12 December 2013 - HANDLING REJECTIONS




G'day guys,

All writers have experienced rejection; some more than others. Welcome to a feature about handling rejections by contemporary romance author, J M Stewart.

"My intentions aren't to offend anyone, but I've got a pet peeve when it comes to rejections.

We can tell ourselves rejections don't matter, but the truth is, they do. Every single one hurts just a little bit. We spend hours with these manuscripts. Hours researching topics so that we can at least sound like we know what we’re talking about. Hours pecking away at the keyboard, finally writing the blessed THE END, then…hacking our baby to pieces, all for the sake of making those words the best they can be. These manuscripts are our babies, and they have our blood, sweat and tears in them. 

When we finally send our babies out into the big wide world of publication, we send them with bits and pieces of our hearts, our souls. Each rejection we get back…is a dashed hope.

Now you hear all the time people saying “grow a thicker skin.” It’s tossed in there as a sort of “Band-Aid” and warning and commiseration all in one. To me, it means, “I know what you’re going through but put your big girl panties on because you’re going to get more.” And they’re right. You have to learn to deal with rejections, because if you take each one to heart, they’ll sink you. Been there done that. I stopped writing for a while, in part because I let the process get to me. Back then, we were essentially told if your manuscript gets turned down, chances are there’s something wrong with it. That the problem was, essentially, yours.

But I’m not particularly fond of the “pull your panties up” method. Honestly? If I hear that one more time, I might just scream. It's well meant, but it’s just this side of callous to me and you’ll never find me saying it to someone else, however true it might be. I believe in honoring how I feel, and not letting someone tell me it's not okay to feel it. It's okay to be hurt when a rejection comes in. It's normal and healthy. It’s part of being human. After all, I don't know about any other writers, but my heart goes into these pages. A book made you cry? Good, because chances are, the writer was crying when she wrote it. What I do best in my writing is emotion, and at the end of a particularly intense scene, I often have to take a break for a day or two, because those emotional scenes that tug on your heart are exhausting for me to write.

So, rejections, and heck, even negative reviews, might very well come with the territory, but to not honor how it makes you feel dishonors you in the process. You essentially tell yourself you don’t matter. And that, to me, is wrong. And you can tell me all you want that’s not what’s meant by those words, but let’s face it. We’re writers. Our very business is knowing how something comes across to someone else.

So when you see me complaining? I'm not asking for an empathetic-type response. I’m not trying to be one of those people who needs attention. I'm not asking you to pat me on the head and make everything all better. I'm simply complaining. Hey, this sucks. Because as humans, that's a natural thing for us to want to do--to commiserate with each other. To ask each other, "am I crazy because this hurts?" No. You're human.

Personally, for me, it's letting the emotion out, because I tend to hold stuff in until it festers and oozes. But it’s also in those hours where I’m almost brutally honest with myself, that I take a good, hard look at my writing, my manuscript and those rejections.

I ask myself the hard questions: Does the editor have a point? Is there something I could change about the manuscript that would make it better? Sometimes I try it. I open a new copy of the manuscript and give those changes a try. Do I like them? I’ve actually done this. I originally subbed Her Knight in Black Leather to Harlequin Desire. I got back requested revisions.

Now, I’ve wanted to publish with Harlequin since I started writing. There was a time category was all I read. Single Title? What in the world is that? So, I did the requested revisions with hands that shook in nervousness…and excitement. But there was a part of her revision request I knew didn’t fit my book. Which is sometimes what you’ll find. You have to ask yourself—will changing this make my book better? I've turned revision requests down before, because they didn’t fit my vision for the book.

In this case, however, I liked her her suggestions. Most of the things the Desire editor asked me to revise were geared toward solidifying the plot and making my hero more Desire-ish. She wanted his motorcycle riding to be a hobby, but not his whole life. That unfortunately didn’t work for this book. For Michael, his motorcycle riding is a huge part of who he is. After all, he builds them for a living. So, while I liked what the plot changes did for the story, I knew going in that chances were, Michael still wouldn’t be ‘Desire’ enough. So, when the rejection eventually came, I wasn’t surprised or even all that bummed. Just the same way I knew going in that chances were, Avon wouldn't like Love's Healing Touch. She's said before she doesn't like my voice or my style. Still stinks, though. 

In the end, I shake off the dejection and remember this business is subjective. Despite what I was told years ago, I'm learning now that just because you get a rejection doesn’t always mean something is wrong with your manuscript. I’m discovering lately that sometimes, your voice or your style just doesn’t suit a particular editor. And that’s okay. And then I let it go. I reaffirm my faith in the process, get back up on that horse and do it all over again.

My point? We're all different. We all deal with rejection differently. Honor your process, whatever it is."



Clancy's comment: As I've said before on this blog: I could wallpaper my entire loungeroom with rejections slips. Does that mean I am a bad writer? Maybe, but it does highlight that I was prepared to test my stuff with publishers - on many, many occasions. So, don't be shy. Get your work out there and allow publishers to consider what you have done. If you are not prepared to take that risk, store your work in a shoe box and hide it under your bed ... so no one will ever read it.

I'm ...

Think about this!

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