Tag Archives: rejection

Owner of a Broken Heart…

Image: plus.google.com

Image: plus.google.com

Don’t lie. I know those of you who are of a certain age immediately started humming under your breath when the title of this blog post kaboomed across your field of vision.

Or, if you didn’t, you seriously need to brush up on your 1980s prog rock. Like, seriously.

In any case, today’s blog post isn’t really about broken and/or lonely hearts, or even about the blessed 1980s. It’s about this: sometimes it isn’t better to live your life so carefully that you never have to deal with disappointment or heartbreak. Disappointment sucks, but it doesn’t suck as badly as never trying at all.

Over the past month, I have sent out five stories to various places in the hope that they’d get picked up for publication. Luckily, thankfully, two of them were. Those of you who are good at maths will, by now, have figured out that this means three of them weren’t.

Three stories – which were labours of love and many hours’ devotion – fell at the first hurdle. They weren’t a good fit for the publication to which I chose to send them, or they didn’t meet the ‘brief,’ or they just weren’t to the editors’ tastes, or they were plainly rubbish. I’ll never really know which, if any, of these reasons meant that my stories didn’t make it; editors tend to be polite and kind when they send you rejection letters. They don’t laugh at you or tell you to stick to the day job or make horrible suggestions as to what you can do with your worthless work – they instead apologise that they can’t fit you in this time, and wish you well with finding another home for your story. Sometimes, if they’re particularly kind, they’ll tell you all the things they enjoyed about what you wrote. I really appreciate this, and it really is the nicest way to be let down that I know of. However, no matter how gentle a rejection is, there’s just one inescapable rub about it: it’s a rejection.

Image: tumblr18.com

Image: tumblr18.com

Two of the rejected stories, in particular, were ones I loved. I wrote them with such joy, feeling exhilarated at where my imagination was bringing me, marvelling at how much I enjoyed putting the words on the page. They were written to fit a particular theme (which means placing them elsewhere may be tricky, but I’ll certainly try), and I felt I had a handle on it. In short, I had high hopes for these stories. I worked hard on the dialogue, on the setting, on the characterisation; I strove to find striking images, and I thought carefully about plot. I enjoyed the final product in both cases, and I still feel – rejections notwithstanding – that these stories are two of my best. I knew I’d been rejected because it took the editors a long time to get in touch with me – the longer it is between submission and response, usually, the lower your chances – but a tiny spark of hope still lingered right up until the second I read the words ‘thank you for your interest, but we will not be publishing your work.’

Of course I wish I’d been accepted. I wouldn’t have written and submitted the stories otherwise. And, of course, it hurts to be told ‘no.’ As I wrote before, in this long-ago post, I worried when I was new at the writing game that I’d take criticism and rejection too personally, and that I’d end up being crushed by it. I have form for this sort of thing; I’ve never been good at separating myself from the things I do, and when my work is snubbed I feel it as a personal sting. But, I’m glad to report that I took these rejections in the spirit in which they were intended – which is, of course, kindness and generosity – and it didn’t take me too long to get over my disappointment and start focusing on the future.

I’m making a list of places which might be interested in the stories, and I’ve sent polite ‘thank you for your kind reply’ emails to the editors concerned (for it’s very important always to be polite and professional, even when one has been turned down). I’ve re-read the stories concerned with an eye to edits and improvements, and I’ve relived my pleasure in creating them. At the end of the day, I have two stories I’m proud of, and that’s worth a mountain of rejections.

So, sometimes it’s not better to be the owner of a lonely heart instead of the owner of a broken heart. Sometimes, your heart needs to be broken in order to find the way forward – and, take it from me, hearts can and do heal. Keep writing, keep submitting, be polite to those who reject you, and get back on the horse. Rejection happens to everyone. It doesn’t mean the end of your writing career – on the contrary, each ‘no’ will make you look at your own work in an even more critical light, and that will bring improvements and innovations into your writing. In short, it helps you to hone your craft better than almost anything else.

I wish there was an easier way to do it, but if there is, I haven’t found it yet.

