What Writers Can Learn From Rejection

I'm baaaack!  I took a little hiatus to work on some non-writing goals, but I'm back baby and more fired up than ever.

Okay, so I got kicked out of the Amazon.com Breakthrough Novel Award Contest during the pitch stage and two of the three e-publishers that requested to see excerpts of my legal thriller have rejected it.  I could sink into a funk, throw in the towel, and stop writing, or I can pick myself up, dust myself off, and see whether I can learn something from this experience.

As writers, we get a lot of rejection – whether it's a less than thrilling grade from a professor, a form rejection letter from an agent or editor, or a bad review of a published work.  Chances are that if you submit your work to public scrutiny and/or try to get it published, you will withstand a fair amount of rejection along the way.  They say that, to survive in this business, we must learn to be thick-skinned, to roll with the punches and to never give up.

In his book “On Writing” Stephen King tells us that we should be ready to paper our walls with rejection letters until we get that one shot.  In fact, he literally did that.  I don't know . . .   that would take up a lot of wall space and mess with my decor.

The thing is that not all rejections are created equal and the reasons for rejection vary.  Your work might be rejected because you didn't properly research an agent or editor and they might not represent the type of book you wrote.  You might get rejected because the type of book you wrote is not hot in the market at this time or the agency or publishing house already represents or has books by competing authors in your genre.  You might get rejected because you didn't do a good job of pitching or describing the story or your target market or because your prose or your storyline or your writing is not up to the standards  of a particular agent or editor.  You might be a fine writer and/or storyteller but your storyline might not excite or inspire an agent or editor to want to sign you up or publish your work.

The types of rejections you get vary as well.  Sometimes you get a form e-mail or letter simply stating that your work is not a good fit for that agency or publishing house, sometimes you get very detailed editorial comments, and sometimes you just get radio silence.  I seemed to have progressed from getting form rejections letters to getting very detailed comments on my excerpts from editors and agents alike.  That tells me that I'm close to finding the one (agent and/or editor) according to the tales told by successful novelists concerning their breakthroughs.

Sometimes, we can actually learn something from rejection.  In my last rejection letter, the editor told me some of the same things I had heard from my beta readers – that my book has too much legalese in it which threw her out of the story and that it started too slowly after the action- packed prologue.  So what did I learn from that?  I learned that I should listen to my beta readers and edit the beginning of the book to move it along.  The legalese and a couple of unnecessary scenes are slowing the book down.  Apparently, it takes flight after page 50 where the only legal scenes take place in the courtroom (as opposed to in the law firm) and are more dramatic.

Sometimes, you have to take some of the editorial advice you get with a grain of salt.  One editor, in her rejection letter, told me that she didn't like the fact that my hero was suing for the death of his wife and child and yet was attracted to his very sexy attorney.  All of my beta readers (with one notable exception) had no problem with that whatsoever.  They felt that almost two years was enough time for him to be ready to move on even though he was in the process of seeking revenge against the company that caused the death of his family.  If it was a romantic suspense novel (as opposed to being a legal thriller with strong romantic elements), I might have to rethink that storyline since romance readers might be more sensitive to that issue.  But I seem to be making more progress now that I've stopped trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.  I do not write romance novels.  Period. 🙂

What did I learn from being kicked out of the Amazon.com Breakthrough Novel Award Contest at the pitch stage?  That I probably shouldn't have put a line as asinine as: “This book is a legal thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat” in my pitch. Oh well, I'll do better next year.

In the meantime, I have a legal thriller to edit and send out to more agents and editors, another thriller to rework, and a political suspense novel to edit and get ready to pitch at Thrillerfest next month.

Giving up is not in my DNA.  I bet it's not in yours either.

Peace.

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One thought on “What Writers Can Learn From Rejection

  1. Sorry two the three e-publishers rejected you, but so awesome that you have moved beyond form rejections. I think that is a very good sign too. Good luck, and maybe that third publisher might be the one!!

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