We write. We rewrite. We submit and get a rejection. And then another. Harlequin Presents author, Rachael Thomas, shares her advice on how to overcome rejection and stay on track.
Welcome to RU, Rachael!
I’m really excited to be here at Romance University. Thank you very much for inviting me. Writing a post offering advice to other writers is new to me. I have served a seven year long ‘apprenticeship’, during which I attended as many courses and conferences as I possibly could, so I have decided to talk about something I came across often in that time.
Being told the story you’ve put your all into, for the last however many months, is not right for the publisher you had in mind, is hard. Really hard. But it’s part and parcel of being a writer.
I can remember being told this when I first began writing seriously towards publication and I soon realised it was true. It’s not just the words you put on the page that go towards your apprenticeship, but also the rejections, or badges of honour, as I came to think of them.
So how do you cope?
First of all you develop a tough exterior. Nobody likes rejections of any kind, but it’s inevitable in writing. When you get your next rejection, have a scream and stomp by all means, but do it privately. Once you’ve got it out of your system, you’ll feel better. Trust me! What you mustn’t do is let it beat you, or take away your confidence, something which is much easier said than done.
Learn from it
Look at the rejection letter. Does it offer any advice on how to deal with what is wrong with your work for that publisher or agent? Is there any praise in it? This can be hard to spot at first, as it is very difficult to see past the actual rejection.
A standard rejection is more difficult to deal with emotionally as well as learn from, but ask yourself, did you target the submission correctly and what do you feel will make the story better?
Very often the rejection letter will include suggestions for altering the story. This is good and should be acted upon, even if it’s only for you to realise where things went wrong. There may be an offer to resubmit once the changes have been made and this should definitely be taken up. Or it may suggest you put the story aside and start a new one, which is hard, but remember each story is part of your apprenticeship and will be taking you one step closer to your ultimate goal of publication.
Rejections come in many guises
Rejections come in many other forms than a straightforward response to a submission. It can be feedback form a competition entry – or worse, no feedback when you know it’s being given to promising entries. It can be in the form of a critique from a course tutor or critiquing scheme. It can even be a friend telling you they don’t like your story. They are all equally hard to take, but will make you stronger as a writer – if you accept them and move on without taking it personally. It isn’t after all, a rejection of you as a person, but of that piece of writing.
One of the best ways to refocus your determination, boost your confidence and reignite your desire to write after receiving a rejection is to write. Don’t mull over the rejection, put it to good use and allow it to fuel your desire to create a new story, with exciting new characters to become involved with.
The last rejection I received was a standard rejection. I was gutted.
This was my first thought. ‘I’m not doing this to myself anymore.’
I shut down my computer, even cleared my desk, adamant that was it. Less than half an hour later that first thought was replaced with a question. What am I going to do if I don’t write? Could I even not write? Ten minutes later I had a pad and pencil and began the opening scene of what would be ‘my story’.
The story I just had to write. It was also the beginning of what became my Top Ten entry in Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write 2013 competition and the story which would subsequently become my debut. I still find it hard to believe that my second book is now on the shelves.
So please, if you are at rock bottom after a rejection, take heart. Things will get better. Next time you get a ‘no thank you’ in whatever form, give yourself a pat on the back. It’s a badge of honour, a step closer to achieving your dream and an essential part of a journey which follows a bumpy road – a very bumpy one indeed.
Moving on to a new level
I’m now on the cusp of a new learning curve, one which will see my utilising my tough exterior, perfecting my stomp and testing my ability to take advice and with it, to strengthen my writing. I am of course referring to rejections sister – revisions. But that’s another story altogether!
It’s really hard not to allow the seeds of doubt to creep into your mind when you’re told something you’ve written isn’t good enough, or isn’t right for the market. Not taking it personally has been one of the best ways to deal with it, but if anyone else has other ways to deal with rejections, I’d love to know.
Next up: Rie Warren talks alpha males on Wednesday, February 4th.
CLAIMED BY THE SHEIKH (Harlequin Presents – January 2015)
BANISHED! Princess Amber’s arranged marriage to Prince Kazim Al-Amed of Barazbin was a dream come true – for her, at least! But then their wedding night went spectacularly wrong, and a furious Kazim banished Amber from his kingdom and his life…
HUNTED! Now, with his country in turmoil, Kazim must prove his ability to rule and provide an heir for his people. But to do so he’ll need to track down his princess.
CLAIMED! Amber has always threatened Kazim’s tightly held control. Yet if he is to save his nation – and his marriage – he must finally make the ultimate claim… on his wife!
Bio: I’ve always loved reading romance and am thrilled to now be a Presents author. I live and work on a farm in Wales, a far cry from the glamour of a Presents story, but that makes slipping into my characters’ world all the more appealing. When I’m not writing or working on the farm I enjoy photography and visiting historic castles and grand houses. Visit me at my website or connect with me via Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
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