Neil Gaiman with the words 'Write. Finish Things. Keep Writing' written on his hand. Image: redesignrevolution.com

Neil Gaiman with the words ‘Write. Finish Things. Keep Writing’ written on his hand.
Image: redesignrevolution.com

 

A Little Bit of Kindness

So, I have received another rejection.

Image: dailymail.co.uk

Image: dailymail.co.uk

The funny thing is, though, that this time – it’s not so bad.

I mean, yesterday (when I got the word) I felt sad, and disappointed, and upset. I felt angry, but it was at myself – how could I have written something that didn’t fit the bill, for so many reasons? Didn’t I know any better? – and I was glad I was alone when I got the news, because I needed to be. I think the reason I feel a little low, but generally okay, today is because the rejection was done so kindly, and so generously, that it was the next best thing to an acceptance. It was full of praise for my work (except, of course, for the bits that weren’t so strong) and it was full of encouragement and support. It gave me an option to rework and resubmit, and it expressed an interest in seeing more of my writing.

So, really, I couldn’t ask for a better rejection email, if that makes any sense.

Now, however, I have several things I need to do – and, of course, because life is like that, they’re all happening at the same time.

Item the First: Tweak ‘Tider’ – just a little – in order to get it ready to submit. I’m almost happy with it, but there’s just something not quite right about the end of it. This weekend will be partly spent buried in my printout of the text. Yay? Yay.

Item the Second: Get my NaNo project (still nameless) off the ground. I felt so deflated yesterday that – just for a second – I considered pulling out of NaNoWriMo, but luckily I came to my senses and realised that would be stupid. So, I’m still in. Today, I plan to write at least 1500 words, which is slightly under-target, but a good start.

Item the Third: Think about ways to make ‘Eldritch’ right. As hard as it was to hear that my beloved book just isn’t quite good enough, I realised that the person giving me this feedback is a professional in the industry who knows exactly what they’re talking about, and who is, furthermore, completely right. It’s funny how writers just can’t read their own stuff exactly as a reader would; no matter how hard you try to detach, it’s always going to be a different experience for you, the writer, reading your own work as it is for someone coming to it completely fresh. I had always imagined ‘Eldritch’ to be the first part of a trilogy – from its earliest existence in my mind, that’s how I pictured and planned it. Now, I know that the story isn’t enough to sustain a trilogy. And I’m okay with that.

Really. I am. Image: runningofthereeses.com

Really. I am.
Image: runningofthereeses.com

Submitting your work to agents is scary. The idea of a knowledgeable, business-minded, critical (in a good way), and exacting pair of eyes reading your tender words is akin to that feeling we all remember from our teenage years – the terror of trying to impress someone we like, and hoping against hope they like us back. The tension of waiting for replies and praying, every day, for an email or a phonecall with news one way or the other is a major drag on your health, both mental and physical. I personally feel like I could sleep for a year, but I know that’s not an option.

But making a dream come true isn’t something you can leave to your Fairy Godmother. It takes work, and devotion, and sweat, and pain. It takes the bittersweet realisation that you’re almost, but not quite, good enough. It will – hopefully, at least – be lined with the sort of kind, compassionate email that I received yesterday, the type that tells you ‘You’re not ready yet, but very soon, you will be, and I want to be there when you are’; it will be full of days like yesterday. And all you can do is be grateful for the help, smile, and move on to the next step.

Easier said than done, but believe me – it can be done.

Happy Friday, and happy weekend to you all. I hope a restful couple of days are ahead for you. And, while we’re on the subject, happy November! How did that happen?

Image: businessinsider.com

Image: businessinsider.com

Picking up the Pen

So, today I’m facing a disappointment. I’ve had another rejection, and this time it’s a big one. I’m dealing with it the only way I know how, which is by picking up the (metaphorical) pen and continuing with what I love best.

In that spirit, here’s a wee piece of flash fiction, which also happens to be my entry for Flash! Friday for this week. It’s a tiny bit risqué, but I hope I’ll be forgiven.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be off. I have a bit of picking myself up, dusting myself off and getting back on the horse to do… Happy Friday, and happy weekend.

Image: silentfilmlivemusic.blogspot.com

Image: silentfilmlivemusic.blogspot.com

A Moment on the Lips…

‘All right, Mr. Fairchild. Nearly finished.’

