Monday, October 24, 2011

Bad News Isn't Always a Bad Thing



Being a writer is a tough gig.  There’s very little payback and we generally work alone.  Yes, it’s true, this new age of blogging has allowed us to reach out and connect with others, more so than we would have been able to at any other time.  But still, we are pretty much alone, stuck in our own heads, making up strange tales set in strange lands with strange people. 
            We experience minor victories from time to time.  We string together coherent sentences, then paragraphs and chapters, plots and subplots, until, finally, we have a book.  We are so proud.  Not many people even attempt to write a book let alone finish one.  Afterwards, we read and revise, edit and add content.  We scrub and buff until it shines like an uncut diamond.  Then, if we’re lucky, we find amazing critique partners who help us polish our gem until its sparkles like Edward Cullen on a sunny day. 
            When we’re ready, we go through the whole process again with our query letter.  Scribble, scratch, buff and shine.  We are not daunted by the research necessary to find the appropriate agents to send our query.  We compile our list and format our submissions, cringing with raw nerves when we hit the send button.
            Then we wait.  And wait some more—more and more and more and more.  Every time we get a new email, we wonder if it could be the one.  And when it’s not, when it’s nothing more than another rejection, we shrink a little lower in our seats, lose a little more confidence.  We may even cry. 
            But then we get one, maybe even two or three, or—good God almighty—four:  a request for pages, a partial or the whole damn thing.  A happy dance ensues, perhaps a bit of screaming and raising of one’s arms towards God in heaven. 
But not for long.  Gotta get those pages out.   
            Then we wait.  And wait some more—more and more and more and more.  We thought we were tense before, but now with our baby out in the big, bad world, we’re ready to spin like a top we’re so wound up.  Again, every time a new email arrives, we wonder.  But it’s been so long, we almost forget.  Until we see that agent’s name above the subject line with our book title right below.  Our hands shake, our breathing gets shorter and more labored as we open it.
Then the world comes crashing down around our ears.  Utter devastation.  That first rejection of our full manuscript is unbearably painful, but eventually, after days of tears and heartbreak, we brush ourselves off and move forward.
            The next rejection hurts, as well, but there’s nothing really to glean from it because, once again, it’s just a simple no thanks, but good luck to you.  Nothing to tell us we’re on the right track or not.  So, though our pride is stinging and our confidence is waning, we trudge onward, perhaps making a revision or two, just a tweak here and there to make us feel like we’re improving it somehow.  And out go more queries in sporadic bursts. 
            Then we wait.  Again.  But this time, we’re a bit numb.  Our skin is definitely getting thicker.  We’ve learned to put those queries out of mind and get on with life.  And so, when another request comes in, we’re excited, but wary, especially since we know this is likely just a favor from our friend’s agent.  But it’s a request nonetheless.  So out go those pages, one more time.  We sigh, thinking of the long wait before us, cringing at that stupid typo in the very first paragraph on the very first page that we didn’t notice until after we’d already sent it.    
            But then another request comes in.  Hope!  Pages go out.  Another long sigh.  Another long wait.  And then another request.  Even more hope!  Sigh.  Wait.  And wait some more.  And more and more and more.
            Then something remarkable happens.  It’s not a good thing, mind you, but neither is it entirely bad.  Yeah, it’s a rejection and so it hurts a little, but the skin is pretty tough now and the pain is just a tingle of disappointment rather than a ripping out of the heart.  It was improbable anyway.  This was, after all, that favor request.  But this time the email is not a one line denial of interest.  And while the agent is “just short of enthusiastic enough to take it on and fight for it,” she says “there’s a lot of wonderful stuff in there” and “goodness knows, it was very close.”  So even though she suggests a change in the protagonist’s name, it’s cool.  It’s an easy fix.  And if that’s the worst thing she can think of, there’s reason to feel good.  That’s the best rejection letter ever!
            My point here is that we get a lot more bad news than good, but bad news is not always a bad thing.  Sometimes it lifts our sagging confidence, offers a push back onto the road, granted with a little coarse correction.  We know we’re getting closer to our destination.  We can feel it.  The trick is to not give up, even when the bad news is really bad.  You never know when a little ray of sunshine will come along and brighten your otherwise dreary day.  And hey, there are still a few requested pages out there.  And after that, there are always more agents to query.  It’s not the end game yet.           
                                             


28 comments:

Shakespeare said...

Thank you so much! What a timely blog for me... reminding me to keep trying and stay positive and wrack up the rejections with my thick-skinned fingers, knowing the process is just what it is.

Appreciate it.

