Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Dealing With Rejection

Rejection is part of the writing business. Today, my guest is author J.E. Seymour who shares her methods for dealing with it. Welcome.

Rejection is something that every writer has to learn to deal with. The only writer who has never experienced rejection is the writer who has never sent anything out. Like it or not, every story is not going to be every editor’s cup of tea. I keep hoping that someday I’ll grow immune to those little slips of paper. I can’t say that it ever gets easier. Even when the little slips of paper turn into real letters, signed by an actual editor, starting with my name instead of “dear author.” It still hurts.

Every rejection takes some little piece of my ego. Then I’ll get an acceptance. For a short time, that changes everything. Once in a while I get that acceptance that makes it all worth it, like the one where the editor said I'm one of the best noir writers around. That makes the rejections worth it. Then another rejection comes along. And they’ll keep coming, as long as I keep sending out short stories and novels. My favorite word? Persistence. Seventeen years, three novels, hundreds of rejections, one published novel. Priceless.

How does a writer reduce the number of rejections? Start with the basics. Know your market. Don’t send a cozy novel query to an agent looking for international thrillers. Do your research. But before you even get to that point, do your homework. Edit your work until it gets to be the best it can be. Don’t use their when you mean they’re.

When you do receive those rejection letters, take heart. You’re not alone. Stephen King got dozens for his first novel, Carrie. J.K. Rowling’s rejections on Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone numbered in the dozens as well. How about Tony Hillerman? William Faulkner? John Grisham? Rudyard Kipling? Margaret Mitchell? Gone with the Wind received 38 rejections before being published. How about Meg Cabot? The Princess Diaries was rejected by seventeen publishers before being accepted.

So make your work the best it can be, and be prepared to handle the rejections when they come. I will keep writing because that’s what I do. If writing is important to you, keep on writing. Wallpaper your bathroom in rejection notices. And just keep writing.

J.E. Seymour’s debut novel, “Lead Poisoning” garnered 80 rejections from agents before being accepted by a small publisher – Mainly Murder Press. To learn more about her books, visit her website, http://jeseymour.com.


Cleo Coyle said...

Amen, sister. Great advice. I always say writing is a life, publishing a crap shoot. The dice will be nice to you eventually -- but only if you keep throwing.

Elena said...

You might increase your list of published works if you stop applying cliches to getting rejections, and especially if you stop taking them personally. You say they hurt? Yea right, toughen up - this is a business not a social event. They only hurt if you decide they hurt. All that is happening is that someone is saying no. That is not a big deal. That is part of writing for publication.

Stop wallpapering your bathroom with rejection notices. The last thing you need first thing in the morning are walls of negative responses to start out your day.

Hart Johnson said...

It does help to keep in mind the rejections of the greats. I have managed to take to heart that rejections thus far mean my work isn't ready yet, and that's okay, too--as a lesson, but we definitely can't take the rejections personally.

And I DO keep them. I am just snotty enough that I want evidence when I take over the world *shifty* They had their chance.

Terry Odell said...

I have a file with all my rejections as well. Rejection IS part of the business, but each of us has to deal with it in our own way. I think there's a basic insecurity that comes with the creative process. We worry about word choices, formatting, and wonder if the work could possibly be good enough. And this doesn't stop just because you have a book (or 10 books) published. It seems universal.

I tend to stomp around for a while, and eat chocolate. However, I've noticed my stomping bouts are shorter, although the chocolate consumption hasn't changed

J.E. Seymour said...

Sorry, even after all the stories I've had published, each rejection does hurt. I guess it's just me. Chocolate helps though! I hang onto my rejections but I don't look back at them unless they are those rarities that offer suggestions for improvement. Those get studied. Otherwise I file them and move on.

Terry Stonecrop said...

Good advice! Keep trying. I'll remember that.

Like Cleo, I think it's a crap shoot.

Best of luck with Lead Poisoning! Great title!

Patricia Stoltey said...

It's all part of the game, isn't it? Just like bad reviews and unfriendly critiques. File them away, shred them, or create a collage....just don't dwell on them.

Bob Sanchez said...

I have a friend who used to do just what you suggested: paper her bathroom with them. To me, though, that seems like wallowing. Unless they come with useful advice, the best thing to do is round-file them.

To paraphrase some old admiral, damn the rejections. Full speed ahead.

Maryann Miller said...

Wonderful example of how tenacity can pay off. Good for you, J.E. I have a friend who never got a rejection in the early years of her writing career. She was going to do a workshop at a conference about rejections and asked to borrow some of mine so she'd know what one looked like. I asked her why she'd been pegged to do that topic. LOL

J.E. Seymour said...

I'm at the Crime Bake conference and just finished listening to an interview with the keynote speaker, Charlaine Harris. Who said, guess what? Rejections hurt. She says of course they hurt and of course you take them personally. But you take them and move on. Write a better book. Keep on writing.