When Rejection's a Favor

I know what it is to beat one's head against the brick wall of rejection, to turn every stone, cross every T, and [insert additional motheaten cliche here].

I remember well the intense frustration of "almost," when you feel yourself teetering on the verge of publication. When time after time, at that final moment, the prize is snatched from your grasp. When, looking around you, you see others, perhaps those who haven't worked so long or hard or don't seem to have much in the way of talent, achieve what you've worked for so diligently.

Stinks, doesn't it? But the truth is, in a lot of cases, you may look back to discover that rejection was a favor. Either you weren't ready or the writing wasn't. The project offered was one that couldn't possibly commercially succeed or would end up in a niche so narrow, your career as a published author would be brief, stunted, and steeped in bitterness. From the vantage of perspective, the seasoned author will recognize what experienced agents and editors first noticed - and what the novice lacked the objectivity and marketing-savvy to see.

Some manuscripts simply should never be published, and as heartbreaking as that fact is, it doesn't mean they should not have been written. Because with every story completed, the dedicated writer grows in skill until, when her "market sense" evolves to the right degree and the right idea comes up, she'll be ready for it.

More than likely, this will never happen if the writer stubbornly clings to ideas such as "these agents know nothing," "only people with connections can get published," or "if they don't know good art when they see it, I'll publish this myself. And show them!"

I submit to you that if you're winning or placing in contests or getting a lot of bites (including full reads) on your work by industry professionals, you most likely have the talent needed to become a published author. What you may not have is the right idea, the most polished, commercially viable product, or the right timing to make you stand out in an incredibly competitive field.

So my question is, are you going to be one of those who gives up, allowing your dream to fall by the wayside? Are you going to try to second guess the market with a short-cut, such as a vanity press (in all its insidious and tempting guises)? Or will you be among the few who put in the years, study, and sweat equity needed to pursue a quest that offers no one guarantees?

Are you going to be among those who looks back with relief on your early rejections and feels grateful that those developmental manuscripts weren't included in your body of work?

Question for the day: Do you have an "under-the-bed" manuscript you're now glad wasn't published? What did you learn from the experience of writing and submitting it?


Suzan Harden said…
God & Goddess, yes! The very first complete novel I ever wrote will remain under the bed with the dustbunnies until the cockroaches inherit the earth.

Despite its inherent 'badness', I learned (a) I could finish a manuscript and (b) 'aquamarine' is not a good description for your hero's eyes.
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ROFL, Suzan! Especially about the aquamarine eyes.

I have several manuscripts under the bed. From them, I learned, too, that I could complete a novel. I also found I might wish to pay attention to the word count if I actually wanted to sell something. First one way, way, way long and the second two fell short (on more than one level!)
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I'm not much into censoring comments on the blog, but I draw the line as those containing hidden links to adult content (which may well be a gateway to viruses.)

Not cool, spammer dude. Definitely not cool.
It is always terrific to hear from writers who have more experience on the road to success. Posts like this are reassuring and insightful. Hopefully, the long journey helps us to appreciate the next destination all the more. Thanks!
EmilyBryan said…
Amen, preach it, sister!

When the whole Harlequin/Harlequin lite issue emerged, I know lots of pre-pubbed writers grabbed onto the news as if it were a lifeline. I bucked the system with a post on my blog about why rejection is GOOD for a writer. It's an opportunity for growth.

My first two manuscripts richly deserve the obscurity they enjoy. They were my "training wheels" stories. I was going to school on them.

Writing is an ocean. I can't just dabbling my toes. Rejection makes me wade in and try something different.
Vicky said…
Great post! My 1st book is buried inside a 5-drawer file cabinet. All I have left is a paper copy. Oh, that book did so well in contests, even finaling in the GH. It got lots of requests, and I did a massive rewrite/no promise of contract for an editor. The problem? It all happened too fast. I still had way too much to learn about craft and the business. I made ignorant mistakes, and I was completely overwhelmed. When the book got rejected, I was heartbroken, but in hindsight, I'm glad. I needed time to study and learn. On the personal side, I went through a divorce, back to college, and started a new career. And while I regretted having to put aside my writing during that time, everything I learned from my marketing career has helped tremendously in my writing career. When my personal life stablized, I took the time I needed to study & practice craft and to learn as much as I could about the business. It was hard to put my writing aside for so long, but the second time around, I was much better prepared. And this time, I sold.
Thanks to everyone for dropping by and sharing your story. What newcomers (by definition) lack is perspective. Instant gratification's pretty much a given in most aspects of our culture. But it's not always for the best, and definition not when it comes to writing.

I've read a number of self-published projects that made me very happy there are gatekeepers out there. I know there have been a few notable exceptions, but the trouble is, the horrendous mass keeps most from wanted to take a chance on a vanity or POD book.
Good heavens, I have several that in retrospect were quite rightly rejected. I am thankful to those editors who wouldn't let them go to print with my name on them.

Two I think were good/marketable story ideas, though the mss would have needed major retooling. I have used elements of the best ones in novels that sold, but all in all, those books needed to be rejected.

It hurt at the time, but it also made me more determined to learn and do better.

Excellent topic!
Thanks, Jennifer. I've cannibalized several "failed" projects with very good results. Sometimes, you just aren't "ready" to write the idea when it first comes to you.

Maybe it has to age, like good wine (or stinky cheese). :)

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