Wednesday, March 7, 2012

IWSG: Dealing With Rejection



It’s the first Wednesday of the month:  time to meet with my fellow writers in

I’m beginning to feel like a real, honest-to-God writer these days.  And do you know why?  The answer is:  Rejection.  No writer worth her salts could ever call herself so without receiving an array of rejections for her work.  And I’ve received quite a few.  At first it was just rejections of my query, but then, after receiving a good number of requests, it’s become a rejection of those, too. 

The first time I had my full manuscript rejected, it nearly destroyed me.  I have to laugh about it now because I took it to the chin, and rather hard, too.  I spent that first evening commiserating with my new friend, Silver Patron.  Sure, he made me laugh and even forget for a while, but I vowed we wouldn’t see each other again until I somehow managed to snag an agent.  That was nearly a year ago, and I’ve kept my promise, though it hasn’t always been easy.  But one thing rejection has done for me is make me tough.  I barely even feel it now.

This has come in handy in the last few weeks.  After waiting over six months, I finally heard back from an agent who politely and respectfully said no to my full.  That was followed immediately by another of the same.  Well, almost the same.  It wasn’t an agent this time, but rather an editor who had read my first fifty pages, and three days later, quite excitedly I might add, requested my full, making sure to inform me how much she and her team were enjoying my story.

I took that request and the excitement that accompanied it with a huge grain of salt.  The publisher was brand-spanking new and published mostly romance, but they were looking for thrillers and mine had them all worked up.  The great part was that she didn’t make me wait.  I heard back in less than two weeks.  But you already know how this story ends.  She told me I definitely had a talent for writing and that making the final decision about my manuscript was truly a hard one for them, but in the end, it wasn’t a good fit. 


She’s promised to go over with me all the deciding factors in a detailed email, but it came down to what I’ve always known would be a difficult sell:  My story is just too provocative.  



Now, some might think this is a good thing, but, as I’ve written here before, my lead male character, who falls into unbearable depression following the violent death of his wife, does something shamefully contemptible, and, as we all know, in fiction, the truly despicable things are left to the bad guy, not the good.  But, at least for me, life is not simple shades of black and white.  There are variables of grey to both sides of the coin.  True, my character is flawed, but the entire message, the very theme of the story, is forgiveness.  So while I am excited to read what the editor thinks will help make my story more marketable, I’m not sure how far I’m willing to go to make it so, even though she said she’s willing to reread it afterwards. 

Yes, I am all for compromise, but, as my best friend, writing soul mate, and most awesome critique partner, Lisa L. Regan, has said numerous times, the character cannot fully appreciate or realize just how far he’s fallen—how far removed he is from the man he used to be—until he crosses completely over to the dark side.  And he cannot do that without doing that “terrible awful thing” no matter how terrible awful it is.  And believe me, it is.  It’s terrible awful

 

But this is a story of hard-fought redemption, and I didn’t start off making him a bad guy.  Like I said, he’s flawed, but his flaw is that, in his quest of lawful duty, he doesn’t actually see his flaw.  He thinks he’s always right, always on track, always perfect.  So to fall so far from grace is unendurable for him.  And while he’s desperately fighting the bad guys to save the woman he’s wounded and jeopardized, he’s also battling the internal demons he’s unleashed within himself.  


How do I compromise on that?

So anyway, now I know, rejections won’t kill me.  They don’t bowl me over anymore.  I barely feel them.  But it’s not so much that I’m scarred and therefore tougher.  It’s more like I believe in my story.  I trust its message.  It may be too provocative for agents and publishers of commercial fiction at the moment.  Hell, it might be too provocative for future audiences, too, but, having gone through a similar experience, writing this story was cathartic and has taught me exactly what I’m trying to express in the story:  to forgive.  

And I just can’t compromise on that, because the integrity of that message is much more important than the marketability of the story.     

             

48 comments:

Natalie Aguirre said...

You've got a great attitude toward rejection. And you've gotten a lot of requests, which is good. Hope I can have your attitude when I query.

Annalisa Crawford said...

I think your story sounds great. It wouldn't be the same story if you compromise for a hyperthetical reader, who may or may not exist. Who's to say that actually, people don't want black and white characters? I hope you find the right path soon.

Hektor Karl said...

Sorry to hear about the rejections. In times like these, I've always liked the Beckett quote: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

With a story like that, it's only a matter of time, Nancy! Stick to your guns and keep trying.

Kyra Lennon said...

I would love to read your story, and like Alex said, with such a strong premise, it's only a matter of time. :)

Liza said...

