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The Grey Matters

Good Ol’ Rejection: It Makes Us Stronger…?

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“There’s nothing like rejection to make you do an inventory of yourself.” -James Lee Burke

Today I was going to write about my hippy adventure to a Tie Dye Music Festival in the mountains of New Mexico, but I’ll wait another day or two.

BECAUSE…

today’s topic is actually one I want to write about.

Keeping up with the Blog Every Day In May Challenge, here goes.

Day 20, Monday: Get real. Share something you’re struggling with right now.

short stories, new writer, cabin

pensive mode

As a writer, how could I not have something I’m struggling with?

It’s called getting rejected…. Again. And again. And again.

This month, in particular, was really hard. I might as well share why.

I am constantly sending out a string of query letters. To those of you who aren’t aware, a query letter is a one page summary of a manuscript (like the back of a book jacket) along with some other info, like who you are and why you wrote it. It’s very professional, short and concise, hard (as hell!) to write, and easy for agents to reject.

To put it bluntly, I’ve stopped counting my rejections letters. I’ve also stopped counting the amount of agents who never even responded, which is another form of rejection. “If we haven’t responded within four weeks, consider it a no.” 

“I wrote poems in my corner of the Brooks Street station. I sent them to two editors who rejected them right off. I read those letters of rejection years later and I agreed with those editors.” -Carl Sandburg

One good thing: Looking back, I am glad that the very first query letter I sent out for a young adult book titled Trajectory got only rejections. The manuscript wasn’t ready to be published, but I was excited. I’d finished a 130,000+ word novel and my adrenaline was a-pumpin’. (that, by the way, is way too long for a first time author. or so I read.)

It’s the countless ones I’ve received since then that are always a tiny sting to my pride. I am blessed to be a pretty optimistic person. I can smile and laugh and be genuinely happy, even if something is going horribly wrong. I just can.

So you can imagine how HAPPY and JUMP-UP-AND-DOWN-EXCITED I was when I received my first letter back from an agent… that was NOT a rejection. After reading the query letter and ten pages (some agents ask for a first chapter, first ten pages, etc.) she wanted to read the entire manuscript. This was for my latest young adult adventure, a dystopian, semi-futuristic book called Exceptional. I cried. I screamed. I saw thousands of different versions of my future flashing before my very eyes. This could be it, I allowed myself to think.

Then I waited for 9 weeks. YES, 9 weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeks. So long. It felt like a million lifetimes. I checked my e-mail like a madwoman. I was sure she’d reject it, and then sure she would love it. If she liked the first ten pages, why wouldn’t she like the rest? Right? Or… right?

And then, you guessed, it. I got the response. A good ol’ rejection.

And I did cry (kind of a lot). I spent the entire day looking up information like this:

Rejections of Famous Authors

Sylvia Plath: There certainly isn’t enough genuine talent for us to take notice. 

Rudyard Kipling: I’m sorry Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language. 

J.G. Ballard: The author of this book is beyond psychiatric help. 

Emily Dickinson: Your poems are quite as remarkable for defects as for beauties and are generally devoid of true poetical qualities. [what does that even mean?]

Ernest Hemingway: It would be extremely rotten taste, to say nothing of being horribly cruel, should we want to publish it. 

source

And that made me feel a tiny bit better. It’s always nice to know we aren’t alone, right? I mean, even Harry Potter got rejected for years. There is always hope. It’s just that some days it’s extremely difficult to keep that in mind.

Some days I wonder if I should just get my work extra-edited and self publish. Should I? I have no idea. {the only editor I would trust, btw}

“No one put a gun to your head and ordered you to become a writer. One writes out of his own choice and must be prepared to take the rough spots along the road with a certain equanimity, though allowed some grinding of the teeth.”
—Stanley Ellin

How many more years will I wait for an agent sitting in an office in New York to like my query letters? It’s been two. I have hardly paid my writer’s dues, but still. I have decided to pursue a career and life that sets me up for the most rejections of almost any other profession I can think of. I chose it. I made my bed, so the saying goes.

In the meantime, I’ll keep focusing on quotes like these:

“Failure? I never encountered it. All I ever met were temporary setbacks.” -Dottie Walters

“Dearer are those who reject us as unworthy, for they add another life; they build a heaven before us whereof we had not dreamed, and thereby supply to us new powers out of the recesses of the spirit, and urge us to new and unattempted performances.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’ll keep forcing those rejection letters to make me stronger and more determined, rather than beaten down.

I will never give up. I can promise you that. {I love my characters too much…I WANT you to meet them.}

new writer, short stories, characters

just to name a few…

Love, Lou

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Author: Melinda Haas

I write, I read, I love to laugh. God, my husband, and my step children make up my world. I am working on publishing many novels, three of which are completed manuscripts.

10 thoughts on “Good Ol’ Rejection: It Makes Us Stronger…?

  1. This always makes me think of J.K Rowling. Dozens of publishing houses/agents rejected her. I bet you they are kicking themselves now! Writing is such a small niche, but the important part is, at least for me, being able to scrawl down those infant thoughts and feelings, and then slowly work them into a finished product. Don’t despair, keep at it!

  2. Just so you know…I love your blog and I read it every day…it always makes me excited and happy and hopeful…Which brings me to my next point…I miss you and would LOVE a tea, coffee, life date soon!

  3. First, 130k is quite long, so you’re right about that. Land of mercy! Props to you for writing a book at all, though. For real. I think you’re awesome. Also, I KNOW how rejection feels, except I’m on the editing side of it. Although I know you know that. And you are not alone, because so many people I know are trying to publish, and you have to consider that agents get thousands of submissions. Although I know you know that too :) Getting a request for a full read is amazing and means you’re on the right track! You’re really good, and I’ve read a LOT of crap so I should know what not crap looks like. To be honest, self-publishing isn’t necessarily the black swan of the traditional publishing family, or at least it doesn’t have to be. It might be a good way to get your stuff out there initially depending on how you do it. Still, I know the Random House, Oprah book club dream is alive and well, so to speak. One thing you might consider if you haven’t already is attending a writing conference. You can meet agents and editors and authors and maybe get some exposure. I would love to attend from the editing side if it weren’t so dang expensive. Something to think about.

  4. I love your attitude, Melinda. I am several steps behind you as I have not even finished an entire book, but reading about the challenges you face makes me want to hold on for the ride. You can do this! I think moving on after any kind of disappointment makes us stronger, so you are basically just growing stronger an accelerated rate. :-P The day you get that acceptance letter will just be….worth all the sweat and tears. But, duh. You know that.

  5. Pingback: Tear Down to Build Up | Hey Lou Writes

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