based on my master’s thesis to a well-known nursing journal that had already published me twice before. I thought the topic was very timely and felt it would make a great addition to their monthly publication. I waited three months for a reply. Just as I was about to call them – this was eons before email was available and we were ALLOWED to call editors, I received a form rejection letter. Not even addressed to me personally, just “Dear Writer…” The editor stated the topic for the article was not relevant for their publication and that they were not going to ask for the article in its entirety.
Was I crushed? You betcha. Was I pissed off? To say the least. Did I want literary revenge? Hell, yeah! Did I do anything about it? Of course I did. When I finished the gallon of Cherry Garcia that I kept hidden in my freezer for emotional emergencies, I queried another nursing journal, telling them everything I’d told the first one. I got an actual phone call (remember, no email, no texting, no cells phones in the 80’s) from the Editor-in-Chief who wanted the article for their July issue, which would be featuring my UBER-RELEVANT topic from other health professionals.
The takeaway I got from this experience? Not everyone is going to like what you write. But someone will.
Flash forward several years to when I started writing book length fiction. When I was done with my first masterpiece, I began the literary agent query route. I sent out over 75 queries to agents all over the U.S. who specialized in representing what I wrote at the time: medical thrillers. Over 95 % of the responses I got back were form rejection letters addressed to “Dear Writer…” Three agents actually addressed me by name and told my why the weren’t choosing to represent my work, and two asked me to change the book completely around to what they thought might sell, and then they would consider – maybe –representing me.
When the box of Dunkin’ Donuts was gone, I picked up one of the responses I received that actually had been positive. I still have this rejection letter in my file cabinet today. The part that stuck out so plainly to me read: “While I do not feel I can devote the time and attention to representing this work that it needs, please be assured, you are a very good writer, and it only takes one person to say “yes” for you to be published. Unfortunately, I’m not that person, but I believe she or he is out there and that you will connect with them. Good luck, and I know I will see your name on a book jacket some day.”
This was without doubt the nicest rejection I had ever received up until that time, and, to this day. If all rejection letters could be written this way, I believe we would have a lot less depressed authors milling about.
Now, the takeaway I got from this letter? You got it; same as before: not everyone is gong to like what your write. But someone will.
It only takes that one someone – be it an agent, editor, or publisher, and all those rejections that have been lining your file cabinet drawers will seem inconsequential and irrelevant. Or they will even seem like what they really are: the dues you’ve paid for persistence and perseverance.
As a writer, rejection of your work is part of the road you will travel on your way to publication. Yes, it hurts for someone to tell you they don’t like or want your work. Yes, it blows big time to have someone in a position of literary power tell you what you’ve written is not pertinent or that they don’t know how they could market it effectively. And yes, it destroys your soul when you’re rejected flat out, with no reason why, in a dry worded form letter.
It only takes one editor, or literary agent, or publisher to say “YES.”