It sounds to me like the last editor left the door open...and you may find the detailed email that's forthcoming may identify things you can change without hurting the integrity of the story. As a former boss used to say to me...cross that bridge when you get to it. The editor's issues may not be what you are anticipating at all. I will hope that is the case...it sounds like a pretty amazing and deep story.

Nancy said...

It sounds like rejection, in this case, forced you to make some strong decisions. Great post.

L.G.Smith said...

Rejection sucks, and no doubt about it. I think you do start to develop a thicker skin after awhile, but it still hurts. It hurts in a different way though. It's more like a numbness than a sting. The tricky part is to not let that numbness lull you into giving up. I mean, you might have to put the first novel aside and submit another, been there done that, but don't give up on the dream of being published.

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

Sometimes rejection just means the story isn't a good fit for the publisher, whatever that means to the editor and publisher. Sometimes the journey is about finding the right publisher for the right work at the right time.

Cassie Mae said...

Your character sounds like someone I'd love to read about. And I know I'm not the only one either. Stay true to it girl.

Ready for the the cliche?

Follow your heart.

That is all :)

Suze said...

'It’s more like I believe in my story. I trust its message.'

That is a great place to be.

Nicole Zoltack said...

Keep trying! You'll find a home for your story, I'm sure.

Siv Maria said...

That's the spirit! Thanks for sharing your rejections. I think you should give yourself credit for just getting your stuff out there and staying true to yourself and your work at the same time.

Joanne said...

Thanks for sharing. Keep believing in your story, and it'll get published! The right time will come ...

Cecilia M. said...

A great post, Nancy. rejections are a pain. And I admire you, you'Re quite strong. Have faith. Everything will work out. :)

Jennifer Hillier said...

Really great post, Nancy. Rejection is part of being a writer. It comes with the job, and we need to go through that, because once published, guess what's next? REVIEWS! And you don't have a thick skin by the time your first bad review comes out, you're toast.

I love that you're not willing to sacrifice the integrity of the story just to sell it. You will eventually find the right publisher. It just takes one.

Laura Eno said...

Oh, that bites! I applaud you for standing on your story's merits. I don't like the whole system of watering down a story and fitting it into a pidgeonhole of acceptable mush to feed the reader. A story should say what needs to be said.

Carrie Butler said...

Great post, Nancy! I tried rubbing my first query rejection all over my body, but I don't think my skin is thick enough to handle the rest yet. Oh well. In time...

As for your MS, well, somebody better bite soon. Seriously. I want to read it now, provocative subject matter and all! :)

Hope Roberson said...

Thanks for lifting my spirits! I'm about to query, so I know I need to grow some thicker skin. I'll remember your thoughts as I learn to handle rejection and grow as a writer :)

Carol Kilgore said...

Congrats on feeling like a writer! And thanks for commenting on Under the Tiki Hut :)

Ute Carbone said...

Good for you, Nancy. I remember my first. After reading the manuscript, agent guy said (and I quote) "It's not you it's me" All that was missing was candlelight and a nice bottle of red. Oh well, at least he was kind.. You do have to have a thick skin and just hang in there and don't stop believing. You've got a great attitude and gumption. :)

Mama J said...

It's clear from your post how passionate you are about your story so I can see why you wouldn't want to 'compromise' it.

I'm sure there is an agent/publisher out there who will feel just as passionate about it and that can only be a very good thing :-)

Sylvia van Bruggen said...

yay! awesome that you feel like a writer now :)

What truly gave me a thick skin was realizing that I am a writer. That means I am meant to write. The moment I submit something it has become not-writing. The story is out into the world doing its thing and I am writing again.

Eventually I learned to celebrate rejection because it shows that I send stories out into the world :)

jamieayres said...

You are a wonderful writer who will soon be an author, and I'm glad you aren't compromising . . . if we wanted more $,we'd just go out and get a second job--heck, it'd be a whole lot easier, right?! Kuddos for standing your ground:)

Lynda R Young said...

It's often just a matter of finding the right fit. It only takes one yes.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Stephen Donaldson built a highly acclaimed and successful fantasy series based on an anti-hero, Thomas Covenant. Covenant rapes a girl in the first book and doesn't even recognize that he's done something wrong and needs to redeem himself until much later.

Perhaps today's publishing world doesn't have the guts to take that chance ...?

Angela Orlowski-Peart said...

Rejections are hard but you've learned a whole deal about how to handle them.

I love the conclusion that you arrived at: "the integrity of that message is much more important than the marketability of the story." Amazing.

