Saturday, November 13, 2010

Rejection Confessions

By Jonene Ficklin

It would be interesting to see a psychological study done on writers. Yesterday, I got one of those letters. The ones that send the angel and demon on my shoulders into a conniption fit. Here’s a snipet of their conversation:

Me (staring at my rejection letter): Oh booger.

Demon (laughing): Another one? Get a clue! Do me a favor and grab all those worthless manuscripts in your closet, and turn them into a bonfire. Your writing stinks. You stink.

Angel (patting my back): Don’t listen. It’s okay, just part of the writing adventure. Add it to your, well, impressive stack, and keep going. Remember, you love this.

Demon: Are you kidding me? Get a life! Right now, you’re missing an excellent re-run of The Simpsons.

Me (banging head on my manuscript): I don’t want to watch the Simpsons.

Demon: Gah! You’re missing all the fun. You know you want to give up.

Angel (folding arms and glaring at Demon): Quitters Never Win and This IS fun.

Me (sighing and adding the letter to my impressive stack): This is so much fun.

Yup, and since yesterday, I’ve hit all five levels of the mourning process:

Denial (Hey, it’s a mistake.)

Anger (This stinks. The world stinks. My undone laundry stinks.)

Bargaining (If I just rewrite the beginning, middle and end, maybe they’ll reconsider.)

Depression (I’m never going to write again.)

Acceptance (All right, at least I have Nano. I’ll write a fun book just for the joy of it. And I really do love writing.)

Well, okay, I’m still wallowing a little.

You know what’d make me feel better? Fess up. What’s the real story on how you react (first day) to rejection? How long does it take you to bounce back? Any secret solutions (like chocolate or bubble baths)?


  1. Sorry to read about your rejection, I know it stings. Since my MS., is still a WIP, I've yet to deal with the "close but no cigar" letter. However, FWIW, I am no stranger to failure. I've learned it is okay to whine and wallow for awhile, but I'm too stubborn to let it define me. In fact, the more someone tells me I can't do something, the more I want to prove them wrong. The publishing industry is brutal and few succed in this business, but that doesn't meanwe should stop trying. I try to look at each failure as a rung on the ladder to success. Take the feedback you've received, improve on your weaknesses and capitolize on your
    strengths. Essentially, keep climbing and someday you will reach the top. Best of luck.

  2. Also, sorry about the typos in the last post, but I sent it from my iPhone while traveling out of town.

  3. Andrea, thanks for the encouragement! My shoulder angel's getting tired of patting.

  4. It's funny how people talk about "hitting bottom" as a singular event, something you do before you go up and away to success. I practically own real estate at "bottom"; it's a place I've lived for months on end. Three things that have helped me: 1) getting to know editors/agents. They rarely have time for more than a form rejection, but if they know you, they'll jot a note explaining why you got it, and the reasons are quite often that they can't resell your work because the market for it crashed or they just bought another like it. When you've still got little name recognition with readers, you're more likely to get rejected than not in those situations. 2) Getting your spouse or a sibling or parent involved in the submission process. This one took me years, but once I made my husband really look at the rejection/acceptance ratio of even a strong career, I got him to realize it's way more brutal than anything most people ever do. Now he helps me write query letters and track rejections. 3) The adage that every writer has at least 10,000 pages of crap to write before they produce anything publishable. I had more, but even when I hate my writing, I can think of it as chipping away at those 10,000 pages, so it's still progress.

  5. 10,000 pages or a million words. It's a huge journey to getting there. I honestly take those email rejects, file them immediately, update my QueryTracker status, and don't think about it again. The paper ones go immediately in the trash. Every once in a while, though ... one comes through that hurts. Those it takes me about 24 hours to bounce back, but it goes faster if I write.

    Hang in there, sweets! You're already ahead of the vast majority of people on the 6 Steps to Writing Success!

  6. Emily, thanks for great advice! I've grabbed my chisel and I'm ready to chip away again.

    Susan, yeah this one hurt because it was from an editor and I'd made it through several rounds to the final committee. But they were very nice in their rejection. They gave good feedback and a reason. I really appreciate that because I know it's rare. Thanks so much. I'm hanging in there. Yesterday it was by fingernails, but today I've got toe-grips : )

  7. @Jonene I had another friend go through this recently, being this close to getting that acceptance. I know it's hard, but as I told her: you're too awesome to give up now. :)

  8. If you made it to the final committee, then you're past your 10,000 pages. Now it's just brutal publishing economics and timescales. Until you have name recognition, your work will be vulnerable to the littlest excuses not to go forward. This may not make you feel any better, but I've been there four times with four different books with editors, and will probably be there again before New Year's. I've also been there twice with two different books with agents. You probably won't break my records in this department. Try, and you'll get agented or published or most likely both :-)

  9. Susan, a huge thank you!

    Emily, thank you! I know it's all a matter of patience, persistence and improving the craft. Luckily, I'm a little stubborn and I can't go more than a day without writing (even if I'm bummed.) I really appreciate the support in the meantime, though!

