Sunday, January 25, 2009

Rejections Can Be Good

I recently uncovered some of my older books. And I'm talking way older, like from 30 years ago when I first started writing. When I wrote them, I thought they were the greatest books anyone ever wrote, and couldn't understand why I kept getting rejection letters. What was wrong with those editors! And form rejection letters, no less! My words of wisdom at least deserved personal letters from the head editor, not a form letter from some associate. Sheesh!

Wow, those books were bad. I can read them now and know why an editor didn't accept them. Passive writing, two points-of-view in one paragraph, head-hopping, lack of plot...all those things an author has to learn as she or he grows as a writer.

I know some authors who have sold the first book they ever wrote. That's wonderful, but it's rare. I believe an author learns from rejections, learns by going back over her/his work after it's turned down by an editor or agent. That rejection hurts, but it also tells the author that even though Aunt Mary loved it, it still needs some work for an editor or agent to love it.

Did I give up? I'm too stubborn to give up. With each rejection, I cried a little, ate some chocolate (okay, a lot of chocolate), filed away the letter, and got back to work. I joined the Romance Writers of America, went to a local chapter, joined a critique group, attended writing conferences. My book didn't work when I submitted it. That didn't mean my next book wouldn't be exactly what an editor wanted.

I kept submitting, kept getting rejections. Then, a friend of mine told me about a new e-publisher and I submitted a book to them in 2001. They liked it! They really liked it! I had three books published with them before I moved on with Ellora's Cave, and then Avon Red.

Did I keep all those old rejection letters? You bet I did. They're a part of my growth as an author. An author never stops growing or learning. There are always new characters to create, new worlds to build, new happily-ever-afters to write.

And if I get another rejection, that's okay. I'll cry a little, eat some chocolate, file away the letter, and get back to work.



Adele Dubois said...

Terrific post, Lynn! You're right that becoming an author is usually a long process.

Best--Adele Dubois

Dawn McClure said...

I couldn't agree more! I framed all of my rejection letters...about 13...and I put them on the wall in my office. It motivated me to do better and move on. (I'm strange, I know.) Most of my family asked me why I did this, and I always said the rejection letters reminded me I was working toward my ultimate goal. Some of the letters were form rejections, and others were what I considered 'good' rejections - where the editor would say a few good things about my writing and characters.

I say enjoy the road to publication! Enjoy your first RWA Nationals. Learn as much as you can about the business and keep moving forward. :)

Great blog! Have a wonderful Sunday.

Larissa Ione said...

Hi Lynn,

I have to say, nearly every day I thank God that I did not sell before I did. I came very, very close with one publisher -- got right down to line edits -- and then the book was rejected.

I was devastated. But now I realize that had I sold that book (or any before it,) I'd probably be stuck writing in a genre I wouldn't be happy in. The rejection forced me to take some risks, learn more about my craft, and do what I really wanted to do.

And I sold. I'm now writing my dream series.

Rejection hurts, but it can also lead to some very, very good things.

Great topic!

Kate Douglas said...

Great post, and exactly how I got to the point where I am now--writing two different series for a NY pub. I learned to look at each rejection letter as a dare to do better. Editors weren't rejecting ME, they were rejecting a book that didn't meet their standards, which meant my own standards had to be higher. And yes, I still have ever single rejection--funny thing is, I never did get upset over a rejection, generally because I was usually already busy writing the next book by the time they arrived, and I always new the next one was better!

Kate Douglas said...

eek...learn to proofread, Kate. That's EVERY single rejection, and, I always KNEW the next one....well. You get my drift!

Linda Warren said...

Your post sound like my story. I became a chocolate addict *g* from rejections, but it was a learning process. I'm glad you made it. And I'm glad I made it, too.
Think I'll have some chocolate on that.
Linda Warren

ShawnaMoore said...

Hi, Lynn --

Wonderful post! Here's to the reality of rejections and the fact chocolate is the salve that takes the sting right out of them :)

Best wishes for continued success,

Shawna Moore

Lynn LaFleur said...

I agree with Larissa. Now, I'm glad I didn't sell way back then with those awful books. My writing style has changed a lot over the years. My critique partner says it's gotten better over time. I hope so!


Lynn LaFleur said...

LOL, Kate! See, those fast fingers get you in trouble with typos.


Cait Miller said...

Well... I was one of those lucky first time authors but only because I rejected my own work too well for me to ever submit it to anyone. I wrote loads of novella's but never showed them to anyone until an editor read a first chapter by chance. Let me tell you, I would never have let her read it knowingly. I didn't think I was good enough. Guess my point is that there will be no acceptance or rejection unless you submit :) Now I also have learned rejection hurts, but it won't kill you... and chocolate helps.

Redameter said...

Boy, I've been through that many times,and I too can look back at my old manuscripts and see why. And you are so right about it being a learning tool, (after the chocolate of course)LOL.

This is a hard business, and so many people, (naive though they are) think getting a book published is a snap, ought to try it sometime.

Rejection is a war wound in my opinion and you either get hard headed and plunge onward, or give up and realize that writing isn't your forte.

I truly think a real writer would never give up, because that's what you have to do. It's inbred somehow. You sometimes want to give up. You even might stow it somewhere, but not forever.

Great blog.
Rita Hestand

Micqui Miller said...

Hi, Lynn - great observations. I've kept all my rejections letters, although I'd never have the courage to frame and hang them on the wall. Too much negative energy. I wish I had saved the very first novel I ever wrote, a romance at 15 when I'd yet to go on my first date. Bet it would be a hoot to read now. Good post.

Micqui Miller

Titania Ladley said...

Great post, Lynn, and very familiar sounding. *g* I've kept all of my rejections too, and though I cringe at the books I subbed, I look at it like practice that helped me get better. Practice not only in writing stories and learning craft, but in the submission process and how publishing works in general. I have a lot of old manuscripts I never subbed, and I always wonder if I should get them out and take another look at them. LOL, but they were written the old-fashioned way on a typewriter, so ugh, I have no electronic copies for ease in edits. Maybe some day...

Oh, and I agree, chocolate works wonders, but anything with sugar will do the trick for me! LOL

Have a good Sunday! :)


Cecelia Dowdy said...

All I can say is: Amen, Amen, and Amen. I agree with your views regarding rejections. And, ya know, I can BARELY bring myself to read those rejected manuscripts from many years ago gathering dust in my basement. If I try to read them, I think I'd cry the writing is so bad! But all authors can learn from rejection, and, it's all just a part of being a writer.

N.J.Walters said...

Great post, Lynn, and so true. Rejection hurts, but it's also a learning experience.

OMG My first manuscript sounds like yours. *g* Passive, head-hopping, two (or more) POVs in a paragraph.

Every manuscript is a learning experience, a chance to get even better. That's what makes it such a challenge...and so much fun.

Gwyn Ramsey said...

I really enjoyed your post, Lynn and could relate entirely to the process of getting published. We all think our first book is fantastic. I just happen to be one of the lucky ones. My rejection letters are all filed in three very thick folders. I'm saving them to remind myself how far I have come. Thanks for the article.