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3 Steps to Rejection Recovery

<a target="_blank" href="http://www.freeimages.com/profile/trolf">photo from sxc.hu by trolf</a>Rejection. It’s a dirty little thing every writer has to face. Because of this, it’s a question that successful writers get asked about a lot. How do you deal?

My post for today should have been different. See, there’s this really fun editor, Ellen Brock who has a blog and makes great videos about writing. Check her out! She has a feature called First Page Friday where you send her your first 500 words and she critiques them and posts them for her followers to critique. I submitted my first page of my novel From the After, a YA paranormal romance. I’ve been reading these posts for months now and felt pretty confident that my first page was so awesome it’d get at least a 4, probably a 5.

Okay, stop laughing. We all have those delusions of grandeur sometimes.

Seriously. At some point, I will learn. I will balance the line between thinking, “I’m so awesome” and “I totally suck at writing.” Ellen did not give me a 5 or 4. Nope. 2. Ouch.

So, let’s talk about rejection! Though this is technically a critique, when it’s coming from an outsider, and someone “in the biz,” it feels more like rejection. If any of my critique partners would have said these things, I would have taken it completely positively and, to be fair to myself, my pity and wallowing in this case was very short-lived. I’m getting used to rejection and it doesn’t hit me nearly as hard as it once did. I’ll just outline my process for you. It’s not right or wrong, it’s just mine, and hopefully it helps.

You can read everything Ellen said about my page here on her blog. And the thing is. No matter how much rejection can suck, it can also be extremely helpful! Nothing Ellen said was wrong. In fact, ask my friends who’ve gone through about 8076234 versions of my first paragraph with me. This scene has always bugged me and now I know why.

On the plus side, I am also fully convinced that Ellen is a wonderful editor. (Not that I doubted before, really.) Check out her editing services here. But this story has been through 6 beta readers, 7 critique partners, and an MFA workshop, and there are things she saw that no one else did. Shockingly, most of it was POV stuff, which I never thought was one of my bigger weaknesses.

Here was the progression of my thoughts after I read Ellen’s comments:

  • These comments are so helpful!
  • The story will be so much better because of this.
  • I knew that scene was a problem. It always bothered me, and now I know why.
  • Everything she said is so true.
  • Geez, maybe I should hire Ellen before I send this thing out.
  • Wow, maybe this story is much farther from being ready than I thought.
  • Sigh, this story sucks.
  • It’s never going to get published.
  • Maybe I should give this whole thing up.

That’s as far as it got. I froze at that last thought. It’s a total lie. Well, the last 3 are. There was no way this pity party was going to continue, so I flipped the switch into recovery mode.

Here’s my 3 steps for Rejection Recovery:

  1. Contact Support
    I texted one of my besties who is also a writer. We’re in the same MFA phase, trying to not suck, so I knew she’d get it immediately. My text went something like “I submitted my first page to an editor’s blog and she gave it a 2 out of 5 and totally ripped it. :( Having a I-want-to-give-up-moment.” Boo hoo, sad little me. Yeah, yeah. I’m allowed one second of self pity, aren’t I? Well, I got a very quick response to the effect of “NEVER GIVE UP! YOU ARE AMAZING! YOU’RE WRITING IS AWESOME! I LOVE YOU!” I laughed and even forgave her grammar mistake made mid-rush of enthusiasm. This is why you gotta have writers friends. They’re just awesome.
  2. Check the Manual
    By this point, I felt much better and was mostly done wallowing. Just to remind myself that I’m loved by more than one close friend, I went for my automatic go-to. Enter THE PICK ME UP FILE. Da da daaa!Stewart O’Nan said, “The ones who make it in this business are the ones who don’t give up.” So, while we all need to learn as much as we can and improve and grow in our writing, the thing writers may need more than any other thing is a guide of encouragement. I’ve blogged about my Pick Me Up File before. It is the most important file I have, even though I accidentally deleted it while writing that post. (Luckily it was easy to rebuild. I now have backups.)

    That file is full of encouraging words from various people who both know me and love me, but also who have never met me beyond a user name. It’s fabulous. So, I read through it for good measure.

  3. Hit Restart
    This is the point at which I remember, I am not alone. All writers, even the most famous, most successful, most brilliant, have been rejected multiple times. They’ve been told to give up and that they have no business being a writer. They did not give up. They pushed forward and became better and better. And you can, too. And you should.As it happened, shortly after this, I watched an interview with Church Wendig on Sword and Laser. He said some profound things about rejection.

    “Rejection letters are armor. They’re proof that you’re doing stuff. They’re battle scars showing that you’re doing this thing that you want to do.” – Chuck Wendig

    Even Chuck has been rejected, and if he can support his family of three on his writing income after being told to give up on writing, then there is a chance I can make it, too.

So, thank you Ellen and all the others who have and will in the future, reject me. Thank you for the battle scars, for making my armor stronger, for strengthening my will to never give up. And Ellen, I’m saving up. I need this book to be amazing, and I need people who will help me make it that way, even if I have to pay a bunch of money to do it! :)

So bye-bye, yinz! Off to edit that scene with all my shiny new notes.

Denise Drespling

9 Comments

  1. Great post! I might refer back to this next week when I get a full ms back from my editor. I’ll definitely need someone to talk me down from a ledge when I’m in the middle of reading through notes and edits, deciding how to move forward… but you’re right. The point is that we ARE moving forward, and whether it’s rejection or just constructive criticism that’s stinging us, we have to be able to carry on.

    First pages are tough, too. So much hangs on them…

    • Don’t I know it! I’ve reworked that first page a gazillion times, too! If you need some encouragement, hit me up :) And make a Pick Me Up File now before you need it :)

    • Thanks for stopping by, fellow NE-ster! :) I hope the Pick Me Up File helps you. I know it’s been a critical thing in keeping my sanity at times.

  2. Thanks for this great post, Denise. Writing is such an unusual industry, if I might use such a cold term, because rejection typically “is” a part of the experience of writing. As with most things, the more you write, the better you get. And yet the rejection is always there. It makes one wonder why anyone would go through it. I have kept every rejection letter I’ve accumulated since the early 1990s. The Thundering Grasshopper Review literary journal was my “first”. They do strengthen your armor. Never give up!

  3. Fantastic steps to regaining your drive after rejection. I took a publishing class about the publishing industry in my MFA, and my professor said to me “you’ll hear a thousand “no”s before you ever hear a yes. Just don’t ever stop trying. Someone out there is going to get it.” He reminded me that the industry as a whole is just tough, all around, for EVERYONE. You have to be willing to develop a thick skin, and use the critique to make you stronger. Sounds like that is exactly what you’re doing. You rock, lady. Keep it up! I look forward to saying one day, “I knew her when…”

    • Tough and completely subjective! The person who reads your work may hate it today and love it tomorrow. You are too sweet! :) And I look forward to saying the same about you!

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