We’ve all faced it before. Whether it was preceded by an interview for a dream job, a sweaty, nervous question to the girl standing at her locker, or a tiny piece of your soul that you sent off to be judged, we’ve all been rejected.
Rejection sucks. It sucks hardcore.
Sometimes it’s easier to get over than others. Maybe you didn’t really want the job that badly. Or maybe it wasn’t the biggest dance of the year. Maybe it wasn’t the agent/contest/publication that was at the top of your list. Sure, it stings a bit at first, but you shrug and move on.
It’s harder to do when you’ve convinced yourself it’s something you absolutely, positively, have to succeed in.
If you’re going to be an artist of any kind, you have to have a thick skin. Art, more than anything else in the world, is subjective. What works for one person has another scratching his head and saying, “Huh?” Which is why, as a writer, if you fail the first time, or the second time, or hell, the seventieth time, you’ve got to get right back up on that damn horse.
When the results of the “Pitch your shorts” contest were announced a few days ago, my name wasn’t on the list. Unlike the last pitch contest I’d participated in, this one hurt just a bit more. Not a lot, but enough that I was depressed for ten minutes instead of five.
On the one hand, I was, actually, a bit relieved. The winners had to submit their manuscripts, which I figured would be the case, but had it been me, I’d have been wringing my hands. A Lesson in Vanishing is currently in pieces. Literally. It’s in pieces. The completed first draft was written in all lower case, without any dialogue, and in reverse order. The current version consists of removing a section of the story (a very minor plot thread that I didn’t think was necessary) but involves having to re-write sections to account for the missing portion. I’m having to add dialogue, and I’ve chosen to add a series of flashbacks to help the reader understand the choices that Frankie has made. Not to mention I’m having to go back and capitalize shit.
Not having to submit it means I can leave the story the way it is, the will-she-or-won’t-she see-saw she’s on. I can leave those currently mostly ambiguous romantic elements as they are, rather than amp them up.
The advantage, obviously, to not having to submit Shadowdemon means I no longer have to worry about violating the contest rules for the Golden Heart.
And I’d waffled, too, about the company itself. I’d never heard of it before the contest, never heard of their authors, can’t find any of them listed on barnesandnoble.com. Would I have had to give up the vague hope I’d had that one of the larger houses would publish one of my works? Now I don’t have to worry about it. When it comes time for me to start sending query letters, I’ll certainly keep them in mind. I’d be stupid not to-they could very well turn out to be a big deal in a few years. But being rejected means I don’t necessarily have to limit myself. I like having options. Options are good.
I have a harder time swallowing rejections when I don’t know the reasoning behind it. With a job, it’s fairly easy to guess-there was another candidate who was more qualified. With writing, unless I get feedback on it, I have no idea what mistakes I made. I have no way of knowing how to correct it, to make it better, faster, shinier.
I have no intention of giving up. I’m fully prepared to be rejected many, many more times before I get a yes, or even a bit of encouragement. But it would be nice if I didn’t have to wait so long for that encouragement, that little note that says, sorry, it doesn’t work for us, but here’s why-and why we think you should keep trying.
Of course, a goodly supply of dark chocolate and red wine will make it that much easier to stomach.