‘Doctor, may I ask – is it serious?’

‘Not sure, old chap. Let me just take another look at your skull. Hold still, now.’

‘My skull? But I thought -’

‘Hold still, Mr. Fairchild, please.’

‘I say! Are you quite sure you know what you’re doing?’

‘Mr. Fairchild, be reasonable. I am the preeminent authority on STDs in the country, after all.’

‘S… STDs? What on earth?’

‘Supernaturally Transmitted Diseases, sir.’

‘Of – of course. Yes. Supernatural, you say?’

‘Mmm. Just turn your head, there’s a good chap. Ah, yes – just as I thought. Definite lengthening of the earlobe, and if I’m not mistaken… Yes. A nascent protuberance.’

‘A what?’

‘You’re growing horns, Mr. Fairchild. Tell me, was it a faun? It normally is.’

‘It – what? It was just a kiss!’

‘Yes, yes. That’s what they all say. Why don’t you have a seat, old bean. You look done in.’

‘Good God. What shall I tell my wife?’

‘Oh, I should think it doesn’t matter. I give it about a week before you’re gambolling and eating grass.’

‘You can’t mean…’

‘I certainly do.’

‘Isn’t there –’

‘Anything I can do? Afraid not, old bean. Now. Will that be cash, or cheque?’

 

 

Some Monday Morning Doggerel

Upon Being Rejected: A Poem

When people just don’t like your work,
Is it all right to say:
‘Well, thank you for your time, I guess,’
And calmly walk away?

Then, when you’ve found a quiet spot
A shady little nook,
It’s good to open up your heart
And gently take a look.

You should let go of the sadness, now,
And all that anger, too.
The only person being harmed
By all of that is – You.

Why not sit down by the river, here,
And let it float downstream,
All that dark and nasty stuff,
The remnants of your dream.

And then lie back and smile a while –
The sun is breaking through!
And finally, eventually,
You will learn to start anew.

Image: publicdomainimages.net

Image: publicdomainimages.net

I know this poem is tripe. That, indeed, is the point. I expended about five minutes’ worth of effort on it, and those five minutes are very much on display in the finished product, I feel. I’ve been reading a book set in the Victorian era over the past few days and I suppose the rhythm of the language has settled into my mind. I keep expecting someone to ring for the butler, or to ‘bring the carriage round’ when I want to go to the shops, or a maid to come fluttering up to me with the smelling salts on a regular basis. ‘Upon Being Rejected’ is the kind of poem they would’ve liked, I think, though I should think they’d feel it was ‘unsuitably modern in its aesthetic’. I’d probably have to throw in at least one or two verses in Latin and/or Greek, and make reference every two lines to some sort of Classical god or goddess, or an event in the ancient past, for it to really pass muster. The whole thing would have to be about twelve hundred times as long, too, and take about a year to get to the point.

Victorians, eh? You’ve gotta love ’em.

So, yes. I have, once again, been unsuccessful at something. A piece of mine, alas, hath been rejected. It’s nothing major, nor even anything terrifically important, but it’s significant enough to make me a little glum this Monday morning. However, as the heroine of our wonderful poem (see above) has learned: ain’t no point in mopin’! Turn that frown upside down and get back on the horse, and all that other stuff people say when they want to encourage you.

Image: funelf.net

Image: funelf.net

In slightly better news, I did manage to get the first draft of ‘Tider’ finished on Friday afternoon last. I took myself for a celebratory cup of tea to mark the occasion, which was splendid. I have since spent the weekend in a fizz of mental activity, thinking of things I want to change and fix and rewrite and undo, and so I’m eager to get started this morning. The plan is to do a draft two of the book on screen, and then print a hard copy, which I’ll leave alone for a few weeks (or, as long as I can force myself); then, I’ll go through the hard copy with my trusty editing pen. Whatever’s left can be examined for signs of life, and then – perhaps – gently kicked out the door into the big bad world.

I think the draft I’ve done is a strong one. It’s certainly not perfect – I haven’t done enough world-building, and I’ve skimmed over the mechanics of some of the important things my heroine can do. But that’s what second and third drafts are for, I think: to put the flesh onto the bones of the first draft.

