Harlequin Superromance author Anna Sugden shares her insight on rejection, persistence, and the ultimate payoff.
Welcome back, Anna!
No eye-rolling, please. No huffing of pffting, either. As a veteran of gazillions of rejections – by pretty much every method but sky-writing – I know what I’m talking about. I’m not saying that each and every ‘no’ hasn’t hurt – it has. I’m also a veteran of the indulge in weeping/wailing/whining to friends/chocolate-binging/swearing/have several drinks brigade. But as anyone who’s been in this writing and publishing game for more than five minutes will tell you, that really isn’t constructive. The rule is 24 hours, then to quote the song ‘pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again’.
But why, I hear you ask? The answer is simple – as with most things in life, nothing worth achieving is ever easy. Hence the borrowed title from sports and fitness. Ask any professional athlete and they will tell you that to achieve the ultimate prize – be it a gold medal or the Stanley Cup <g> – you’ll have to sacrifice and suffer, both physically and mentally. More importantly, it’s only through losing, being traded, being sent down or dropped, being left off the team – in other words rejection – that you learn. Yes, it can be demoralising, but it can also be a huge motivator.
One of my favourite quotes is from Thomas Edison, in response to questions about his failures, when developing the light-bulb: “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.” So it is with rejections. Each one takes you a step closer to your goal. Each one teaches you something – yes, even those horridly impersonal form rejections! (See earlier comment about eye-rolling and pffting!)
The truth is none of us – not even the greats like Nora – write perfectly first time. Not even after publishing many books. Certainly the first thing we wrote isn’t perfect – far from it! Most of us will readily admit that our first effort (and often second effort too) will never see the light of day. Yet, at the time, we thought those carefully scribed words were fantastic. And so did our cheerleaders (husband/partner/parent/BFF). So, those early rejections tell us we need help – from professionals. They also enable us to open ourselves up for constructive criticism.
As we develop and become more skilled as writers, rejections become part of the learning process. They become ‘better’ rejections, highlighting specific areas of weakness; plotting, characterisation, story flow etc. They also give us insights into what publishers – and hopefully readers – are looking for, as well as what does and doesn’t work.
When rejections change from ‘no’, to ‘no, but I’d like to see something else’ and then ‘no, but revise and resubmit’, they become invaluable. Not just for honing your writing craft, but also for building a relationship with the editors or agents you’re targeting. They open the door for dialogue and enable you to show them how great you are to work with.
They also teach you how to handle the writing process, because once you’ve sold, you’ll have to revise and resubmit and even rewrite!
The biggest frustration is often when you’re extremely close to making that final leap to ‘sold’. It was for me. At that point, rejections – no matter how ‘nice’ or constructive or flattering – can often seem whimsical. Factors outside of writing skills and beyond your control – often outside of editor and agent control too – can mean the difference between The Call and another rejection.
That is the point at which many would-be authors gave up. It is also the point at which many published authors gritted their teeth and gave it one last shot. That ‘last shot’ could be anything from simply reworking the book to writing something completely different – a book of the heart, a change of genre. It could also be turning your back on traditional publishing and going small press or indie.
For those of you who think that rejection stops once you’re published, think again! Proposals get rejected. Readers write crappy reviews. Publishers close lines or fold altogether. Editors and agents move on. Book buyers stop stocking. Advertisers don’t like certain genres. The list goes on. Does it still hurt? Of course. But thanks to all the experience you’ve had, you learn to roll with the punches. You also learn that you can not only survive ‘no’, but thrive and prosper!
So, next time you get a rejection – after you’ve had your 24 hour grace period <g> – think about what you can learn from it. Use it to drive you forward, not drag you down. Take that step closer to your goal and let it help you turn that ‘no’ into a ‘yes’.
What’s your method of dealing with rejection? Have you had any strange, funny or head-shaking rejections? Do you need a hug and sympathy after a rejection? Please share!
On Wednesday, August 6th – In Praise of Slower Writing with author Maggie Bolitho
A win-win negotiation?
Truman “Tru” Jelinek’s life is pretty much off the rails. With his professional hockey career on thin ice, and his personal life falling apart, he’s ready to implement some serious changes. Helping Jenny Martin—the only girl he’s ever loved—make her dreams a reality is a good place to start. There’s just one problem: Jenny doesn’t want his help. She barely wants to speak to him. But Tru is prepared to negotiate a deal that even Jenny can’t refuse. As trading favors turns into sharing passion, he has to face the truth that when it comes to Jenny, the game is far from over.
Bio: Harlequin SuperRomance author, Anna Sugden, loves reading and writing happy endings as much as hockey! When not reading or watching hockey, she loves football, good food & wine, making simple cross-stitch projects, and collecting memorabilia, penguins and fab shoes! A former marketing executive and primary teacher, Anna lives in Cambridge, England, with her husband and two bossy black cats.
- Keep on Riding the Roller Coaster! (Or, why all those years of trying to sell are worth it.) by Anna Sugden
- Surviving ‘Nearly There’ with Anna Sugden
- The Dos and Don’ts of Critiquing with Anna Sugden
- If at First, You Don’t Succeed…by Anna Sugden
- Dealing with Rejection – How to Pick Yourself Up and Keep Writing by Rachael Thomas