R. Jacob said...

It reminds me of selling when I first started out.
Each no thank you brought you closer to making a sale. There were many days I did not believe it, many days. I learned to keep things on an even keel, not to high and not to low. Besides, after awhile, you run out of tears.

Lisa L. Regan said...

Definitely not the end! I think it's great. Imagine that--a great rejection. As if there could be such a thing. But there is and you've got one. I think this is a signal for you to keep going because as I've known all along, you're on the right track! You've got something really special and it's only a matter of time until some agent out there recognizes that and cannot sign you fast enough. Great post!

L.G.Smith said...

It is such a roller coaster of emotions, isn't it? Hold onto those "good" rejections. They're good to go back and take a look at once in awhile to remind yourself you really are on the right track and it's only a matter of time until you hook up with the right person for your novel.

Eva Gallant said...

I appreciated this post. I hope your manuscript is scooped up by an agent soon and becomes a best seller!

JeffO said...

That's a great attitude to take. Hang in there, Nancy!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Good attitude! Sometimes the bad news helps our work to become stronger.

Natalie Aguirre said...

So very true. Querying and submitting is so hard until we get someone who says yes. But attitude is so important.

Al Penwasser said...

I love that picture. Looks like God's flashlight....
"I KNOW I left those damn keys SOMEwhere. But...they probably sank. Duh!"

Linda King said...

Thanks Nancy - very heartening! I will remember your words when I get as far as submitting my novel!

Joylene said...

So elegantly put, Nancy. It's as if you have lived my life. The only difference is the rest of the story. The other side to this, which I hesitate to mention, because you've all experienced it, you're going to think I'm alone. One day there is that sale, and while you believe wholeheartedly that your life is about to change forever, it's not in the way you think.

But that's a story for another day, a not so distant day.

Reviewer11 said...

That is interesting. When I read bad news, depending what it is, it makes me sad or feel a little bad. But if it's good news, it makes me feel good.

Pk Hrezo said...

It's never the end. There is always hope. Sometimes good news only comes after we've been proactive in taking charge of our lives and our craft. :)
Best of luck on those requests!!

JJ said...

Nancy: Best of luck with your writing career. If I can help in any way, just ask. I am now following.

Carrie Butler said...

Nancy! I hope you know I did a spit take when I read, "Then, if we’re lucky, we find amazing critique partners who help us polish our gem until its sparkles like Edward Cullen on a sunny day." *Grins* Great, great attitude as always. Your determination is an inspiration to all of us. Thank you! :)

Pat Hatt said...

Very well put, just have to push on no matter what gets in the way. 99% of people see it as too hard and quit, so one has to ne the 1% and push on. Granted I haven't even attempted that big bad world, just doing it myself at the moment with my books..haha

Juliana L. Brandt said...

Awesome post, this is so well put. I love how you put a spin on this! I think this is a big reason why I'm putting on the Warm Fuzzies Blogfest. We all experience the loads of bad news and often need each other to stay lifted up :)

Jennifer Hillier said...

You're far from done, my friend. I'm glad you're taking that rejection as a positive thing overall, because it was!

Keep going keep going keep going... we're cheering you on every step of the way.

Regge Ridgway said...

Rejection can be a signal that they are full right now. Like you would be on thanksgiving and someone tries to push another piece of pie on you. It's not that the pie is bad, it is just bad timing. Any way just keep and writing. It will happen. Just believe.

Jessie Humphries said...

This is why I feel like never querying, like staying in my little creative bubble of writing and blogging. But of course, the bubble will pop one day soon!

Laila Knight said...

Great post! It's true that our skin gets thicker. And the more we practice the better our writing gets. I've hence rejected the idea of using rejection letters for toilet paper. They're discarded in the corner somewhere. Best of luck to you. :)

Patti said...

It's a good thing that when we finally do that good news that it makes up for all of the bad.

The Desert Rocks said...

You are right on the pulse Nancy. Thick skin however, goes against my innate writing sensitivities and sensibilities. If I have very thick skin I don't feel the nuances necessary for me to write in the first place, but the rays of light help a lot and fortunately I have quite a few of those lately.

Jennifer Shirk said...

That's true. It' definitely not the end.
But I think because you do some much waiting hearing bad news is like a double blow. :)

The Golden Eagle said...

Awesome post. :)

Good luck with the requests!

Lynda R Young said...

Yep, it's a tough life. I like your perspective though--that not all bad news is bad. It's a healthy way of looking at it.

Melodie Wright said...

I like to think of each rejection letter as a stone in the middle of a river. Each one gets me further across from queryland to submissionland. :)

Reviewer11 said...

Regge, that's a good example! Awesome! :D