I’ve written two novels. Neither one has been published. The first probably never will be. It was a proof-of-concept, an exercise in “Can I do this?” And I did and it was pure ego-stroking hackery. I think of it now as a phase I went through, like the “terrible twos” or pogs. It was something I had to get out of my system so I could go on to write something more meaningful.
When I’d finished the book and edited it, I queried 23 agents and publishers in order to get the book either represented or just outright published. I received 16 rejections. The others never got back to me. Message received. Into the drawer it went.
My second novel is of a more substantial weight (I think) and has the potential to tap into the New Adult market. I’ve just begun querying agents (three so far) and I haven’t yet received any responses, but I’m hopeful.
But regardless of their responses, I’m not going to stop writing. For many, rejection is a pink slip for ambition. They read or hear, “You’re not good enough,” and they just stop. It doesn’t even have to be formally written, either. It could be as simple as low visitor stats to one’s blog, or low listener numbers to a podcast. Rejection takes all forms, but the message is clear: Do better.
And that’s what I do. I do better. I read more. I write more. I edit constantly. I save the rejections - even the form letters - as motivation to (to quote one of my favorite Disney films) keep moving forward.
As Sylvia Plath said, “I love my rejection slips. They show me I try.”
Look at the authors who faced numerous rejections before making names for themselves:
Even more powerful than rejection, however, is an emotion most of us aren’t willing to admit we experience. It’s the one that makes us feel like jerks for giving it any thought and can do even more damage than someone telling us “no.” I’m talking about envy.
I follow a lot of authors on Twitter, many aspiring, some already published and I’m always happy when one of them inks a new book deal or announces she’s being represented by an agent I know of. But I’m also angry. I’m angry it wasn’t me. I’m angry my book hasn’t been sold yet and my name isn’t on someone’s list of clients. Am I a bad person? I don’t think so. Am I human? Absolutely.
Envy is natural. Everyone goes through it and those who claim otherwise are lying. I can be happy for others and loathe their success at the same time. It’s that vitriol that fuels my passion to do better, to match them, and to be welcomed into that inner circle.
Some let envy get the better of them. They sit and stew over how it should be them instead of the other guy, but I say, “That’s going to be me.” One day, that agent is going to tweet my name and be ecstatic we’re working together.
Rejection and envy are parts of the process. There will always be people better than you, more successful than you, and more famous than you. Your work won’t always be liked (trust me - there are enough buffoons on Twitter who remind me of this every day) and you won’t always be the best at what you do, but if you keep at it, people will recognize you.
I remember when I first started Curious Rat over two years ago, I averaged roughly 100 hits in the first month. Now I’m well over that. People come back to read my work. Some people even know my name. It’s weird.
As for the books, I’m going to get that second one published. I know it’s good enough. Someone will take a chance on it and one day I’ll be able to whip out a Sharpie and sign it for someone, and if you think the rejection slips sitting in my drawer won’t matter then, you’re wrong. Rejection is what will have gotten me to that point. Rejection made me better. Rejection made me work for it.
Rejection made me a writer.