It’s something every writer faces. We know it’s coming, so what do we do?
When you decide to write, be it a book, a poem, an article, or anything else, rejection is inevitable. There’s not always a rhyme or reason to it, so don’t go tearing your hair out, burning your keyboard, or making virtual voodoo dolls online to destroy your tormentors in effigy. Rejection is a part of the process. Know it, accept it.
Learn from it.
Not all rejections are ambiguous. If you’re lucky, you’ll gain insight into why you were rejected. I know what you’re thinking. “Nulli are you crazy? Why would I want to learn from some kook who doesn’t appreciate the greatness that is my every utterance?”
When someone takes the time to tell you why you were rejected, nine times out of ten, they’re doing you a huge favor. These types of rejections can help you improve your craft, giving you pearls of wisdom from someone who’s seen a lot, read a lot, and knows a lot about the area you’re interested in pursuing.
Translation – You need to write “tight.”
Example: John walked down the cold metal stairs, staring at the cross hatch pattern on every riser. They were made from an alloy that was more than likely higher in nickel content than the ones outside his apartment. The steps were narrow, but wide enough to meet code.
Unless you’re writing about metallurgy and engineering, all of those extra details are unnecessary.
Awkward word usage.
Translation – Most people won’t know what you’re talking about.
Example: Terrance peered though the diaphonous membrane serving as his temporary portal into the unknown. Gossamer threads of luminescence filtered down, reminding him of languid pools of coalescing energy.
If the reader has to stop every other word to grab a dictionary, they’re not engaged in the story.
Example: Claire rubbed her temples, her migraine pounding in her skull. Jake could see the pain in her features. He slid closer and took over, rubbing in small circles while he sent as much soothing energy as he could her way.
Who’s point of view was this scene written in? Typically, you want to present one POV per scene to the reader. Think soloists, not choir.
Example Subtle POV shift: Jennifer schlepped down Fifth Avenue, her green eyes sparkling in the bright sun. Her short auburn hair blew in the breeze, making her look like she was in a shampoo commercial.
What’s the problem here? Jennifer can’t see herself. Remember, she’s walking down the sidewalk. Do you know your eyes are sparkling as you walk around? Do you think about your hair blowing like it’s in a commercial? Unless she’s looking in a mirror or another reflective surface (window, puddle of water, etc.), she has no idea of these concepts.
Telling vs. showing.
Example. Jack was angry.
This is by far, is one of the biggies. There are hundreds of ways to show Jack’s anger to pull the reader into the scene.
Jack clenched his fists at his sides, his nostrils flared. He narrowed his eyes. Heat moved up the back of his neck and ears like a flaming phantom. He unconsciously flexed the muscles of his arms, ready to lash out.
This example gives you images to work with. Now the reader can see what Jack is like when he’s angry, but I never used the word, angry once. You can tell from his body language, he’s upset. That’s the difference between showing the reader what’s going on vs. telling them.
Do your homework.
If you write YA adventure, don’t submit your story to a publisher who only deals with adult horror. It’s easy to find what publishers are interested in with just a smidge of research. Make sure they’re buying what you want to sell.
It’s always going to sting.
We want everyone to enjoy our work, but writing is very subjective. What one person absolutely loves, another will hate, even at the same publisher. Don’t get bogged down on the self loathing. Keep writing. If this is truly what you want to do, keep working hard, keep learning, and keep looking for the publisher that appreciates your voice.
It isn’t about you.
Publishing is a business, and acquisitions editors are there to help the company stay profitable within their realm of expertise. I’ve mentioned this before. Your book is a product. It is meant to be sold and consumed. While your story is near and dear to your heart, representatives for publishers are looking at figures and experiences for their target market.
Publishers have an audience with certain expectations of their offerings. Your book has to fit into those parameters. While an editor may adore your story, she could reject it because it’s not what the readers at her publisher want.
Revise and resubmit does not mean no.
If you receive a revise and resubmit letter, you’re one step closer to a yes.
“What is it?”
The publisher likes your story, but there may be craft, plot, or continuity issues preventing them from offering you a contract.
“Why can’t the editor fix that?”
It’s not the role of an editor to fix major areas for you. Editors polish your work. They don’t take a half finished sculpture, complete it, and add in the fine detail. Your piece should be fully formed and only in need of some tweaking once the editor gets involved.
At the end of the day, you have to return to your reason for writing. Don’t let rejections make you feel devalued. Look for the lessons, and keep honing your voice.