Sometimes trying to get published feels like you’re politely shouting into the void – you send out query letters and get a rejection letter, or even worse, you get no response at all. You start to wonder if you’re just a terrible writer, if you’ve deluded yourself into thinking that there’s any point to all that effort.
Then an agent writes back and wants to see your manuscript.
Blessedly this happened to me yesterday – and I want to shout again, only this time I want to shout at the void not into it. “See! It doesn’t totally suck!”
Because no matter what happens I know that those 25 pages I sent that agent were good enough that they wanted to keep reading.
And that is certainly a beacon of hope.
This was a record setting week, but maybe not in the way that I would have wished.
This week I got five rejection letters.
In a era where many agents don’t bother to write back at all this is kind of an accomplishment. It also can be tough to deal with – but you have to if you want to publish your work traditionally.
So here are three ways that I’ve survived my rejection heavy week:
- I tried not to take it personally.
Honestly, I kind of hate when people say “don’t take this personally” because our emotions are personal and telling people not to feel things is an extremely jerky thing to do. However, in this case I think it’s important to remember that rejection letters aren’t a commentary on whether or not I’m a worthwhile person, they may not even have anything to do with whether or not I’m a good writer. It just means that in that moment my book wasn’t a good fit with that agent.
- I got frustrated.
This might sound counter intuitive to a post that’s supposed to be about survival but frustration is a whole lot healthier than what seems to be my other emotional default – despair. Frustration, to me, is about knowing something is possible and worthwhile and yet running into difficult roadblocks. It’s “Grrr….this is annoying” vs. “It’s hopeless. I suck as a writer. There’s no point in going on.” Rejection makes negative emotions inevitable, but channeling them toward frustration keeps me from spiraling into the depths of woe.
- I sent out more query letters.
For me the best way to make those rejection letters “water under the bridge” is to send out new letters – it turns my gaze hopefully forward to new possibilities. It also gives me hope, and in my opinion, having hope is the single best antidote for the depression of rejection.
Last week I sent out six query letters. It’s something I’ve been doing, on and off, for what feels like a really long time, and while I’ve had some hopeful moments I’m not a published novelist.
The reality is, I might never publish a novel, at least by conventional means. I can hope for it, work for it, and continue to improve and learn to up my odds, but at the end of the day it is out of my control. And yet, even if I knew I’d never be published I’d still continue to write. Why?
Because it’s essential to who I am.
I can’t not makeup stories in my head. When I was a little girl I did what a lot of kids do, I imagined myself as Han Solo’s sidekick or tagging along with the Pevensies in Narnia. Eventually, though still inspired by those stories, I wanted to create my own characters, my own worlds.
I write for a lot of reasons; one of those is to tell myself the story. That’s also why I’m terrible at outlining. The actual process of visualizing the scene in my head and then writing it down is how I discover who my characters are and what they are going to do.
This knowledge can be a powerful weapon against the discouragement of getting a rejection letter or some brutal feedback on my work. I want to write the story – if something more comes of it down the road, great, but even if it doesn’t I still have to keep working and keep improving if for no other reason than to see how the story ends.