Al Penwasser said...

Once the dam breaks, all the rejections will be so far in your rear-view mirror, you'll have trouble remembering them.
And break it will.
On a related note, I sure am glad that "Obama Kissing Picture" didn't include tongue.

Kirsten said...

Thank you for sharing this part of your journey.
Like the rest of your fans (and you already know I am one :) ) I am looking forward to seeing this story once the right person sees it and gets behind it. I do love me a bad boy, and the suspense of wondering 'What has he done that is so awful?" has me wanting to read this story even more.

How wonderful that agents and editors are recognizing your writing chops!

Mark Koopmans said...

Hey,

Wow... if you liked my entry, I love yours!! I'm so intrigued by your story.... It sounds so unique that I *know* it will be picked up one of these days... and their loss is your gain...

Your MC is in good hands, now it's a matter of finding the one person with a forward-looking mind-set.... You WILL be published, and I want a signed copy.... please :)

PS... thanks for your comments... you made my day:)

Kelley said...

It'll happen. Rejections are definitely no fun.

But what fun would it be if we just waltzed out there and got an offer right away?

Wait...that would be totally awesome...haha ;)

Lan said...

Rejections are horrible things aren't they? More and more I'm learning though that they're not a reflection on you as a writer but more that your MS doesn't fit within the publishers list. And hey, I don't think you should have to change your characters at all. Characters without flaws are one dimensional and predictably boring. You are so right in saying that nobody can appreciate how far they've fallen without actually falling in the first place. For every reader that can't identify with a character that's so real, there will be many more who do.

Sarah Pearson said...

Well now I'm dying to read your story!

Alex Villasante said...

Wow. your attitude is so inspiring. Rejection is the devil, but how we take it reveals who we are as writers. You've got integrity written all over you, girl. And I agree with Sarah, now I'm dying to read your story. We can't be the only ones.

Joylene said...

You know when rejections stopped bothering me? Well, glad you asked. It was after reading "Message in a Bottle." A best seller that made me gag. I know, no accounting for taste. But the point is I knew then that you can't please everyone. Millions loved the book. I didn't. So the next time I receive a rejection (not likely since I haven't sent out any queries) I'll be okay because I know you can't please everybody.

Great post, Miss Nancy.

Donna K. Weaver said...

Just what I needed, Nancy. Got two more rejections while I was on vacation.

Nice.

Or not.

Heather M. Gardner said...

You're killing me. I read this post and then read your link to your old post and I am so in love with your main character I can't stand it. Bring him on! I want to meet this flawed unforgivable male. People screw up. People deserve a second chance. I want to know! I need to know! When do I get to read your book!

Great post. HMG

Michael Pierce said...

Hi Nancy, and thanks for your comment! Also, I returned the "following" favor. :) I love your post, especially for your unwillingness to compromise with your leading character. I believe the characters need to be true to who they are. The good guys can be bad, and the bad guys can be good, which makes them interesting, dynamic, and real. I'm often intrigued by wounded and haunted characters. Thank you for your post. Your unwillingness to compromise shows true passion.

Talli Roland said...

Nancy, I really admire you for staying true to your story. That definitely makes you a writer!

Peggy Eddleman said...

I think you hit it right on the nail in that last sentence! Way to stick to your guns on a story you believe in!

Juliana L. Brandt said...

Can I please read your book? Like, seriously. Every time you write about it, it only makes me want to read it more!! Good job on staying true to the story :)

M Pax said...

That is a story I would love to read, Nancy. I hope you land on the right desk in the near future. Don't give up. You're in the game. Be damn proud.

The Golden Eagle said...

Good for you for sticking with your story!

tfwalsh said...

Good on you for sticking to what you want to convey in your story... Totally agree on how hard it is to deal with rejection...

C.M.Brown said...

Nancy, good for you for fighting the battle! I am sure you will get there in the end!

It probably is not the right place to tell you but I have just tagged you to play Lucky Se7en as part of the Campaign!

If you participate we will be able to glimpse a little of your work for ourselves!

Elise Fallson said...

NO! No! NO! I was going to tag her! Darn time zones....(;

In all seriousness, I agree with C.M.B. and the others about sticking to your guns. It may take a little more time, but you'll find the right fit!

Medeia Sharif said...

I love trusting my stories, even if other people may not get them.

You've had interest, which is a good sign. Keep at it, Nancy. :)

Melodie Wright said...

Kudos, Nancy. Finding the right person to sell your work takes time but it'll happen. And you can always self-publish this one!