Wednesday, September 23, 2009

How to Learn from Rejection by Karin Beery

Two years ago I sat down and wrote my first novel. It only took six weeks. I did some edits, then sent it to friends to read. They gave much positive feedback that I knew it was time to query.

The whole experience went so quickly, and so easily, that I knew someone would respond. Sure enough, in the first week an editor requested a partial! That's when I knew I was meant to write.

But a week later the same editor told me 'no thanks'. Unfazed and determined, I queried more editors and agents.

Rejection, rejection, rejection.

What??

I sought counsel from more experienced (i.e. published) writers. Go to conferences. Read books. Enter contests. I did it all. Then I waited for someone to notice me.

Yeah, right.

At the conferences my introverted self surfaced. It took so much effort to remain calm in the midst of published writers that I had very little courage left for the agents and editors.

Then my contest results came back, and I wasn't enough close to finaling in any of them. Some of the judges' comments were hard to accept, but they all found flaws.
I read best-selling novels and craft books. Each one pointed out more of my inadequacies.

Every day my confidence and desire waned. Soon I was doubting why I was writing and if I even wanted to continue doing it.

During all of this I had been looking for freelance work (someone had suggested it). One glorious day I got an email from an online arts magazine in California. Though I had no experience, and no bylines, the editor decided to let me submit. She didn't make promises, but agreed to see if she could use anything..

You've never seen anyone so excited to get such a non-commitment!

It wasn't a fiction job, but it was a chance to write, so I took it.

The magazine eventually ran five of my articles. That led to a part-time job at a weekly newspaper, which led to another part-time job with another weekly paper. My confidence increased!

With my non-fiction career taking off, I decided to hit the fiction again. I picked up my original manuscript – and cringed.

Two years prior it had been a masterpiece, but after months of conferences, reading, and studying, the errors jumped off the page and smacked me in the face. My writing was terrible!

My first reaction was to quit. I felt justified in it – I had the evidence of my bad writing in my hands!

But then I got a check in the mail for one of my articles. A mere $30 for my efforts, but also proof that I could write, even if it was non-fiction.

I picked up the manuscript again. This time when I saw the mistakes, they applauded me. If I could identify them, that meant I had learned something. If I had learned enough to recognize my faults, then I could change them. There was hope!

I decided to try the fiction market again, but on a smaller scale. I submitted two short stories to an online magazine.

Rejection...and suggestions! The editor liked my story, but thought it could be better. She suggested, I changed. Suggestions, changes. Suggestions, changes. After the third submission...

Acceptance!

I called everyone and did my happy dance. The website can't pay me, but I don't care. It's not about the money – it's about the validation.

I can write fiction! The process has taken longer than I expected, but I'm doing it!
If you're frustrated with your writing experiences, take a break. Try something different – write an article or a devotional or a poem. But keep learning, and keep practicing while you do it. Don't let a few rejections get in your way. If you want to write and are willing to put in the time and effort, it can happen.

Good luck!

4 comments:

  1. Thanks for having me here, Teresa. I had a great time writing this piece, and I hope it gives someone that extra confidence they need :)

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  2. Knowing you're growing is great! I got that comment at my writer's group last month, from a wise poet who told me she could see how much smoother my current piece (the third in the mystery series) is going as I write it, compared to the first, which is published!

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  3. Thanks, Karin, for dropping by. Interesting and entertaining post. I hope others got as much out of it as I did.

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  4. Great advice! Much needed on the day before I leave for a writer's conference where I paid for a critique on a manuscript dear to my heart! Sorry I missed the albino squirrel game - dirty darn - life is too busy.

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