Thursday, May 27, 2010

How To Take Rejection Like a Pro

In case you were wondering, yes, I am a pro at getting rejections. But I'm not talking about the "Ew, I'd never date a loser like you!" kind of rejection. I'm talking about the kind of rejection that comes when you are querying agents/editors with your work.

I entered the official world of rejections way back in 2007. (I know, that was just yesterday in publishing years, but bear with me...) I sent a short, sweet poem about the autumn harvest to a children's magazine. They sent a form rejection (my writing friends and I simply call it an R) that had a checklist for reasons why they were passing. The checklist was completely blank, but there was a short, handwritten note at the bottom that basically said the the poem was nice but they had already purchased something similar.

I do remember getting that rejection. It wasn't pretty. I frowned and furrowed my eyebrows for at least a good minute.

But the real rejections came about a year later when I started querying agents. My novel was finished and (nearly) polished, but I went through rejection after rejection as each agent sent that dreaded R.

Rejection is something every writer has to deal with at one point or another. I'm not going to list here all those bestselling authors who got rejected a million times before they became super famous. You've all heard the stories. But, if you're like me, hearing someone else's eventual success really doesn't help when you are wallowing in your own rejection self-pity. In fact, sometimes it makes you want to take their uber-successful book (which, of course, is on your bookcase because you stood in line for three hours with 40 million other fans so you could purchase it at midnight on the day it came out) and chuck it at the wall.

So, how do you deal with rejection? I'm sure it's different for everyone, since we all have different personalities and ways of coping. But here are a few thoughts I have on the subject:

1) It's nothing personal.

The fact is, the publishing industry takes something that is very personal--a writer's words (and, by extension, thoughts and feelings as well)--and brings it into the very non-personal business world. For a publishing house, the bottom line does matter. For an agent, selling a client's book is important. That doesn't mean they aren't passionate about their work, but it does mean that they can't sign every client or buy every manuscript they see. It's nothing personal, it's just business.

I know it's harsh to hear those words when you've worked on something so hard for so long, but it helps to remember that they aren't rejecting YOU. It truly is nothing personal. Remember that.

2) It'll only hurt for a little bit.

Rejections hurt. Some more than others. But someone wiser than most once said that time heals all wounds. Give yourself some time to grieve. Go ahead and cry or spit or hang a photo of the agent/editor on your oft-used dart board. And, soon enough, you'll get over it.

(NOTE: I would like to make it perfectly clear that it is not okay to throw darts at real agents/editors. And I wouldn't make it a well-known fact that you're throwing darts at photos of these people, either. The publishing biz is a small world, after all. The other agents/editors might not want to work with you if they knew their industry peers' mugs are hanging up all over your house. That borders on creepy, IMO.)

3) It's a subjective world out there.

I once took an art appreciation/art history class in college. I found that I gravitated toward the landscape painters such as Thomas Cole, because it amazed me that they could paint something as magnificent as an entire mountain, for example, but in such minute detail that it looked nearly like a photograph. And I was surprised when others in the class said how much they hated those same paintings, because they did look like photographs and, therefore, weren't imaginative enough. They liked the Cubism paintings by Picasso instead.

I've found that manuscripts are exactly the same. Some people love one style and hate another. So don't despair when those rejections come in. That agent/editor may be looking for a Picasso when you might be a Thomas Cole. It doesn't mean you can't paint--um, I mean write--it just means you haven't found the right audience yet.

4) Learn to keep it all in perspective.

Why are you writing, anyway? I suspect most of you write because you have to. You can't imagine not writing. It's a part of who you are. You couldn't stop writing even if you wanted to, which you don't.

Does a rejection from an agent/editor change that? Certainly not, I say. You will always keep writing because you are a writer, no matter what anyone else thinks.

Besides, you need some great rejection stories for later, when you are a super-successful author. So be grateful. No one likes to hear those "Oh, I've never been rejected!" stories. They are soooo boring. You are so lucky you aren't one of those people. Trust me on this.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Yes, I'm Technologically Impaired...

I was having a little trouble on my LiveJournal journal today. I'm creating a website on WordPress, and want to incorporate my blog into it as well. (Don't worry, fellow Blogger buddies, I still plan on crossposting and keeping up on comments here as well). And so I tried to import my LJ blog to WP (because it does have a few extra posts than this blog), and of course I forgot that I had already activated the WP crossposter as a test and hadn't deactivated it. Oops. So I was caught in an endless cycle of importing crossposted entries and had to clean up my own mess once I figured out what I had done. It was not pretty.

I really hate technology some days.

I hope I didn't affect too many of my LJ buddies with my little oops. I'm sure it won't be the last, unfortunately. Sigh. But I'm glad they're hanging in there with me as I click buttons first and ask questions later.

