Novelfail: Facing rejection with grace (or learning to)
I’ve had short stories rejected before, and I like to think I’m pretty good at dealing with it. At least, it’s enough to piss me off a while, but not enough to throw me into the pit and give up writing. The story selection process is extremely subjective, and I can deal with that. I just keep writing.
However, yesterday, on my way to take my sister to her chemotherapy treatment, I got my first novel rejection letter. This is another bird altogether, and due to the timing of the situation–dealing with jetlag and the issues my sister is facing–I was a little bent out of shape for a few hours.
My biggest complaint might seem strange, but I really wish it had been a form rejection. Just a simple “this isn’t for us, thanks for your submission”. As it was, the rejection letter praised my “well-written” work, and noted that the characters were engaging. Sure, that’s nice. But it also let me know the exact reason for the rejection.
And the reason? It’s a small detail that has very little bearing on the rest of the plot. It’s not even something I had to keep, just something I thought was neat. I read over the letter again and again, and just couldn’t get my head around it. If they’d read a few more chapters, it would have been explained. It was supposed to be a point of intrigue! (But… instead was a point of FAIL)
Because of the conversational tone of the rejection letter, I was tempted to write back and argue my case. I mean, they even gave me suggestions to change that detail! It took me about thirty seconds to realize that that was a very, very stupid idea. In fact, it’s a kiss of death. You never write back after a rejection! NEVER. Especially as an unagented newbie… I need to be on absolute best behavior.
What’s hard is that I feel really, really ineffectual. And I hate feeling that way! I want to fight for my novel, to give it a chance, to argue my point. I joke that I’m cowardly, but I’m fighting a very knightly feeling to rise up and protect! Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to be mean about it–I understand their hangup in that it seems a little odd. I just want to show them what I did with it, as they didn’t read past the first three chapters.
But I can’t. I have to accept their decision, and move on, hoping that someone else will pick up the novel when I submit it again.
Rejection is part of the game, though. I’m continuing to think about it, and insist that this is all for the better, but can’t shake the crappy feeling. I guess that’s human. Still, I’m not flagging; I literally got the letter and wrote about 100 words in my WIP just because I sort of had to. Which is a victory in and of itself. The hardest thing about rejection is the feeling it gives you, how it makes you question what you love doing. But writing, for me, isn’t just about loving it, or sharing it. It’s about making a living, about improving.
And the only way to win against rejection is to get better at what you do.
“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” – Samuel Beckett