How do you stop taking rejection personally?

Submission protocol, query etiquette, and strategies that work

How do you stop taking rejection personally?

Postby Kniki » 01 Mar 2010, 10:34

I have only had 3 rejections so far. The first one upset me so much I didn't write again for ten years. Now I have started writing again and have received 2 rejections so far. The first one wasn't so bad, it just said I didn't suit her style, but the second one said that my story didn't grab his imagination. Now I am having a crisis of confidence wondering if I have written anything worthwhile!

How do you learn to take the criticism and not let it get you down? Is it something that comes with time or do you just try to take on what they say and improve your work from their advice?
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Re: How do you stop taking rejection personally?

Postby Bryan Russell/Ink » 01 Mar 2010, 10:55

The most important thing is just to remember that the process is not entirely objective. These are individual people reading, with their own individual dislikes and preferences.

For example, I was once one of three editors at a literary magazine. We received one story which one of my cohorts thought was utterly brilliant. My other cohort, though, thought it was absolutely terrible. I thought it was mediocre. So, three readers... and we completely crossed the spectrum of responses. You never know. You submit because you want to find that person who thinks you're brilliant, even if some of their fellows think you're not. JK Rowling might sell millions of books... but tons of people hate her writing and would say "Thanks, but no thanks."

You have to hold to a certain self-belief. Way down deep, maybe, but wherever it is... hold it tight. You need a little faith. Absorb comments. Let these comments shape your story if needed. But don't let them shape your confidence. Perseverence is key. You don't need to make a hundred perfect connections. Just one.

Best of luck,
Ink
The Alchemy of Writing at www.alchemyofwriting.blogspot.com
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Re: How do you stop taking rejection personally?

Postby AAlicia88 » 01 Mar 2010, 11:39

Well said Ink.
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Re: How do you stop taking rejection personally?

Postby JustineDell » 01 Mar 2010, 11:50

Agreed! Ink certainly has way with words *smiles* - most writers do ;-)

I would just like to add, and I've put this somewhere else to on the forums, but I don't recall where. I think in the "Do you have a rejection contingency plan" thread.

Elvis, yes Elvis, the uber popular singer that teens and adults alike couldn't get enough of back in the day, still making millions of dollars after his death, Elvis. He originally went to Nashville to pursue his dream. Do you know what they told him? That he should give up, because he had no business singing. They practically laughed in his face!

No, besides the whole early-death-from-drug overdoes-thing, look where his perseverance got him ;-)

~JD

http://www.justine-dell.blogspot.com/

"Three things in life that, once gone, never return; Time, Words, & Opportunity"
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Re: How do you stop taking rejection personally?

Postby Kniki » 01 Mar 2010, 11:58

Thanks for that, I needed to hear something like that! Feel much better now!

I read my story to my class of 10 year olds today and they really liked it! Even one of my most reluctant readers came up to me and asked where he could get his own copy. They are, of course, extremely biased but will try to hold on to that spirit of positivity!
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Re: How do you stop taking rejection personally?

Postby r louis scott » 01 Mar 2010, 12:44

Wait until you have over a hundred rejections before you question yourself. If you are getting personalized rejections you are actually doing pretty well!
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Re: How do you stop taking rejection personally?

Postby longknife » 01 Mar 2010, 13:37

Rejections SHOULD be taken personally!
They clearly say that something is lacking, either in your approach, or what and how you write.
They're an important mile marker in a writing career and should be taken as loud signals that you need to work and study and keep on trying.
The worst part of querying is when you receive nothing! They don't even bother to take the time to respond to your effort.
Again, take is as a sign that youre doing something wrong and need to fix it [perfect example of what sends up red flags in this sentence].

Also, it's often a matter of trying to match yourself to a perfect stranger who will play a major part in your writing career. That means you have to learn as much about the person you're approaching as possible - and there're lots and lots of such places on the internet.

Finally, if you can't take the heat, you'll never be able to become a success at anything.
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Re: How do you stop taking rejection personally?

Postby Holly » 01 Mar 2010, 16:12

Kniki, remember that you have something wonderful to share with the world, so don't give up!

