Friday, September 11, 2009

Writing is not for sissies

Rejections are inevitable. Critique groups will never think your writing is perfect.

You can take a page to a critique session, get feedback, modify the page, and then take it back to the next critique only to be told that there are still several things “wrong”.

That sounds extremely harsh, but it is not meant to be. The fact of the matter is, when you get a group of people to read your work everyone will have a difference of opinion. Every editor or agent will have a difference of opinion.

For those of you who are published authors, you can attest to the title of this blog post. Writing and the processing of getting published, whether your first or fifth novel can be a daunting task. The publishing industry is not for sissies!

Aspiring authors may have or may not have had the pleasure of receiving your first rejection yet. Just remember this: A rejection is a right of passage. It means you have finished a novel and taken that step of putting your heart out there and submitted your work for someone to read. It also means that an editor or agent has taken the time to read your work. That is a huge feat. (not huge feet)

In recent weeks, a couple of fellow writers have received rejection letters either from an agent or from an editor. Does it really matter as to which? No. What matters is that these writers put themselves out there and were told, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Is this a bad thing?

Sounds like a ridiculous question, especially if you are asking the author of the denied novel. BUT, it is not.

Both of the writers I mentioned actually received responses to their work that gave specific reasons as to the rejection.

Hallelujah! That is a tremendous help. These authors should and I know one did already take the offered critique, ponder it, and decide to modify, or move on elsewhere.

Unfortunately, not every agent or editor will take the time to offer advice or give you their opinion. I, myself, have received very nice one-liners that said, “This story is not right for me.” Or “I am not taking on new clients at this time.” Or any number of various reasons for rejection. Heck, there are those that you don’t hear from for months even after the story has already been accepted for publication by someone else. The worst is when your submission ends up in a black hole and you never even know if your work was received.

Now that you have received a rejection or several, a decision has to be made.

Do you give up, throw in the towel, turn tail and run away? Or do you straighten that spine, get a stiff upper lift, maybe buy a suit of armor to cover your chest and protect your heart?

This is when you decide whether you want to get published bad enough. This is when you decide whether you are a sissy or not. The publishing business is not for the weak at heart and the spineless. Pardon the expression, but this juncture is when you grow a set of balls or let them shrivel up and away.

Me, people will tell you that I have no patience. SHRUG! So, and your point would be?

BUT, I have the persistence of a pitbull who wants those pants attached to the man’s ass. (Okay, maybe not the best image, but you get the picture.) In the publishing industry, it takes persistence to get what you, the writer, want. Nothing will ever be handed to you on a silver platter. It never is in anything that is of huge importance to you. If you do not have to work hard for what you want in life or writing then it is not worth it in the end.

So what you receive a rejection. Have a good cry, eat a pint or gallon of ice cream, even feel free to give your pillow several hard punches. Got that out of your system?

Now, do you want to get published? How badly? How important is it to you to see your name on the cover of a book?

Know this. From here on, it only gets harder. Writing a story is hard work, creating it so it meets guidelines that you are not completely aware of is daunting, but tossing your story out there and getting your heart stomped on is the toughest thing you will ever have to go through in this business.

Is it worth it? This is the question that you and only you can answer.

If you answer yes then take the critiques offered by the editors or agents, the various critiques groups you may write with, and decide what is valid to your story. If you listen to the opinions of others, will it help you in achieving that “author” goal?

Take a step back and look at the advice the editor or agent, or critter offered. Now that you have gotten past the “rejection” word, gotten over your mad, does the suggestion make sense? Will cutting 8000 words make it a better and faster paced story? Will deleting most taglines or almost all “ly” adverbs make your story more readable?

Did you submit your manuscript to the right editor or agent? Publishing is not a one-size fits all kind of thing. If that were the case then we would not need so many agencies and writers. Do not send your children’s story to a non-fiction agent. Do not send your contemporary romance to a historical editor. Do not send your very dark thriller to a publisher who produces romantic comedies.

What you write may come from your heart, but the editor or agent is not hooked into that process because your “feelings” are not what they sell. It is the work, the words, the story, that makes a difference.

A rejection is not personal. It is professional. Suck it up! Do the right thing, go back to your story, and fix it.

We want to see your name in the “author” column! And if you need help along the way, you will find that most writers/authors are always willing to offer a tip, a pat on the back, or a box of tissues. Just ask.

Good luck!! Other writers, feel free to share your rejection and success stroies to help boost those who are on the verge of giving up.


Lisa Olech September 11, 2009 at 10:44 AM  

pack of travel tissues...99 cents, pint of icecream....$4.78 (I like the good stuff), friends like you, Denise....priceless.

I'm anticipating the champagne will taste even better when I'm sporting battle scars and brass balls! So bring it on!

Denise September 11, 2009 at 10:49 AM  

Take heart - you will get there for the pure fact that you want to!

And yes, the champagne does taste that much better when it is washing away the bitter taste of rejection.

Ann Lethbridge September 11, 2009 at 11:43 AM  


Nicely put. And it works as well for the published-already as it does for those who are hovering in the wings.

I wrote six or seven books before a novel accepted for publication. Some of those will never see the light of day. I also had a couple of no thank yous after I was published.

