Liars Club

Do you suck?

by Simmons on August 26, 2010

in Advice for Writers,The Writing Life

Burning Question: How do you deal with rejection?

Maybe it’s just this heat wave, but it seems to me that for a writer, rejection is kind of like watermelon seeds:  Impossible to avoid, but worth getting around for the sweetness found in the task.

sit down. you're not gonna like this.

In other words:  you’d better toughen up your sissy self and get used to running into them, and spitting ‘em out.  Rejection is part and parcel of the business, and if you have trouble hearing no, or problems accepting criticism, or difficulty with authority, you are going to be one of those writers who drinks too much and writes too little.

John Grisham’s first novel was rejected by 30 publishers.  JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series was rejected by a dozen publishers.  Lionel Shriver’s Orange Prize Winning Novel, “We Need To Talk About Kevin” was repeatedly rejected as being too dark – and she was an established, award winning writer.

And it doesn’t stop there.  Once you’re published, you get to endure the rounds of Hollywood stars, directors, and producers rejecting your material for the screen.  Mel Gibson was alleged to be interested in my novel, Standing Still, as a vehicle for his friend Nicole Kidman, but ultimately he walked away and decided it would be more fun to direct his girlfriend over the phone.  Sigh.

In other words, in the beginning, you have to man up. You have to decide which criticism to listen to, and which to ignore.  You have to stay strong until you’ve gotten a fistful of rejections.  Then, I recommend you have a combination hissy fit/pity party.  Scream, throw things, lay in bed all day feeling sorry for yourself.  Sob hourly.

Then get your butt up, put it in a chair, and write something better.

Kelly Simmons is the author of Standing Still (Simon & Schuster) and coming in February, The Bird House. Kelly’s post is part of an ongoing series in which Liars each chime in on a burning question about publishing.


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Gerri George August 26, 2010 at 9:19 am

Kelly – I love this. At times during the submission process, when the mailman brings the mail and I leaf through it and then spot the pure white response envelope I included with my submission, I think, before opening it, that well, whatever is inside, at least I’m submitting. Progress by any other name is still progress. At least I’m working on my writing career. And then I read what’s inside…..’thanks-but-no-thanks’ and I feel the stab and I think to myself, with a smile on my face, ‘YOUR loss, not mine – some day you’ll wish you grabbed my work when you had the chance.’ Then it comes along where I get three acceptance letters for the same work and I’m back floating high. The arts for the artist are composed of highs-too-high and lows-too-low, but there’s a balance hiding somewhere in between and I love it.

Simmons August 26, 2010 at 1:40 pm

Gerri you’re right — the highs can swing back and balance the lows. And it’s amazing how one ‘yes’ can wipe away 100 ‘nos’

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