Monday, February 26, 2007

The R Word

We’ve all experienced it in one form of another. That really cute guy in high school who you thought you’d die for dumped you without so much as a “see ya”. The person you thought was your best friend suddenly found another new best friend and is treating you like yesterday’s outfit she wouldn’t be caught dead in. The guy who vowed to honor you for better or worse has decided that “better” means a newer, younger version. Ah, rejection. It sucks, doesn’t it? As humans inhabiting planet Earth we’ve all dealt with our share of the garden variety forms of rejection, but as writers/authors, we deal with a special kind reserved just for us.

It’s a strange business we’ve chosen, and if you’ve been in it long enough, or even not so very long, you’ve no doubt experienced rejection of your work. Now, I don’t think editors really mean to hurt us when they reject our work. I’d hate to think that my editor got dumped by her boyfriend the night before and took out her wrath on the first unsuspecting author whose work crossed her desk the next morning.

I love each and every one of my stories like they were my children. So much passion goes into their making. So much sweating and straining to bring them to life. I guess the powers that be just don’t realize that rejecting a manuscript is like saying you have an ugly baby. Now, I’ll admit that I’ve seen some pretty homely babies, but I would never tell that to their mothers.

Some rejections come as generic form letters. Did you ever try to read between the lines of a form letter? Trust me, it doesn’t help. Others are lengthy, 2 pages of everything that’s wrong with your baby, after which they toss in some praise to keep you from coming after them with a machete. Some are truly kind and encouraging.

I’d like to share my 7 step approach to dealing with the R word.

Step 1 – Denial. They can’t be serious! They’ll read it over again and realize they made a monstrous mistake, and along with their profuse apologies will come a multi-book contract and tons of money.

Step 2 – Depression. Oh my God. I’ll never sell another book again. I’m washed up. I’m a has-been. Where’s that hole? I want to crawl in and never come out. Don’t touch me. Don’t talk to me. I wish I were dead.

Step 3 – Anger. What?! That miserable so-and-so! She wouldn’t know a good love story if it jumped up and bit her on the nose. No wonder her boyfriend dumped her! And if he didn’t, he should!

Step 4 – Acceptance. Oh well. It is what it is. There’s nothing I can do about it, so I might as well get on with my miserable life.

Step 5 – Determination. I’ll write another one and if they don’t buy that one, I’ll write another one, and if they don’t buy that one…

Step 6 – Hope. And if hoping doesn’t work, I give prayer a shot.

Step 7 – Resignation. Whoever said life was fair?

This whole process takes about 2 hours before I’m back to my old self. Well, okay, so maybe there’s a little residual depression lingering into the next day, but by then, it’s a mere shadow of its former self. No more crawling into holes. No more death wishes. Just a sad little tinge of what might have been.

So, my question is, how do you deal with rejection? Do you stomp your feet at the injustice of it? Do you stick pins in the doll you created in your editor’s likeness? Do you cry? Does it slide off your back like water on a duck, or does it stay with you for days like a bad dream? Does it affect what you write next, or do you stubbornly stick to your guns and continue to write the same types of stories you believe in?

For those out there who are experiencing rejection, the only advice I can offer is what works for me. Get angry. Get depressed. Get over it.


Sierra said...

My first reaction: Pain.

Second reaction: Denial. They're wrong!

Third reaction: Okay, what's plan B? Is there another editor on the list for this baby?

If the answer is "yes," I start to feel better pretty quick. As long as there's another possibility out there, there's hope.

So far I haven't run out of options yet. If I did, I'd probably be REALLY depressed and stay that way for a while. But I know the real answer is that there's always another manuscript.

The Rs I've received haven't been specific enough to help me toward revision, but I learned very quickly that one editor's poison is another editor's meat. I do very little revising before I resubmit, because hey, there's always the chance they were wrong. (See #2 above!)

Oh, and somewhere between and among #1, #2 and #3, I'm running to my husband, my CPs and my favorite boards for moral support. That always helps.

Terry Z McDermid said...

I was given this great tip regarding rejection and the word No. Many people see No as a negative but it means nothing changes. If my story is rejected, will I stop being a wife, a mother, a writer? Of course not. But if my story is accepted, there's the excitement and the change. That's the reason we have to keep our stories going out, to reach that Yes.

In terms of keeping me going -- and this takes into account that I'm following the right guidelines, checking on the correct markets, doing what's necessary for the marketing part -- I practice some steps I heard from a master salesman (and we are in sales, even if being creative). If it takes 4 No's before you receive 1 Yes and that Yes than equals $100 in sales, each No is worth $20 (5 tries for a sale of $100). You're also a step closer to the Yes.

He said he always says, "thanks, that was worth $20" to the person telling him no (in his head, if not out loud). Changed his perspective and sure has changed mine.

Dr. Bill Emener said...

I tend to experience all the seven things you listed (which in many ways are consistent with the grieving process), yet I find rationalization helpful: "This one example of my writing is being rejected -- not me."
Now I am not saying that I don't feel some personal rejection, but when I think of this above conceptualization I feel less down about it. Taking a long ride on my Harley and having my two cats climb all over me when I return helps as well.
Oh and I forgot... "How sad for them that they didn't appreciate such brilliant work."
Write on...

Anonymous said...

Great post, Nancy. We've all dealt with the "R" word at one time or another. What works for me is I imagine myself accepting the Rita and the Edgar (on the same night, for the same book) and thanking the editor who had rejected my book.


Oh, yeah. Did I mention that George Clooney was my date?


JoAnn Ross said...

Faye, Faye, Faye. . .


Much as I love you, darlin', I do fear you're in need of a major priority adjustment. (Maybe all that snow is clouding your senses.)

Let's see. . . you have George Clooney as your date. . . and you care about anything else why?

Anonymous said...


Excellent point, JoAnn. I think you're right - it was the snow. LOL.