Ink, well said.
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Re: How do you stop taking rejection personally?

Postby marilyn peake » 02 Mar 2010, 14:59

Well said, Ink! I absolutely agree with Ink. After you’ve chatted on the Internet with writers for several years, you see over and over and over again that many writers receive lots of rejections before finally getting an agent and landing a publishing deal.

A few years ago, before huge piles of submissions started landing on agents’ and editors’ desks, you could actually ask why your submission was rejected or didn’t win a contest. It was a real eye-opener for me when I received scoring sheets from judges of book contests I didn't win with comments so good, I asked and was given permission to use them as quotes in my book promotion. Also, after having a short story rejected for publication in an anthology with at least one famous author, I asked the reason why, since I knew one of the editors from a writers’ group. It turns out that a second short story with the same type of character had been submitted, the judges gave the other short story only a couple points more than mine, and a decision was made to only include one short story for each particular type of character. I went on to get that short story published in a different anthology. When you don’t know what’s happening behind the scenes, it's easy to get discouraged even if the rejection wasn’t due to any major problem with the work itself.

Best of luck to you! The only way to ever succeed at writing is to persevere.
Marilyn Peake

Novels: THE FISHERMAN’S SON TRILOGY and GODS IN THE MACHINE. Numerous short stories. Contributor to BOOK: THE SEQUEL. Editor of several additional books. Awards include Silver Award, 2007 ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards.
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Re: How do you stop taking rejection personally?

Postby BlancheKing » 02 Mar 2010, 19:31

lvcabbie, I can't tell whether your joking or not, so I'm going to assume you are.

Don't feel too bad about rejections. No matter what they say, at the end of the day, you're still exactly where you were in the morning. A nice "no's" and mean "no's" are both just "no's", so pick up you laptop, and try again.
One manuscript, One dream, One stack of stamps that needs to be bought...
Writing Process: http://blancheking.blogspot.com/
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Re: How do you stop taking rejection personally?

Postby Lorelei Armstrong » 02 Mar 2010, 22:20

Putting aside the self-confidence and supportive talk, which is all very nice...

Explore every possibility.

Have you gotten some good, hard criticism? Have you joined a tough writing group? Gone to some work-oriented conferences and read your work to your peers and professional workshop leaders? Taken some classes in writing and had your work torn apart?

Have you read extensively, not only in your genre but in literary fiction? Are you familiar with contemporary, award-winning writing? Do you read current short stories?

Are you 100% confident in your craft? Could you work as an editor or copyeditor?

If you can say yes to all of that, if you are confident that you know your strengths and weaknesses and those of your book, then rejection is just another tool to help you steer your work to its eventual home.

If you can't say yes to that, then consider that that is where your uncertainty lies. You're not sure how your work stacks up, so someone who just doesn't handle that kind of work can knock you sideways with one polite "no thank you."

Build your confidence by building your craft.

Know thyself.
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Re: How do you stop taking rejection personally?

Postby casnow » 03 Mar 2010, 22:12

Here's something for you - I've been rejected by one agent 3 times from one query!!! My only thought is that she keeps getting new interns and they keep sending out form rejections, but who knows.

How do I deal with it? I just tell myself that she has now rejected my future best-seller 3 times!
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Re: How do you stop taking rejection personally?

Postby paravil » 04 Mar 2010, 10:02

The first one wasn't so bad, it just said I didn't suit her style, but the second one said that my story didn't grab his imagination. Now I am having a crisis of confidence wondering if I have written anything worthwhile!


First off, things like the grabbing of imaginations are completely subjective. I thought TWILIGHT absolutely sucked in every way a book could possibly suck. I thought it was boring, poorly written, the pacing was terrible, characterization non-existent. But guess what--millions of teenage girls disagree with me. Point being, if I were an agent, and that book came across my desk, I would send a polite "No thanks, it didn't grab my imagination. Not for me." But somebody liked it. And look what happened.

Second, I think that it is a waste to take a rejection as a sign that you're no good and use it as a reason to pout. Take it as a prompt to do better, to keep going. The old maxim about learning from your mistakes really applies here. If a number of people (more than 3) reject it for specific reasons, and are gracious enough to give you those reasons, then you'll know what to work on to make your next book better.
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Re: How do you stop taking rejection personally?

