Friday, July 9, 2010

How do you handle rejection?

Rejection hurts. Whether you're trying out for a baseball team or asking that guy or girl out on a date, hearing the word "no" can send anyone into a tailspin.

Rejection that comes as a result of having little or no talent in a particular area, such as hitting a baseball or driving a golf ball, is bad enough. But it's still a rejection of a particular skill set. OK, so I can't hit a baseball. That sucks, sure, but it's not the end of the world. Right?


But as writers, especially writers of fiction, it seems to me that rejection hurts even more because it goes to our core being.

When I slice open a vein and pour my innermost thoughts, desires, intellect and passions onto the page, I am leaving a piece of my essence there. My fiction represents me in the most basic, primitive way.

Reject that and you're rejecting my intelligence, creativity and, well, me. Those rejections hurt far more than others, let me tell you.

Jack Bickham, in his book The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes, hits the nail on the head when he writes:

When you write fiction, whether you realize it or not (and at some level, you probably do), you are risking revelation of your dreams and deepest emotions. It's frightening to reveal yourself this way, even indirectly. Further, the act of writing is tied very close to a person's ego structure ... The most humdrum piece of writing somehow represents the person's worth as a person sometimes. Because if it's dumb, the writer is dumb. And if the writer is dumb, he is also, ipso facto, worthless, an object of potential ridicule ... doomed.

Amen, brother.

I realize I have been lagging a bit lately in my querying. I really have been unplugged from work and the Internet for a few weeks now. My wife took the week off and we have been having a blast. And Little League is finishing up with a game tonight and then one more after that.

I tell myself I'm not querying at the moment just to "let things ferment a bit." Uh huh. Right. I suspect it's because the form rejections I've received so far have hurt far more than I thought they would.

But I shall overcome. Seriously. I'm climbing back on that horse. I've spent a few days polishing the first couple of chapters of The Devil You Don't Know and I'm getting ready to tackle the damned query letter. Again.

I know most of us claim we just shrug off those rejection letters and go on. And we do, ultimately. Otherwise, no one would get published.

But seriously, how deeply do the "no thanks" from agents cut for you? Do you take them as a criticism of your very essence? Or just another writing career hazard?


  1. i just try to not get my hopes up, that way there is less of a fall when i fail. still a fall, but less of one. there's also the thought that you won't succeed if you don't try. so really not trying is the ultimate rejection- you rejecting yourself before giving anyone else the chance. i don't know a trick to dealing. it does hurt... ummm... how about cookies?

  2. So far I am not feeling too bad with each one. Just today I got a rejection on a partial that has been out for two months. I admit that I am not sending out nearly as many query letters as I probably should, but that is more to do with me being uncertain whether the story is still in need of more editing or not (I feel it is great, but with each rejection it makes me wonder).

  3. I wouldn't sweat it. A lot of agents take time off in the summer and some are even closed to queries for awhile. Come fall, they'll be back at their desk and looking for new stuff.

  4. I don't think any of us handles rejection very well, like you said, whether it's baseball or the cute girl in science class.

    What you need to have is passion. Passion for your work. If you think it's great then you have it. If you don't, then how the hell is anyone else going to have it either.

    If you want to give up, that's your business, but it's not going to get you published. God knows I've been wavering on my ms. in the query trenches for a while now. I'm still waiting on 2 partials. I know it's a good book. I want to see it published but I've also been doing this for a year. I think I need to put it under the bed. But that's just me. I think when you get 50 rejections, then you can hang it up. Unless you want to quit after 10. I've known some who've done that. And gone on to write other things.

    It doesn't get any easier, but no one said writing is easy.

  5. I think everyone reacts differently. I had zero interest in my first book. Not a single partial request. I don't doubt the book or my skill, after lots of reflection, but the market itself. Agents want what people will buy. Publishing is a business. They say all the time they see many great books that will never make it because the market isn't right. That's the best way to save your sanity, Terry. Decisions are based on the market -on buyers- and not skill. If anything, weep for us as a species from what the general populace of readers want in their stories. It's not about intelligence or education, but what they find entertaining. Remember what TV used to be like? Then we got slammed with reality show after reality show. Not because that was all that was offered to networks, but because enough people LIKED it to make it profitable to repeat 'reality' shows with different plots.

  6. I don't get rejected by agents because I don't submit my work to them and I don't respect them. I've said it before and I'll say it again, there's other routes to getting your work out there than submitting it to a parasitic agent who is just looking for the next big thing so he or she can make a substantial commission off of your hard work. We're all on the internet and it allows you to promote your work world-wide.