Monday, March 8, 2010

Rejection, Rejection, Rejection … (I was hoping that saying it a bunch of times would make it sound less scary. It didn't work.)

Hi there, people. As I mentioned in my last post, I am now going to dedicate an entire post to the idea of REJECTION! And don't run away screaming, because this is important. It's a tough topic, and everyone hates it. But all writers go through it, also––a lot of it. So I'm going to share my experience with rejection, and all my lovely thoughts on it.

So, I believe I mentioned in some post, from like a billion years ago, that some literary agent had requested my manuscript. REJECTED. Since then, another agent requested a partial of my manuscript. ALSO REJECTED.

Now, that's a good 40 or 50 rejections I have, by now. I don't know how "normal" that is. I think it varies for every writer. Some people are rejected 10 times, and some are rejected 100 or more times. You never know. Writing is a tricky business like that.

But whether you get rejected twice or a million billion times––if you are a writer, you're going to experience rejection. So, you have to have a thick skin. If you don't have one, get one. Rejection is hard, of course, but it's not an entirely bad thing. Now, I'm not saying I like rejection. It's not fun. It's very frustrating.

My first piece of advice: allow yourself to have those silly emotional breakdowns. I have one every two months or so. I think that, in a weird way, it's healthy to have those moments where you're like "OH MY GOD! WHAT IF I NEVER GET PUBLISHED? WHAT IF I NEVER BECOME AN AUTHOR? OR WHAT IF I ONLY BECOME AN AUTHOR AFTER I DIE?" I mean, every writer has those moments and it's perfectly fine. I find it sort of motivating, actually. So, when you've suffered rejection after rejection, you don't have to hold it all inside. Rant to somebody. And usually that person will assure you that you do not fail at life, and that you're going to be fine, and that someday you will be published (hopefully before you die). Yes, breakdowns are annoying and embarrassing, but at least, once you come out of them, you feel a little bit better about yourself, because you know you can take the rejection and keep going.

Secondly, don't take rejections personally. Believe it or not, literary agents are human beings too! They have those days when they wake up and think "You know what? I hate today." And maybe that means they're going to reject everyone who queries them that day. It could be that your book just doesn't fit with the agent's personal taste. Plus, these days, when the economy is so messed up, literary agents are especially reluctant to offer representation unless they're REALLY sure the book is going to sell.

Now, I'm reading this book called How to Become a Famous Writer Before You're Dead by Ariel Gore. 'Tis a great book with a lot of good advice. One passage that especially caught my attention was one on rejection. If this doesn't make you feel better about rejection … I don't know what will:

"… Classics famously and repeatedly rejected: War and Peace, The Good Earth, Watership Down, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, The Postman Always Rings Twice, The Fountainhead, To Kill a Mockingbird, Remembrance of Things Past, and Joy of Cooking. Doris Lessing was once rejected by her own publishers when she submitted a novel under a pseudonym. And, in early 2006, the Sunday Times of London took two Booker Prize-winning novels … and submitted them as works by aspiring authors. None of the agents or editors queried recognized the manuscripts as prizewinners … of the twenty-one replies, all but one were rejections. … All this to say that if you get a rejection slip, you're in pretty good company." (p. 187)

So, there you have it. Just because your book gets rejected doesn't mean that it sucks. It could be amazing prize-worthy material. You just have to wait for your lucky day. Because a lot of getting published has to do with luck. Yes, of course it helps to have an awesome query letter/synopsis/excerpt/etc. But like I said, literary agents have moods and such. So it depends on a lot of things that are beyond your control––which is aggravating, I know.

But the thing is, you gotta keep trying. Odds are, one out of the a million literary agents in the world is going to want to represent your novel. Just keep sending out those queries like there's no tomorrow. And keep revising your query, too; ask friends/family for feedback. In the meantime, try to get some recognition. Try publishing some short stories, or entering contests, or starting a blog (wooo!). That way you'll have more to brag about in your query letters. ;)

I strongly recommend checking out this website, Preditors & Editors, which has a great list of agents, publishers, contests, critique groups, etc. and notes on how reliable said agents/publishers/contests/critique groups are. (http://pred-ed.com/)

Personally, I interpret all the rejections I've received as a wake-up call. After getting feedback from a couple agents, I've decided that my book isn't really ready for publishing and needs some revisions first. Maybe your manuscript has been rejected a gazillion times (more or less) and you're starting to feel the same way. No problem. This is another good thing about rejection. When you start off trying to get published, you're sort of in denial … like, "Okay, I am SO done with this book. I've already rewritten it ten times, so I'm just going to get it published and it will be out of the way forever!" Well, of course things can't be that convenient. The more your book gets rejected, and the more it sits around, the more you think about it. And the more you think about it, the more flaws you see in it. And you start thinking, "All right, maybe this means something. Maybe rewriting it a couple times wouldn't hurt …" It's not a good feeling. It's pretty overwhelming. But writing and editing and rewriting and begging for feedback––these are all the painful parts of being an author.

