Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Acceptance/Rejection: The Writer's Emotional Rollercoaster
In light of my mixed MFA school responses--one acceptance where the school is dying for me to attend and throwing tons of scholarships my way, and another that sent me a one paragraph form rejection--I thought I'd talk about acceptance/rejection for all writers.
Most veterans of the query process can and will tell you that both acceptance and rejection are part of the game. If you choose to become a writer, you will inevitably be rejected several times at the very least, if not more. It's enough to escort any writers straight to Pityville, where we can wallow in our self misery and mourn the lacking quality of our beloved artwork.
But believe me, Pityville is not somewhere you want to be. Pityville is an evil place where big furry monsters like writer's block, and fanged beasts like lack of inspiration come from.
My first advice is to not let a query rejection give you a one way ticket to Pityville. Grow some tough skin. A query letter isn't an accurate portrayal of your writing skills or your manuscript, it's a reflection of your query writing skills--writing a query is a totally different game than writing a novel.
Personally, I only moped about a query letter rejection about the first five times. After that, I realized the above advice was true and stopped caring.
But for we writers, query rejection is not the end of the bittersweet emotional rollercoaster. There is a little thing called acceptance that can send you soaring right back to the top. You get a partial or a full request from an agent or an editor and your heart soars to the sky. Your muse starts dancing, and despite any nerves your energy and drive are never-ending again, just as they were when you first began to query.
But then behold, the evil creature of the black lagoon called, submission rejection. This creature will drag you under the water and leave you gasping for air. You may even drown and give up on your dream!
I'm here to tell you, you can't do that. You're not allowed. Why? Because writers are swimmers, we're survivors and you need to keep doggy paddling toward the shoreline of success. Ignore the sharks in the water, the monsters in Pityville, and don't get off that darn emotional rollercoaster I tell you!
Why? I'll tell you. There are five things every writer needs to realize about the query/submission process in order to be successful.
1. A rejection is not a reflection on all your writing capabilities. Even if an agent/editor doesn't like this manuscript, that doesn't mean they won't like your next one and remember THEY HAVEN'T READ EVERYTHING YOU'VE EVER WRITTEN. Just because someone says your writing isn't strong enough, doesn't mean you should give up or think all of your writing sucks. It means you should work harder and try to improve (which you should be doing anyway), and remember, just because you're weak on one piece doesn't mean you're weak on another. You may be no good at writing genre fiction, but you may excel at something more literary.
2. Rejection is not always about your writing. Outside factors are a problem as well. Right now, writers biggest enemy is the economy. Agents are taking on less and less clients for fear of not being able to sell their books and publishers are passing on things they would otherwise buy because of lack of funds and an inability to take risks. So just because an agent passes doesn't mean they didn't think you were good--I've had agents tell me that if the market wasn't so bad right now, they would've taken a chance on my book. Does it suck to hear that? Yes. But at least I know it wasn't my writing.
3. Opinions are like assholes, everybody has one, and just because somebody has an opinion doesn't make it valuable. You need to weigh each individual input and make a decision based on your feelings toward your manuscript. If an agent says your heroine is too overbearing, examine her character. If you can see where said agent is coming from, consider changing it. If you don't see what they mean, throw their opinion out the window and move on.
4. One decision is not the final decision. Someone else may feel very differently. Lesley University rejected me without a second thought or any explanation, but the assistant program director at Spalding University proclaimed it truly was their loss because Spalding's fighting hard for me to go to school there. Obviously, they have very different opinions of the exact same writing sample.
5. There is no use crying over spilled milk. You've already been rejected, so unless there is something you can do to change that, forget about it and move on.
Besides, you're writing because you love it, not because you only want to be published, right?