Without further ado, then, I shall begin. Wish me luck, and please – forgive me for the ‘poem’. I really won’t ever do it again, I promise.

Happy Monday, happy new week. May all your endeavours be successful ones.

Recalibrating the Focusing Apparatus

You may have noticed, astute reader, that I haven’t been talking about writing very much on the blog lately. Instead, I’ve been waxing lyrical about body image and issues of ableism and feminism and doing the odd book review, all of which is well and good of course but not exactly what one might expect from the blog of a person who claims to be a writer.

This is, naturally, a dreadful situation, for which I apologise.

It’s not because I’ve been going through a period of ‘block’ – a phenomenon I’ve been reading about on a lot of blogs lately, with some people deciding it exists and others saying it’s nothing but fear/laziness/lack of ambition, which I don’t believe to be true – or that I haven’t been actually doing any writing. I have been writing, and it has been flowing; sometimes more in a trickle than a gush, but it’s been there in one form or another. The problem is this: I’ve been going through a period of ‘The Fear’ again. My brain’s been rushing around like a mayfly, trying to do everything possible in a very short space of time, resting nowhere, focusing on nothing, giving everything a scant flicker of attention instead of doing its best to focus on one thing at a time. I have had a head full of ideas and plans for the past few weeks, and I’ve been trying to think about my life long-term and what I want it to be. All of this, without question, has diverted my focus from what I should be doing, which is putting words on paper.

Image: bepositivemom.com

Image: bepositivemom.com

I started back into ‘Tider’ with a vengeance yesterday, forcing myself to sit down and calm my oscillating mind long enough to get back into the story. It wasn’t easy to do this, and I don’t think I fully succeeded with it, but I know I did the best I could. I did manage to get some words out, and I’ve moved the story on a little, and things are – on the surface, at least – perfectly calm and under control.

My brain, however, is still twitchy.

This morning, before I started writing this blog post, I wrote out some ideas for ‘Tider’, and where I’d like to bring the story. I’m not used to writing without an exhaustive plot, which I’ve spent months working out, sitting beside my computer keyboard, and as freeing as it is to work the plot out as you go, I’m wondering if this is part of my attack of The Fear. It seems silly to admit that, but I do think it’s true. Who would have thought the style of plotting for a book – such a small little thing! – could be so terrifying? I keep reminding myself that what I’m writing at the moment counts as a first draft, with all the freedoms that go with it – I have permission to turn out a piece of work that is less than perfect. That’s what first drafts are for. But perhaps because I’ve had ‘Tider’ in my head for so long, in various forms, and I’ve written it before, it’s hard to remember that this is a first draft. I’m treating it, on one level, like a piece of work for which I have a looming deadline and which absolutely has to be perfect before that date.

I'm wondering if taking this up would be a good idea... Image: anthonybasich.com

I’m wondering if taking this up would be a good idea…
Image: anthonybasich.com

A rational examination of my life yields the following results: the book is working fine, I am still writing, everything is okay. I am on track.

I still feel afraid, though. Also, yes, I do realise how out of whack all this sounds.

It’s probably a result of a lot of factors – preparing for a future career and trying to plan for it, dealing with the rejections that are still coming in and about which I do not talk (stiff upper lip and all that), trying not to lose faith in myself and really doing my best to maintain my belief that this writing thing – in whatever form I can manage it – is where I need to be, and where my life is going.

It is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, even though I’m used to working alone, and keeping myself focused toward an end goal. It’s so tough to quieten your inner voice, the one that wants to bring you down and make you fail just so it can say ‘I told you so!’ It’s difficult to keep shoring up the foundations of your confidence when the world erodes away just another little piece of it. So far, I’m managing, but I have a lot of support, and I know that’s the only reason I’m still here.

So, I’m taking a few deep breaths and facing into a new day. I’m opening my computer file like it’s taking a step into a playground, where I’m allowed to have fun, and I’m going to try to keep reminding myself of that all day long. Hopefully, before too long, my brain will remember how to settle and focus, and we’ll get through this thing.

