Jun 24, 2011

Life After Rejection

I thought I knew all there was to know about rejection letters, because I have gotten so many of them. But that was before I sent in "Waiting For Cupid." This manuscript was my baby, and I worked long and hard on it, and actively improved it each time I went through revisions. It got to where I felt it was perfect. But what changed for me this time was not a simple rejection letter. I actually had TWO different requests for my manuscript!

I'll admit that I started feeling a little cocky, completely sure that this was my winning piece, and that I was going to become a millionaire. Overnight, of course. I greedily checked my e-mail in great anticipation twelve times a day for the invitation to publish, excitedly envisioning who was currently reading my words and drooling for the rights to publish. So when I got an e-mail saying that one agent was not as excited about my story as she had hoped to be, I was pretty bummed. Okay, I was angry. And annoyed. How could she not like my book? It wasn't geared for old farts like her anyway, but young adults who were going through the same things I had gone through...and was able to finally laugh about. THEY would appreciate it! Why couldn't she use her professional resources and see just how popular my book could actually be?

All hope was not lost, however. I still had another agent considering my manuscript, and I held my breath as more days passed by without a word. That was good, right? It meant that the first few words didn't make him toss it aside with disgust. Was it being passed among his co-workers, editors and book publishers? I stopped checking my e-mail so much, and then, that was when it happened: I received yet another rejection. Once again, my manuscript didn't get him as excited as he had hoped for.

Rather than anger and annoyance, I felt completely deflated. My writing was worthless, not good enough to sell, and why on earth had I been dumb enough to send it in to so many people? Talk about embarrassing. I was an idiot. And then my sweet husband told me something that I haven't forgotten. He said, "At least you got a couple of nibbles!" And in that moment, I knew that at least I had written an awesome query letter...my first one to get some invitations! Maybe my idea wasn't so awful after all.

Of course, following this fiasco, I had to put a lot of thought into what was wrong with my manuscript. What was it that made it seem like a promising story but ended up lacking a certain satisfaction? It's hard to go through this thought process, because you have to be willing to give up the "final masterpiece" and be willing to maybe try a new medium. It didn't take much fighting to realize what exactly needs to be done with my story. The hard part now is going to be starting over.

It's been weeks now, and I'll admit that I have been too scared to write. This blog is my first attempt to get things rolling again, and I know that it's going to help me get started. What is so intimidating is the knowledge of the long road ahead of me, all of the re-writes and editing and actual brainstorming that I have to do. Writing is hard work!

While I am scared to fail, I know that re-writing is going to build my writing and creativity skills. I remember my first writing project in my creative writing class my senior year of college. My short story ended up such an awful disaster that my instructor actually withheld sharing it for our class' critique. THAT was embarrassing. But what I'm grateful for is the amazing growth that comes from having stories critiqued, and shredded apart, and picked apart piece by piece, because it helps you to think of things in a different perspective. With a lot of critical feedback and ideas that differed from mine, it was amazing the things I was able to write! Writers need to maintain a healthy dose of humility and be willing to try new things in a different light, even if it is uncomfortable at first.

As I think of the editing process, a hilarious scene comes to mind from one of my favorite movies, "Pillow Talk."

Jonathon: What do you have against marriage?

Brad: Jonathon, before a man marries, he's...like a tree in the forest. He stands there independent. An entity unto himself. Then he's chopped down, loses his branches and bark. Lands in the river. Then he's taken to the mill. When he comes out, he's no longer a tree. He's the vanity table, the breakfast nook, the baby crib, and the newspaper that lines the garbage can.

Jonathon: No, no. If this girl weren't something special, then I'd agree with you. But with Jan, you look forward to losing your branches.

Editing and rewriting and getting critiqued feel a lot like getting your branches cut, turning your work from an ordinary tree into a beautiful creation. It's hard to have someone tell us that they don't like our story as much as us, but as painful as it is, we need to embrace it, and welcome the pain that comes as we create our art into even more amazing masterpieces.

I am going to start writing again, and I know that I'm going to learn new techniques and improve my storytelling. There is life after rejection, and it's going to be amazing.

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