Postby Kniki » 04 Mar 2010, 15:08

Hm, very interesting thoughts!

Well:

Reading widely: My degree is in English Literature and there is rarely a day goes by when I don't have my nose buried in a book.

Editing: I have worked as an editor and still do some freelance work, so I don't think that's a problem. I have also read lots of the classics eg "Self-editing for fiction writers" and refer extensively to my copy of Strunk and White!

Taking criticism: I think this is where I might have my problem. I take criticism very personally anyway in every area of life. At work, if someone makes the slightest criticism of my class's work or behaviour I take it as a personal insult! Also I haven't been to any writing groups, largely because I don't like the thought of opening myself up and having my ideas ripped apart. Maybe this is what I need to do though.

When I got my initial rejection 10 years ago, it was extremely detailed and I feel that I did learn a lot from it, regarding creating a character with a clear goal, creating conflict, raising stakes, etc. With the novel I am querying at the moment, I focused in on that from the start. It would be nice to get some feedback from an agent this time on what they don't like about this novel to see what my next area of development needs to be, but as some people have said maybe it is not any one thing, it's just not their cup of tea; either way I need to know really!

My class are still enjoying the book and when I ask them what they would improve they very kindly say "nothing", but I think the best thing for me to do is to get to a writing group and get used to people critiquing me and take it from there.

Thanks for the advice!
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Define "worthwhile" maybe? :)

Postby Lucky92 » 05 Mar 2010, 17:20

if by worthwhile do you mean "published"?

Your completed novel - which is, any way you cut it, a large accomplishment itself - is worthwhile by virtue of being a story that any one reader can enjoy, whether its published or not. You can enjoy it, your kids can enjoy it, family and friends. That is idealistic, yes. That's not the answer you were looking for but there is some truth in it ..

But consider, there are a lot of agents out there. A lot. It requires research and patience and rejections. If your a new writer and you are not delivering A+ material, many agents won't accept a B or B+. They *should*, because I bet some of the worlds best writers started out at B students. Chances are they improved their craft, revised until their eyes bled and even then it took working with an agent who'd take a chance on an unpublished author. Its rare these days I think. But they are out there.

You can increase your chances of positive feedback by, I think, being very selective on who you target to query. I've learned its not about simply finding an agent who "represents your genre" therefore you should query them. Think - do they seem like the type of target audience for your book? A book about second chances for a late in life divorcee might not resonate with a 23 year old agent; just as a book geared for Gen Y'ers might not resonate with an agent who has been in the business for 40 years. Of course it comes down to individual taste and there are always exceptions, but sometimes it also comes down to logic. Your chances of getting a full MS request are likely to increase if you pick a small agency than a large one. The large ones are overburdened and I've even heard agents in person whine that their inboxes are so clogged with queries that they just start deleting them. That is NOT the agent you want, though they probably get the most face time on the web and conferences.

Your chances for representation, as an unpublished author, will increase if you start small. These super agents with their awesome blogs? They're great and all (esp Nathan!) but I guarantee they're not going to take time to nurture a B or B+ writer even if they have all the potential in the world. Even if they have that "certain something" despite a transcript that needs work. There are agents that don't have the patience for that, they are not going out on limbs. Sad but true, and it's likely because they have 1) rare A+ exceptions debut authors, 2) Lauren Conrad BS authors and 3) a huge current client list. Why dedicate time to helping guide a talented newbie writer when they have others who make it EASY for them? Sure its the professional, rewarding and honorable thing to do. It's probably why they went into the business in the first place. But the sad truth is they don't have to. They're not hurting for work.

Query widely but wisely. There are many out there, consider branching out of NYC. Observe Publishers Marketplace carefully. Ignore the biggies. Start small. Even if you get rejected you may get some feedback along the way that you really really need. That's worth so much more than "Dear Author" standard rejection forms from Hot Shot big agents? Don't you think?


It only takes ONE. Even if it takes you a few dozen shots, won't it be worth it? Whatever you do - keeping going and remember its never ever personal.

-J
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