The sting of rejection and words of encouragement

The rejection letters have started to pop up in my inbox. I’ve begun submitting query letters to various agents, with no results. It’s all form rejections, the type that nicely, politely, sweetly state that “I’m not the right agent for this.” I have to wonder if that’s a gracious way of saying, “Why on earth did you query me with THIS?”

I had my letter critiqued last week via webinar by an agent I respect. As she discussed what a good query letter looks like, I mentally congratulated myself on how great mine was: my letter was in great shape.

Then the agent critiqued my letter. She found the transition between the first two letters confusing, questioned one statement, and wanted more elaboration on how one element affected another. Her points were valid but it hurt to know that, no, my letter wasn’t in great shape.

Thankfully, she was kind, but I was still in tears by the time the webinar ended. I now know why I’ve been rejected by agents and I know what I have to do. 

Rewrite. Revise. Resubmit (albeit with my fingers shaking as I hit “send”).

We all face times when we’re rejected.

  • Men ask women on dates and get shot down.
  • People apply for jobs and get turned down, perhaps after an interview or two.
  • A would-be singer auditions for American Idol and is insulted by Simon Cowell.
  • An athlete trains for a race, determined to win, and doesn’t.

Personally, I’m easily discouraged. It doesn’t really matter if the person is kind, insulting or non-responsive. It’s still rejection and it hurts.

So what keeps us from crumbling under a disappointing rejection and keep trying?

For me, it’s encouragement.

I’ve got a few writer friends who are either published or close to being published. Each of them has told me of their dozens of rejection letters before they found Mr. or Ms. Perfect Agent. In most cases, it took years of work to find them and then more years to find the publisher. But they love to write, they dreamed of publication, and they were determined to keep going.

Hearing their stories encourages me. 

Then there’s the people who read my writing and tell me they enjoy it. These people may not be writers themselves. But their words, whether mentioned as we pass in the church hallways or written on Facebook or typed in the comments section of my blog, help me know that I need to keep writing.

That encourages me, too.

Then there’s a third group: the friends who never, ever ask about my writing. Oddly, this helps because it reminds me that yes, I have a life apart from my words on paper. Publishing my novel won’t validate my life. I’m more than a writer; I’m also a wife, mom, Christian, friend and obsessive workout fanatic. These friends encourage me to see my life as more than a writer who keeps revising her query letter, submitting, and receiving rejection emails. And that keeps me going.

Last week, as I logged off the webinar, an email popped up in my inbox. A writer friend had sent me a message on Facebook. Tears still streamed down my face, sobs racked my body, as I read the note.  It was exactly what I needed as I faced my devastation at how the agent had received my query letter. It helped.

I was still aching inside. But knowing that someone else had faced rejection and come through it was enough to keep me from going off the deep end and believing I should quit writing.    

Encouragement serves as an antidote to rejection’s ability to dishearten us. It won’t inoculate against the sting. But it can ease the symptoms of the heartsickness that would otherwise keep us in bed, sniffling into our tissues and crying for days on end, believing we’re failures. It may just help us recover from the discouragements of life and the rejections of other people.

So how about you? Has there been a time when someone’s encouraging words helped you overcome the hurt of rejection? 

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7 thoughts on “The sting of rejection and words of encouragement

  1. I like what you said about realizing that you are more than a writer. I think that’s important. Because of the competitive world of writing and publishing, you can feel very small as one of the hundreds or thousands of people wanting to get published and you have to work hard to prove that you’re “good enough” to be published. That can be rough on your self-esteem if you focus too much on it! So I think it’s important to really treasure your friends and family, those who really know you and take to heart those relationships and the encouragment they give you for who you are. And you should let that define you, instead of what an agent or publisher is saying about your work.

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    1. Katrina, you’re right: I often feel very, very small in the writing/publishing world, like I’m the kid who’s the runt of the class and is at a disadvantage against the bigger kids, and that always, always, gets picked last for the P.E. teams. I appreciate you stopping by to read! Laura

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  2. Hey Laura:

    I too am a writer, although I write non fiction. Rejection comes with the territory.

    If you will alllow me, I would like to take a little detour on rejection. Every time that a woman rejects her husband’s or boyfriend rejects his sexual overtures, it is rejection no matter now nicely or politely it is worded. It leaves the man feeling not only rejected, but feeling of unworthiness, that he is not important enough for his wife’s time and energy and feelings of worthlessness. A whole lot of women, especially feminists have the notion that they have a perfect right to reject their man’s sexual overtures any time they feel like it. When I suggest otherwise, I get all kinds of women coming out of the woodwork to insult me with all manner of vile names.

    Men are extraordinarily sensitive creatures and never more so than when he approaches his wife for sex. Men are just as sensitive as you are, but they don’t often show vulnerability because it is considered weak by mny people. I am just saying that if you are not partucularly in the mood, cut the guy a break and give it to him anyway. So many women had dreams of happily ever after but they were always self centered dreams, never giving a thought about what happily ever after looked like for the guy.

    Enough of my rant.

    Publishers are drastically cutting back on fiction publishing because of the market. The only place that is actually growing is Harlequin.

    There is hope. You can self publish, especially e books and audio books. They are very inexpensive to produce and there is a huge market for them. Too many authors ignore these avenues. Distributors make it very easy to upload your book onto their software. There are a lot of self published authors making a living, especially with e books sold at a low price but in high volume.

    Drop me a note if you want some help. If you have a romance novel in you, I can get you a 4 book deal with Harlequin, audio, straight romance, graphic romance, e book and audio book which comes with a separate advance for every book version. The key to selling to Harlequin is that you have a series of books that you want to publish. They make more money and their authors make much more money because 75% of all their books are ordered on their own website so that they don’t have to pay splits with distributors and books stores.

    Blessings on you and yours
    John Wilder

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    1. Hi, John-
      I think you’re completely accurate in your assessment of how men respond to sexual rejection. It’s actually a topic in my novel: the husband is frustrated & wounded because his wife won’t–can’t–respond to his sexual needs. And how does that woundedness display itself? Anger! A lot of things you’ve talked about on your blog apply to the novel’s topics: the affect of sexual abuse on a romantic relationship, sexual problems, etc. It’s not a romance novel, so unfortunately I can’t go for Harlequin. 😦 I appreciate the offer, though! Thanks for reading. Blessings on you, too!

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  3. Be encouraged, Laura!
    Hey, I once had a professor who lambasted nearly every submission I gave to her for an oral presentation as poorly written. I came out of every single encounter with this professor shaken in my confidence, and feeling I would never ever get a fair hearing from her. (I finally gave up trying to get the professor to like my ideas…. ) I got through the oral presentation and after a re-write of my ideas to my reviewing profs made it through to graduation. Sometimes the reviewer and the writer just can’t seem to see eye to eye. Just keep writing and moving forward. You’re bound to find some reviewer and agent that likes your work.

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    1. Some people are impossible to please, aren’t they? I had a prof or two that was like that. Ugh.

      I don’t think this particular agent was unfair in her remarks; she wasn’t mean and didn’t indicate that my query was poorly written. I’m actually very grateful for how kind she was. I think I just was a wee bit overconfident in my assessment of my own letter! 🙂

      Thanks so much for reading!

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