Okay that got your attention. Why the hell would any sane person do that? Here’s two reasons:
- Rejections come frequently in the pre-pubbed years. Why? Because you’re inexperienced and need to learn and practise your craft. It doesn’t mean your writing’s crap, just that it’s not yet to a publishable standard (in the early years) or suitable for the editor or line you’re targeting (in the later years).
- Handling rejection successfully will determine whether you achieve publication and probably (as a two book author I’ll get back to you on this), build a career as a romance writer.
M Scott Peck’s book, The Road Less Travelled, starts with the memorable line: “Life is difficult.” Accept that fact, says Peck, and you can transcend it.
Well, getting published is difficult. Oh sure, we all want to be the exception, the shining talent, the Charlene Dickens whose unmistakable genius is picked up on the first book. I just rang the only person I know who had their ‘first’ book published, the fantastic historical writer Helen Kirkman and she told me the book that sold was her fifth manuscript. She just didn’t submit the first four.
Rejections will tell you whether you really, REALLY want to get published and force the commitment of time, study, and writing that makes that possible. Or not…you may decide you don’t need the heartache and that you’re happy writing for yourself. Either way, you get clarity.
These days when rejections come, I try and see them as an opportunity to take stock. Is it time to put this book aside and work on something new? Is it time to investigate whether I’m targeting the wrong line? Is it time to get a craft book out and bone up on an aspect that’s holding me back? The first rejection I got after publication reminded me that I’m better writing the whole book rather than submitting a synopsis and three chapters. Rejection can point a direction, strengthen resolve…okay I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to get published but hell, now I am sure!
Accept that you’re going to get rejected and rejections will lose their crushing importance. Everyone gets ‘em; they’re a rite of passage, welcome to the club. These days I’m damned if a rejection letter is going to leach me of creativity for more than 24 hours. I’m saving my energy for the book. Of course I still have to trick myself by saying, okay I’ll write half a page and then I’ll grieve/sulk/overeat.
We often hear that Harlequin gets a trillion manuscripts a year – Gee, what chance have I got, you ask, clutching your latest rejection. Exclude the books on gardening or hunting sea slugs and that number drops substantially. What would the odds be if you knew your market, knew your craft, and never gave up? Honey, publication’s a cert.
Sound far-fetched? How many Australasians sold their first book in the last twelve months. Twelve? Fifteen? Yvonne Lindsay had been trying for ten years, Maxine Sullivan for twenty – kudos to them. I can guarantee that every one of us ‘newbies’ has had a knock-back that made us think, ‘To hell with it, I’m going to be a party girl instead’. And then somehow dragged ourselves back to the keyboard.
That’s the only choice you need to make when you get a rejection. To give up. Or not give up. (See how easy this gets ?) The worst rejection I ever got was on a manuscript that later won a Golden Heart. Imagine if I’d dumped it? And you know what, that damn manuscript still won’t sell because I can’t get it right despite fabulous help from writers and editors. But it has earned its keep by giving me credibility with editors for the next book. Sometimes a loss is a win.
We write conflict, epic battles against self; we like dark moments and prevailing against all odds. Rejections are another milestone on your road to publication, gatekeepers between you and your dream. Your heroes and heroines don’t turn back in adversity – that’s what makes them heroic, admirable, worthy of respect.
And neither will you.
This article appeared in the September 06 newsletter of Romance Writers of Australia