I worry that sometimes people hear the beginning (because there’s still more to come) of my writing journey and think that I never met any discouragement along the way. While that would have been lovely, it is simply not true. Though I did not walk the unpublished road for a long, long time like so many writers I admire so much have, I did walk it. Those men and women whose road is longer have grit. (Seriously, they are my heroes.) But I do feel I walked it long enough to acquire a few memorable rejections.
A very successful author was talking to me the other day and we shared some of our rejection stories. She told me I’d love them at some point, that they would be my writing backstory. And I already do love them. But I didn’t when I first received them. Now they are not only comical but they are a testament to my ability to keep going. Perseverance is a virtue, rejection is a reality, setbacks happen. And we writers have to wrap our heads around all that. It’s hard to grasp when you are in the middle of it, but it is part of the adventure.
Here’s my favorite rejection of all (so far):
“And there was some odd phrasing in the dialogue that gave it an awkward feel. There were spots that I described in my notes as Yoda-esque, where the word order was turned upside down….”
Do you love it? She described my writing as Yoda-esque. I didn’t even know that was a thing. And the really funny part is I don’t think I could write like Yoda if I wanted to. I remember this one stinging when I read it. I quickly pulled up the manuscript and read the dialogue and it didn’t sound bad. So I had my husband read it and it sounded awful (and, yes, kind of like Yoda). I rewrote the dialogue. It got better and stronger. They were right!
I had queried an agent and she was nice enough to write back and tell me no. I didn’t know enough about agent etiquette to just walk away so I emailed some questions back and lo and behold she answered me. After a few back and forths I asked her if I worked on the things she suggested would she want to see it again.
She responded, “It would take a lot, Rachel. I just don’t feel it’s close yet.”
This was one of the first queries I’d sent out so I was shocked. I had secretly hoped the world would fight over my novel. I’d slaved away on it for so many months how could it not be ready yet?
I ended up getting a “request for a full” (when an agent responds to your query by asking to see the complete manuscript) out of that same batch of queries and then offers for representation came. I learned my book wasn’t for everyone and that was okay. And she’d been right too. Even though I was able to find representation while it was in its current form, I did still have to do a lot of editing and work to polish my manuscript.
One last one for today:
Before I had a publishing deal I entered my story in a contest. By the time I got the results back I had found a home for my manuscript. I think the results of the contest would have been even more disheartening if that had not been the case!
One judge did not care for my story at all. (Thankfully there were judges that did enjoy it). In every category this particular judge gave it bad marks (REALLY bad marks).
Here’s the comments on grammar: “The author needs to learn when to insert commas into her sentences.”
Pretty much every category was equally blunt.
I shared the results of the contest with my editor and she just shrugged it off and told me to stop worrying. “You have a contract. We love you. We have editors that know how to use commas.” This reminder lessened the sting. . . somewhat.
Rejection happens. Sometimes there is something to be learned from the rejection. Sometimes it’s just not a good fit. Sometimes people just don’t like what you write. Sometimes you just have to laugh it off.
I don’t know of an author that has not faced some rejection. When you feel that you are the only one just trust me when I say we all have some sort of rejection tucked away in our inboxes.
How about you? Have you faced any rejection on your road to success?
Kathleen Denly says
I love your honesty in this post! I especially like that you shared specific examples. I think it’s helpful for writers to know they aren’t alone. I have certainly experienced rejection in different ways along this writing journey. Thankfully, I have been able to learn from each one and have no regrets so far.