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Transforming Rejection into Positive Action
Five years, eighteen stories, one hundred eighty timesóthis was the number of submissions best-selling author Ann Whitford Paul sent out to publishers before she sold a story, but her effort was worth it. She now has more than 15 award-winning childrenís books in print.
When faced with rejection, would you have the persistence to keep moving forward? When you decide the writing life is for you, itís inevitable that youíre going to submit many, many more manuscripts than youíll have published. How do you wrap up your creative, sensitive, soulful self inside a hard-shell so that you donít crack under the criticism?
Rejection isnít easy for anyone, but there are techniques you can employ that will help you remain positive and purposeful.
Try to Remember it isnít Personal
I know itís difficult not to take rejection personally, but keep in mind that there are many potential reasons why your work was not accepted. Perhaps the publisher has already signed similar stories that are already in the pipeline but are not yet published. Perhaps, even though youíve done your homework, your manuscript has hit the editorís desk at a time of transition. Maybe he or she is leaving his or her position or departments are being restructured. Perhaps your work simply doesnít resonate with a particular editor. No matter how masterful you are, your work can always be improved. Keep honing your skills. Remember that you have now joined a very elite club. You are a working writer and working writers get their work rejected frequently. (See this link for information on some very famous, and sometimes very funny, rejections: http://susiesmith13.tripod.com/id12.html.)
Get Used to Receiving Feedback
When I was in college, I took a poetry class from a world-renowned poet. I was so excited about that class. I couldnít wait for the lectures to start. Then I submitted my first poem and it was torn to shreds not only by my professor but by my fellow students. Every week I came in with a new piece of writing and every week it was the same process. I felt like I was naked in the middle of the Coliseum with the lions pouncing on me and tearing my limbs off. I started to hate the class. I started to hate writing poetry. It was painful, frightening and psychologically debilitating. Then one day instead of feeling defeated I got very angry. I took notes quietly week after week. I went back to work revising my poems for hours late at night. On the final week of class I presented one of my revised poems. My fellow students had learned to taunt me but I felt more confident as I waited patiently for the professor to comment on my poem. He loved it. He talked about its merits for 15 minutes. I was vindicated. The more you obtain feedback from qualified sources (not your family and friends, but trusted colleagues, professors, published authors, writing groups), the more easily you will be able to improve your writing using their comments.
Pay Attention to Any Notes an Editor Sends You
Many of the rejection letters youíll receive will be form letters, but as you progress in the number of submissions you make and your targeted research of publishers you will once in awhile get a rejection that has some notes with it. Those notes are very valuable! Read them carefully. Best-selling childrenís author Bethany Roberts has some great ďtranslationsĒ of what editorsí notes really mean at this link: http://www.bethanyroberts.com/rejection_letters.htm#Famous.
Years ago, I wrote a series of mathematics textbooks for use in high-school classrooms. I submitted my books to many different publishers and received the standard rejection notices. I also received some carefully detailed notes from a well-known mathematics editor and an offer from another editor to interview for a job as an assistant editor at a textbook publishing house. That book wasnít published, but I was offered the job, which I loved. About ten years later, I moved out to California and worked in the same department as the editor who had written those detailed notes to me. She didnít remember, but I did.
Keep improving your writing, look for side trips that can strengthen your writing experience and pay attention to advice that comes your way. Enjoy the journey and the first time you get a publisherís acceptance letter will be a day youíll never forget.
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