If you don't know where to start, there are a lot of great writing feedback websites you can try. Now, I've only just started using these sites, but they seem very helpful and organized to me, and P&E has them listed as recommended critique groups. So, check 'em out!

WEbook: http://www.webook.com

(This site has a lot of different sections. You can post any writing for feedback, chapter-by-chapter. People can leave feedback for different categories––general, plot, character development, etc. There's a section called PageToFame where people submit the first pages of their novels, then other members rate them, and literary agents look at the ones with the best ratings. You have to pay to submit––this is the ONLY section you have to pay for––but rating the pages is free. And fun. There's also a feature called AgentInbox that helps you put together a query letter, synopsis, excerpt, etc. Then it gives you agents who represent your genre and you can send your submission to agents right from the website. I've used it and it seems like a great feature. There are also groups and discussion forums on the site.)

Critters Workshop: http://www.critters.org/index.ht

(This site is only for science fiction, fantasy, and horror. You can submit both short stories and manuscripts, and it sounds like submissions are supposed to get approximately 10 critiques or so. I haven't submitted anything yet, but I've read through the website and it has a ton of information. So, I won't go on a long rant describing the whole thing. I recommend checking out the website for more of a description, rules, guidelines, etc. Anyway, I'm impressed with its level of organization and I'm looking forward to using it.)

Critique Circle: http://www.critiquecircle.com

(Looks pretty similar to Critters, except it accepts all genres [except poetry]. Once again, it looks very organized. The website claims: "At present time there are 2,463 active members.
We have processed 48,260 stories and 220,558 critiques." Sounds good to me. I'm just waiting for my application thingie to be approved, and then I can say more about this one.)

Note: the best way to get feedback is to give feedback first. If you join any of these sites, it's important to give some other members some good, honest, and constructive feedback, and they will be likely to return the favor. :)

So, that is my advice for the day. Stop wallowing in your self-pity and go do something productive. ^_^

7 comments:

  1. I love you, Brigid! AND YOU WILL GET PUBLISHED BEFORE YOU DIE, STUPID! -rolls eyes-

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  2. Great post, sounds like you are doing everything right - you've written your novel and you're building a following with your blog which equals a ready made market when you get published. Feel proud of what you've already accomplished. Critique Circle is a good resource, but most importantly... keep writing - it may be that the second or third novel in you is the big hit.

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  3. I'll have to check out Critique Circle... that looks interesting.

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  4. Hi Brig,
    I am/was a member of Critters.org. It's a great online group. Haven't used it in a couple of years, though.
    A. You must first select from a wide range of submissions; critique three? Five? Don't remember :( then send them back online before your name and submission gets added to the list. That's only fair.
    Only problem. You have a 5,000 word submission that you're dying to get reviews on. There are twenty others with 2-3,000 words. The inevitability of yours sliding down to last selected is high. When I was working on the first draft of my novel and was blazing along, writing every night for hours, the last thing I wanted to do was read a 5,000 word submission as opposed to a 2,500 word sub.
    The other problem can be: the "eyes" of the critiquer. Generally, those comments I received were helpful and valid, but at times, "Gee, I really like your story..."
    Still, Critters is a great organization to consider.

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  5. Brigid, you are really smart. :) Like I felt like that blog post was coming from an experienced adult persony thingy. XD

    And that quote you put from the book by Ariel Gore, it made me feel a lot better about all my rejections.

    But silly Brigid, whenever you have your freakout attacks you should re-read this blog post. It would help you. :P

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  6. Wow, looks like I never actually read the comments on this post. heh heh.

    Ilana - I love you too. And yes, I sure hope so. :D

    Charmaine - Thanks for the encouragement. :)

    Patrick - Thanks for the info. I also got overwhelmed with Critters … what with it being the middle of the school year and everything, I didn't have time to be critiquing so many things a week. But now that I have some more free time I should get back to it.

    Sella - Why thank you. I am indeed an experienced persony thingy. Hahaha. Good, it made me feel better too. Well, I am reading this post right now for that very reason. O_o I should get back to writing though. I think my worst problem is that I keep procrastinating XP

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  7. Hehe, I know you are, but I meant like, you know, 30-year-old very famous author kind of experienced persony thingy. XD Yes yes write!

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