BTW, be watching for the official website announcement. It's coming soon!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

You Can Do It! YAY YOU!

I know there is someone out there reading this who is having a hard day.

So today I'm cheering you on. Why? Well, I just feel ridiculously happy for no reason at all. In fact, I even got a rejection letter from an editor today, and I actually wanted to hug it! (It was a nice R, which probably helped.)

Yes, today is all about encouraging you. Having a hard time with your WIP? Getting a whole bunch of form Rs in your inbox? Dealing with sick kids, ornery coworkers, attack dogs?

Don't worry. You'll make it through! You can do it! YAY YOU!

Seriously, everyone has bad days. And everyone needs some encouragement. And if you need some today, I'm happy to help. Now you can get back out there and know someone's cheering you on.

So, one more time...


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Why, Yes, I Am a Butcher, and You Can Be One, Too (or Thoughts on Revising)

Since I just finished a somewhat productive butchering session on my current WIP, I thought today would be a great time to share some of my thoughts on revising.

Thought #1: Don't be afraid to get your hands bloody (er, dirty, I mean).

When I first started writing, I never spent much time rewriting. Instead, I was a Reworder. You know what I'm talking about. Sure, I moved sentences (and even paragraphs) around, but I was more concerned about grammar than I was the overarching story or the characterization (or pretty much anything else, come to think of it).

But I've learned a few things in the last, oh, decade or so that I've been writing. And I've learned that a quick polish won't always cure your story problems. Don't be afraid to really dig in and REWRITE. The rewording can come later.

Thought #2: There isn't a right or wrong way to slaughter your darling (um, I mean, revise your story).

I happen to love printing out a copy of my book and revising on paper. There's something about the words on paper that does something for my brain (and I dearly love colored pens, which hardly ever get to come out and play anymore). I don't do it for every revision, but I do try to have a hard copy to reference when I'm working on a manuscript.

And sometimes I like to work on an entire chapter and get it polished before moving on to the next chapter. Other times I choose one major point (such as changing a character's personality) and focus only on that while ignoring any other changes I might need to make.

The point is, it doesn't matter how you revise, as long as you find the way that works best for you. Go ahead and research ways other writers revise, but don't think that there is only one way to do it right. There isn't. Trust me on this.

Thought #3: Be prepared for the pile of remains.

Yes, you will cut things from your story. And, yes, they may be your favorite parts. Wait, don't hyperventilate on me! Take a minute and breathe.

Just breathe.

You still with me? Good. Now, remember, cutting things from your story is a GOOD thing. I promise. In my opinion, your job as a writer is to make a story flow so easily that nothing pulls the reader out of it. And nine times out of ten, those favorite parts of yours may sparkle and shine a little too much. They draw attention to themselves. They make people stop and savor the beauty of the sentence. And unless your entire book is literary in nature, this might not be the effect you were going for. Besides, unless your readers are looking for a literary book, they may be blinded and trip over those shiny parts, and you certainly don't want people stumbling through your book.

On the other hand, you will cut parts that are utter poo. And that's a good thing, too. A REALLY GOOD thing, actually.

Thought #4: Save those remains, since they might be useful later.

There are many ways to do this, but here's my method: when I start a major revision, I save a new copy of my manuscript. All revision changes are then made on the new copy, and my original version is left intact. I can't tell you how many times I've patted myself on the back for keeping an old copy of the manuscript so I can go back to an older version that worked better than a newer one. (In case you were wondering, I work in one Word file for each manuscript. I know plenty of people out there who like to work in scenes or chapters, but I like having everything in one place. I should also mention that my books are very short [20k or so], so this may not work if I ever write something really really long.)

In addition, you might find that an old scene that didn't fit your story might just be the spark for an entirely new novel. Or all those sparkly sentences can be put to good use three novels down the road when one of your characters is an old sage who just happens to make absolutely no sense to anybody but himself. So save those remains and hopefully someday you'll recycle them into a whole new story you can butcher.

Thought #5: Enjoy yourself.

Yes, butchering a story is a lot of work. But it can be fun to see the story emerge from your reeking pile of...I mean, your manuscript. So enjoy yourself. And if you aren't, you're probably in the wrong business. There are plenty of other ways you could spend your days.

It's not a complete list, but those are the thoughts I had today. But since I know there are many more great ideas floating around out there, please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below. As always, I love hearing from my readers. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Kidlit People are Cool

Yes, they are. I can't speak for the adult side of things, though I suspect there are cool people there, too. But kidlit people are awesome.

I love it when I can ask a simple question about a writing-related activity and soon be carrying on a conversation with an award-winning author via email. Where else do you not only get to meet your idols but hang out with them, too?!

Man, I love my job.