Getting toughened up by rejections is hugely helpful when the revisions for the accepted book roll in, believe me. What do you mean, there is not enough emotions?
Groan. How did I miss that dangling thread? It mucks up pages and pages.

And so on.

Yes, rejection is hard, but they do mean you are a bonafide writer. Means you can claim some of those expenses against your income too, in some jurisdictions. And you can't be published if you don't dip your toes in the rejection pool and wait for the sharks to surface.

Inspiring post.


Joe Prentis September 11, 2009 at 11:56 AM  

I agree with everything Denise said, but I will add a few things. One very important point to remember when you have been rejected, is you have been rejected by only one person. You can gain some valuable experience from being on a critique group where there are dozens of critters who feel free to paw through your masterpiece and then fire a shot across your bow. A lot of what you will hear is pure . . . well, not helpful. Some members of the group will hate everything you write, even if you lifted the passage from some best seller that won the Nobel Prize in literature. On the other end of the spectrum, you will receive important information that you should value in the same way as you would value a chest full of priceless jewels. Even best selling writers are subject to the whims of their editors and publishers. There is a long, steep road upward, and it will be a long time before you can confront you editor nose to nose and say, “touch that sentence and I will pluck your eyes from your head.” Write on, and on, and on . . . and never give up.

Mark Rosendorf September 11, 2009 at 12:52 PM  

Unfortunately, it's not always about how good or bad your work is. When I tried to get my first work, "The Rasner Effect" published, I recieved more than dozens of rejections that bluntly told me either they read the manuscript and it's good but they don't want to work with a first-time author, or they didn't bother to read it because they don't want to work with an first-time author.

By the end of the first year, i had over 100 rejections with a lot more to come. When I finally caught a publisher's interest, it came with advice on what it needed for them to even consider it.

The process to get my first book published took over two years between what I thought was a finished manuscript (I still ended up having to do a lot of editing in those two plus years) before i finally recieved a long awaited acceptance and my manuscript turned into book form.

Needless to say, those two years were filled with hard work and frustration, but in the end, was it worth it? YES YES YES!!!

I would even say that the struggle to get my book published and get my foot in the door of the publishing world made that first contract that much sweeter.

To sum up: For new authors, prepare for the long haul and a lot of self-doubts, but stick with it because that first "yes" is well worth the time, struggle and sacrafice.

Mike Dennis September 11, 2009 at 5:25 PM  

Good post, Denise. I might add a little piece of wisdom from Lawrence Block, who has had over 100 novels published in his long career (and I paraphrase): a published author is nothing more than an unpublished writer who didn't quit.

Jack W. Regan September 11, 2009 at 8:56 PM  

Good advice, Denise. And your post title is so true. I don't think non-writers understand how difficult writing actually is. It's the hardest work I've done and I've had a lot of different jobs.

Denise September 12, 2009 at 12:35 AM  


Thanks everyone for chiming in here. I think it helps to know that all authors go through that rejection phase, especially when you find out that someone like Lawrence Block and Stephen King who are both well known and highly read had the same experience.

Ann - I appreciate you saying the post was inspiring. That was my intent. I also enjoyed your comment "And you can't be published if you don't dip your toes in the rejection pool and wait for the sharks to surface." So true!

Joe - "Write on, and on, and on . . . and never give up." Great advice!

Mark - Your two years of struggle you gave as an example is a great example. "To sum up: For new authors, prepare for the long haul and a lot of self-doubts, but stick with it because that first "yes" is well worth the time, struggle and sacrafice."

Having read Mark's book, The Rasner Effect, I would agree with Mark in that his efforts were "worth it".

Jack - You said it! "It's the hardest work I've done and I've had a lot of different jobs."

It's also the most rewarding job, wouldn't you agree?

Truly appreciate all your comments everyone and I hope your feedback along with this post does push those writers teetering on the verge of giving up to keep that towel tightly tucked away and know that they are not alone because the end goal is attainable, but only if you persist.

Ceri Hebert September 12, 2009 at 9:07 PM  

I've kept every rejection I've received. No, it's not something we want to get, but at least it shows we're putting ourselves out there. I won't give up. The rejections make me more committed to improving.

Denise September 12, 2009 at 9:18 PM  

Ceri -

Do you really keep the rejections? Why?

I'm a firm believer in the power of delete and trash.

Walking In My Sleep September 12, 2009 at 11:30 PM  

No rejection will ever overpower you if you believe in yourself. Some days it does feel overwhelming, but you are your number one cheerleader. Believe in yourself!

Conda V. Douglas September 13, 2009 at 12:05 AM  

True, true, all true and it's good to remember in this biz you have to go through noes to get to yeses.

Denise September 13, 2009 at 8:19 PM  

Walking in My Sleep - There are no truer words than "Believe in yourself!" Thanks for reminding others.

Conda - All those noes are just stepping stones to the yes that gets you to the next plateau.

Colleen September 14, 2009 at 6:56 AM  

Great post, Denise. I, too, have my rejection in hand, but it is simply a rite of passage and a motivation to get out there and prove 'em wrong!!

Denise September 14, 2009 at 8:59 AM  

Colleen -

I like that "a rite of passage"

You go prove them wrong!

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