Liars Club

No, No, a Thousand Times No!

by Jon McGoran on August 30, 2010

in Advice for Writers,The Writing Life

Today’s burning question is How Do You Deal With Rejection?

There are many ways to deal with the emotional pangs of rejection — hug your dog, drink yourself stupid, kill a random stranger – all valid responses and helpful in their own way. But there are also tactics to help prevent the worst of the pain. The first is what I call The Diversion of Delusion (or Optimizing Your Optimism). It is important at all times to have more than one submission out there, especially during the first wave of submitting, when you are sending out a lot of submissions. If you are sending them out in batches, send your next batch out while you still have one or two queries out there. Then, when a rejection comes in, you can immediately say to yourself, “Yeah, well screw them; I’d rather have this other agency, anyway”; redirecting your hopes to a shiny new prospect makes the pain from that #@%$ other one a lot easier to take.

Hopefully, though, there comes a time when an agent asks for your entire manuscript, and they will usually ask for exclusivity. So much for Diversion of Delusion; exclusivity means there are no other submissions on which to focus. Making matters worse is that you now have an honest-to-god, legitimate prospect. You raise your hopes and lower your defenses. By this point you have probably gotten used to the stacks of rejections from the cold queries you have sent out, but this is different. This rejection, if it comes, doesn’t just sting, it hurts bad. And now you don’t even have another submission out there. So now what?

Now you take what you have, you focus on the positive, and you move on. If you got past a query and fifty pages and an agent has asked for your complete manuscript (Is that second base?), you definitely have something going on. And if the agent says nice things about your manuscript before getting to “But” (as in “But while I greatly enjoyed it, I did not love it enough to represent it with the enthusiasm that is necessary to…”) take those nice things to heart. You earned them with your writing, and they are for real.

Here’s the thing: Your mother will say nice things about your writing no matter how bad it is (well, not all mothers…). Your friends will tell you it is great no matter what. But a prospective agent who is rejecting you? They don’t care, nor should they. If they hated it, they probably wouldn’t tell you, they would just send a form letter, or nothing at all. (Form letters can also mean they didn’t actually read it, or that they are just very busy, so come in off those ledges all you form-rejection-recipients.) But if they take the time to say something nice, they mean it. And that counts. So you take each little scrap of positive reinforcement, and you sock it away until you need it.

Hopefully, at some point, you will get your agent and publish your book, and then you will be able to boast about how many rejections you got before your success. And as a side benefit, all that rejection will have thickened your skin enough so that you can take it in stride when you find yourself sitting in an empty bookstore behind a stack of your unsold books, and the only time anyone even speaks to you is to ask where the bathroom is, or even worse, where the Stephanie Meyer books are.

And if that still hurts, well there’s always plenty of random strangers around…

Jon McGoran Jon McGoran writes gritty and humorous thrillers under the pen name of D.H. Dublin.  His titles include Freezer Burn, Body Trace and Blood Poison, all published by Berkley.

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