  10. Oh, Jonene, you are SO CLOSE! Don't think of it as a rejection, think of it as "Wow, I can't believe I've come this far!"

    Of course that's hard to do when what you really wanted to hear was, "Hey, we'd like to buy your book!"

    Rejection and I, we go way back, back to the grade school days when I faithfully entered every Cricket Magazine story writing contest. Never won that sucker. Not even honorable mention. And when I turned thirteen and was too old to enter anymore I thought, "Now I'll just have to get good enough to write them a REAL story to publish."

    Eh, they still reject me.

    But in the midst of rejections come a few shining successes, a short story here, a full manuscript request there. If I look at the big picture rather than yesterday's setbacks, I see progress.

    Besides, this is so much fun, how could we ever stop now?

  11. Wow, Rebecca, that's a great history! And a good reminder, too. We write because we love it.

  12. Jonene, I stink at rejection. Really. I tend to eat things I shouldn't and whimper and whine, then I growl and mumble things under my breath, then I watch TV, then I eat more things I shouldn't, then I sit and pout, then I calm down and say, "Oh yeah? Well, I'm going to get better! So there! Ha! This next story will make you cry it's so good." Then I throw myself back into writing.

    And yes, those were some really, really bad run on sentences and the paragraph was bad, too, but when you are talking about rejections you just have to spit it out without breathing so that the bad taste doesn't stay in your mouth very long. Then you should take a breath and gargle some acid just to clear any lingering nastiness from your mouth.

    Anywho, I guess I'm saying I wallow for a day or so, then I hit the computer more determined than ever. But every rejection still tastes bad, even after the acid gargle. Hang in there! Hugs. :)

  13. Ha ha, Leisha, you are the acid/bile queen and you made me laugh. And I love the run-on sentences, 'cause that's how it's been. Thanks!

  14. Jonene---*HUGS* I really love the sound of a chocolate bubble bath. *sigh. Sounds like heaven to me.

    I think writers should get together and have a REJECTION party. A dance with lots of chocolate and we all dress up as our own MC. Then we have to go onstage and with a mic, read our synopsis. Then, at the end, whomever has the BIGGEST count of rejections, is crowned until the next year. (and they get a grant of so much money to help out with ink, paper, chocolate and wild cards for free critiques/beta readers from all party-goers!!!)

  15. We could all join the "My Manuscript Stinks Society" at

  16. Did I write this post? Um, yep, I must have possessed your body and written this.

    I just got another rejection yesterday. My first reaction was, Oh,no biggy. I knew they'd say no. I'll just sit for a while, watching TV or something and it's at least 2 hours later when the tears come. I don't think it ever gets easier.

    My philosophy? Time heals. That's it. There's no magic trick or therapy that will make it better or easier. Chocolate just makes you fat. We just keep going. We just keep justifying and maybe someday, we'll get picked. My problem was that I was picked and then backed out because they were ruining my book. Literally ruining it. Now I'm back at the bottom of the heap and it feels terrible. Did that make you feel better? LOL Sorry. I'm sure it didn't.

  17. Elizabeth, rejection party? You're on. Sounds like a great idea!

    Rebecca, okay, the 'My Manuscript Stinks Society' made my day. It's true that misery really does love company and now there's even a blogspot for it. Go figure. And thanks for the link!

    Melissa, before I got the letter I'd psyched myself up for a rejection, just in case. But there's still that little hope flaming in the background. No matter how well you prepare, it's still yucky when that hope gets put out. I'm so sorry! And I'm sure you'll find someone who will love your book. -- And yes, it helped me to commiserate with you. Thanks for sharing and best of luck!

  18. Oh, Melissa, GOOD FOR YOU! If they were ruining your book, then you had every right to run for your life!

    And one thing about the publishing industry, there's always another chance. Unless, of course, you do something to utterly doom yourself. And even then, you can try again with a pen name!


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