Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Rejection is not the End of the World

Being rejected is not the end of the world. In the moments after the initial blow it may seem like it. A person wants to crawl into the nearest hole, pull the cover rock over top, and stay there…forever. Instead of burying yourself in the hole, kick the rock aside. Go ahead, kick it hard. Then keep walking.

So the bombshell beauty at the bar shot you down. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe you don’t want that whirlwind catastrophe in your life. Maybe, it was a rejection that saved you a world of hurt that you would have never expected.
So the dream job that you thought you were made for rejected you without so much as an interview. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe there were organizational cultural differences that made you ‘not a good fit.’ Maybe their ways and means of doing business wouldn’t be in line with your core values after all. Shake it off and look for the next opportunity. Contrary to popular belief, opportunity knocks every day; you just have to be willing to answer the door.

If you want to be a writer or an author, rejection is part of the game, just like in life. I hold to the belief that every author that has ever lived has been rejected multiple times in their life. If you’ve never been rejected, then I tip my imaginary hat to you. (I don’t wear hats.)
The initial rejection from an agent or publisher feels like someone slammed you in the gut with their fist, and then did it again for good measure. You start questioning your ability, your imagination, your vocabulary, your prose, and perhaps even question your own identity.
Then you get angry. It isn’t your fault. They don’t know good writing when they read it. They have no clue of what they are missing. That’s right, you’re the next great American author and they missed out. Or, did they?
Honesty goes a long way when it comes to rejection. Some agents and publishers will at least give you some reason for the rejection. Sometimes that reason comes as a standard form letter. Here’s my take on the form letter rejection: The writing is of low quality. The end.  I would take that as a generous dose of politeness on the part of the agent or publisher. They could tell you exactly how they feel about the quality of writing, but choose not to, so as not to deflate your hopes and dreams of one day becoming better.
Agents and publishers aren’t the only sources of rejection. Reviewers can hit you in the gut with a loaded fist. Honest reviewers, and there are a lot of them, will tell it like it is, with or without your permission. If they don’t like what they read, they have a tendency to say exactly what was wrong with it, in their opinion. Reviewers differ from one to the other, but when that bad review goes to press, you better be prepared for it. Maybe they didn’t like your characters, or the whole thing was filled with clichés, or maybe the story just didn’t resonate or ring true with them. Are they wrong?
Instead of getting angry or upset, go back and look at the work from their perspective. Are the characters weak? Are there a lot of clichés in the story? Think, "It was a dark and stormy night…” Is the story believable? Or, is it accurate to its time? Historical accuracy is important to a lot of reviewers. Did you do your research? Grammar and punctuation are also important to reviewers. Editing anyone? Nobody is perfect and reviewers know this. But, there is a certain level of expectation.
The granddaddy of them all is the reader rejection. Readers can deliver a KO punch like no one else. Most readers today do not give reviews on the e-book sites. However, they give their reviews in the lunchrooms of schools and businesses across the world, or at the dinner table, at parties, to their friends and families. The word of mouth rejection eventually shows up in print somewhere. Maybe even in an email to the author, or on the author’s blog, or a social networking comment, but it will show up. Listen to what they are saying. They are your target market; they are your customers, your buyers, and most of all your crowd-source marketing team.
Author to author: We have a duty and an obligation to each other to call a spade a spade. When we beta read for each other, be honest. We need to tell each other when something is off, a plot hole exists, grammar and punctuation needs work, etc. Anything less is just back scratching.
What I want aspiring writers to take away from this post is this: I have been the subject of every one of these scenarios. However, the rejections that ensued were not against me as a person. They were about the poem, the short story, the novel. I could have thrown in the towel, walked away, and never thought on writing again. But, I didn’t. I took all the rejections, in the various forms, and learned from them. I learned to try my best to make sure grammar and punctuation were considered. I learned to show not tell (well for the most part anyway.) I learned to develop rich, believable characters, and not to use clichés.
In the next few weeks, I am again going to put myself out there for the rejections that might happen. No, the rejections that will happen. There will be agents, publishers, reviewers, readers and other authors who will not like what I have created. That does not mean they don’t like me. It means they don’t like the story. Not everyone is going to like it.
When the time comes for you to put yourself out there, just do it. See what happens, and learn from it. I guarantee you will be rejected, and sometimes that’s a good thing.