If you have a pulse, are older than three months, and have ever been in contact with another human being, than you have probably experienced rejection. It’s a normal thing of life that even the most successful people have gone through. Stephen King had six or so manuscripts until someone took a chance on Carrie. J.K. Rowling was rejected multiple times before Harry Potter became Harry Potter.
Get my drift?
Imagine a six-year old discovering the opposite sex way too early. He thinks the girl who sits behind him and to the left during snack-time is really cute. Now imagine that naive and brave little boy writes on a small slip of paper: “can I have your number?” and passes it to the little girl after school. She responds by repeatedly hitting him over the head with her beanie. The boy slumps away in what becomes his first memory of…
No, this is not fiction and it would be a pretty crap piece of one if it was. This boy was me. This was the first rejection I can remember, if you don’t count when my mom first took the bottle away from me at the age of three. Imagine how discouraging it was to go out on such a limb only to be shot down. Actually, I may not even have been afraid at first because I didn’t know that rejection could exist, because I had never experienced it. In some ways, that first memory of being hit over the head with a girl’s hat (latter I pondered about what would have happened if her hat had had a stray nail or something sticking through it–even then my imagination was on the path to write horror) became the foundation for the nervousness that comes with possible rejection.
Why did I just tell you that? Because once you realize that rejection is not just in your writing, then you remember the proper way to deal with it. Did I never talk to girls again? Does someone searching for a job stop when the first interview doesn’t go well? Of course not, unless you want to be alone all your life with no job. Writing is the same. People will say you’re not good enough, you should choose another hobby, you’ll never make it. Maybe you won’t, but that maybe will be a definitely only if you give in.
In writing, there are a lot of reasons your manuscript, short story, poem, autobiography, whatever have you may be rejected. Here are a few I identify with.
1) Presentation. Depending on what you’re trying to get published, there are some rules you have to follow. Cover letters, synopses, pitches, the the insanely important FIRST FIVE PAGES! The first five pages are important because if you were rejected that’s probably all that was read, if that much. You may have a hell of a story, but if that doesn’t show until page 30, no one’s going to know. I’d suggest paying close attention to the first 5 pages of your favorite books. Go from there.
2) They can’t use it. Or, it’s not what they’re looking for. You can write the best fictional piece known to man on the Iraq war but if you send it to an agent who specializes in murder mysteries, you’re going to get rejected. Even deeper than that, you may be sending it to someone who does publish the genre you are writing in and still get rejected. Why? Sometimes it comes down to what the market wants. Thanks to Stephanie Meyers, for a few years anyone writing about vampires probably had a better chance of getting published (from .0001% to .0002%, but an increase, nonetheless).
Don’t let this discourage you. It may be beneficial to return to your story and make sure YOU know what genre it belongs to. Categories and labels and all that stuff may suck, take away from creativity, etc, etc, all that, but if the agent/publisher isn’t able to define your work and, most importantly, its target audience, you’re not going to get published. Other than that, keep sending out your stuff.
3) You’re a nobody. Here’s the big paradox: no one will publish you unless you’ve already been published. Not true, but it can definitely seem like it. Having a portfolio under your belt can help get your piece some attention it might not otherwise. In the end, it all comes down to the quality of the work, but when you’re a newbie your writing really has to knock the reader (who will be flipping through manuscripts like you or me might flip through the news paper) unconscious.
4) It just plain sucks. We must not overlook this very real possibility. If something isn’t good, no one is going to want to publish it (unless you have some leverage, like already being famous/former Vice Presidential candidate). Now this isn’t to say you suck as a writer. The piece could not be as polished as it could be, you could have lost your way somewhere, etc, etc, etc. Then again, you could possibly just suck, but that’s just more reason to try harder. A lot of rejection letters will be extremely general, but every once in a while you’ll get advice to help you get better. Take it or leave it.
End rant. Commence comments. 🙂