Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Rejection: It's Not You, It's Me

By Kristin Owens

It’s inevitable when you dip your big toe (or entire foot) into the publishing pool, rejection floats to the surface. That is IF you have the gumption of putting your work out there. And you should - the sooner the better. If words were important to write down in the first place, then share. Please.

If publishing were a game, you’d have better odds winning

Trying to publish your work is like finding a meaningful relationship – it’s more work than you intended. And it never happens on the first try. Whether a short story, flash fiction, poetry, magazine article, essay, or book, it’s a dance to find the perfect date.

When you finally decide to send words out into the opinionated stratosphere, get ready. Your Mom will LOVE it, but inevitably other folks won’t. Important folks like editors, agents, and publishers. A lot of seasoned writers say you need to develop thicker skin.

I disagree.

Let every rejection pierce your heart with its barbed sting. Pine for every absent response. Weep over your empty inbox. Lament the silent phone. Gnash your teeth and fret, will they ever call?

It’s going to be okay

Good news! You need to feel this badly in order to make a change. Many consider it martyrdom, but I call it growth. Only when your favorite jeans don’t fit do you lay off the Lays. And by the way – ALL writers go through this. There is no such thing as luck – just when preparation meets opportunity (Thanks, Oprah).

So, kick yourself in the ass (this IS physically possible, try it – you’ll laugh) and look at why your writing isn't garnering a critically-acclaimed response. In my short stint as a writer, I believe rejection results from one of three things:

1. Bad Timing.

You wouldn't look for a prom date the day before. So don’t submit a magazine article about Thanksgiving in November. Too late. Research submission guidelines and dates. Take care of the details like word-count. Edit. Spellcheck. Because in your zest for seeing your name in print, you probably spelled your name wrong. Also, the piece may not be ready – you know this. Calm yourself down and ask: does it say everything you intended in a clear, concise way? Yes? Then put it aside for 48 hours and reread it. Out loud.

2. Poor Connections.

Blind dates stink. Find opportunities to connect with industry professionals at conferences or workshops. Refer to those business cards you accumulated like Pandora charms. It makes it easier when you submit... “Hey, remember me?” Knowing other writers also helps with match-making. Engage. Writers are nice people and like to talk about writing, even yours. Check out NCW's next event on September 18th. Drinks!

3. Not a Good Fit.

If NASCAR isn't your thing, looking for your Prince Charming at Daytona isn't wise. Don’t submit an article on beer to a parenting magazine... a first-person essay on menopause to Sports Illustrated... a sci-fi manuscript to a publisher that produces gardening books. Your work may be stellar, but if it isn’t the right fit, it may as well be something your dog sketched on a Post-it. Research. That’s why God made Google. Determining the right home for your piece can take even longer than writing it.

Publishing is hard work. Just like writing, but different. But when all the boxes are checked – it happens. Like true love’s arrow finding your heart, you can hit a bullseye with practice. And live happily-ever-after in cyber space or on the printed page. Then you’ll wonder why you ever thought it a challenge. It was almost, gulp, easy. Until the next time. 

Kristin Owens is a full-time writer in Fort Collins, Colorado. She's happily married and NOT dating. Her articles and essays are published internationally. For her complete portfolio, see her website and follow her on twitter


Patricia Stoltey said...

Maybe it's okay to let yourself feel the pain when you first start writing, but a very brutal critique at a weekend retreat/workshop many years ago almost made me give up forever. As it was, it took me a couple of years to jump back in and try again. I was way too sensitive and did not understand the amount of work and years it would take to write well enough to get published. My hide's a lot tougher now, thank goodness. Whether it's a tough critique from my group, a rejected submission, or an iffy review on Amazon, rejection only hurts for a few minutes (or maybe hours). :D

Eric W. Trant said...

When I submit, I keep a log in an Excel spreadsheet with a column titled: Days to Rejection.

Then I log how long it took them to respond with a rejection. I color the cell green when I get snubbed. I stop at 50 rejections, because there is no sense in continuing to push a story nobody wants.

My own publisher, WiDo Publishing, has published three of my novels and rejected three of my novels. So it goes.

I read and re-read the reasons they rejected my work, and I filter that into the next piece under the misguided ruse of improving my writing. Then I write the same crap I did before and submit it to the same publishers and agents and hope for a different response.

Writers are dumb.

- Eric

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