Happy Tuesday to you; I wish you peace, fulfilment and joy, happiness in whatever you’re doing today, and the success of a satisfied mind.

 

 

Bootstraps

‘Writing’ and ‘being a writer’ aren’t the same thing, by a long shot. ‘Writing’, that wonderful thing, is something I could do all day, fancifully kneading verbs and adverbs together while mixing a few adjectives in for good measure, trilling with ladylike laughter as I sprinkle the whole with punctuation; writing, in and of itself, is a wonderful thing. I love it.

Being a writer, though – and I’m the first to admit that I’m not even on the first rung of the very long ladder that’s labelled ‘A Writing Career’ – is, at times, obscenely difficult. Getting rejections is hard (I’m going through a spate of that at the moment); writing to deadline is hard; juggling deadlines is harder still. I’m still not completely ‘on top’ of the various deadlines I’m aiming for this summer, and several have just whooshed by. I’m telling myself that sometimes, you’ve just got to admit you can’t do everything, and give up worrying, but the problem with good self-advice is you don’t generally listen to it.

There’s still nothing else I’d rather be doing, however.

Image: sarahhina.blogspot.com

Image: sarahhina.blogspot.com

Today the things that are on my mind include: wondering how I’m going to get on this Saturday (I’m recording one of my stories for a podcast, of which more next week); worrying about all the stories I have out on sub at the moment and hoping some of them – even one – will make the cut; thinking about the stories in piles on my workdesk or in pieces on my computer and hoping that I can save them in time to get them ready for some of my aforementioned deadlines; the constant low-level worry about whether I’ve done the right thing with my life, and – the biggie – my novels, and my plans for those. And, as the title of today’s post suggests, I’m pretty much telling myself to buck up, take a deep breath and just get on with it.

Seriously. Just get on with it. I wonder, sometimes, why the niggling ‘am I doing the right thing?’ is constantly gnawing at the edges of my mind – I know I am. I’ve never been more sure. But when rejection emails are pouring in and nothing I write seems to be hitting the spot, perhaps worry is the only logical psychological response. It’s a bad cycle to allow myself to get into, though, because the rot of ‘well, nothing I’m submitting is any good,’ will eventually turn into ‘nothing I write is any good.’ Once that happens, I’ll only be one step away from giving up. And that can’t happen. I don’t want it to.

I know I want to write for the rest of my life because none of the challenges that I’ve so far faced have put me off the idea, and none of the warnings from other writers – ‘It’s a long, hard slog!’ ‘You’ll never earn a penny!’ ‘You’re in competition with far too many others!’ ‘You need to be exceptional to succeed!’ – have given me a second’s pause. I don’t know if it’s unhinged optimism, or simply self-delusion, but I still want to write, even knowing all this may be true. There is a lot of competition out there, and you’ll never be a millionaire. You could work for the rest of your life doing this, and still you may never succeed.

But I never wanted to be a millionaire anyway, and there’s a lot of competition in every walk of life. There’ll always be a better bookseller/teacher/lawyer/rocket scientist than you, but should that put you off wanting to be one? No way. Isn’t every job, and every career, a long hard slog? Yes. So why should writing be any different?

I know I want to be a writer because I’m willing to accept penury, long hours, hard work, brain-ache, rejection, disappointment and isolation to get there. In fact, it goes further than being willing to accept all these things: you have to be willing to inflict them upon yourself. That takes a special kind of masochism, and probably explains a lot about writers and their tendencies towards alcohol and oddness. (Hopefully I’ll avoid those bits.)

But I know I’ll succeed as a writer because I already have succeeded as a writer – I’m doing it. What more success could I ask for? Anything more than what I already have is gravy, as the saying goes. I’d love to see my name on the spine of a shelf-full of novels, and I’d love to see my stories appearing in some of the high-profile publications I’ve recently submitted to, and I’d love to think that I could bring the same joy into a young reader’s life that my favourite authors brought into mine – but if it never happens, I’m still a writer. I’m giving it my very best shot, and for that if nothing else I should be happy with what I’ve achieved.

I’ll try to remember all this the next time I get a rejection! Oh, how easy it is to write all this self-encouragement in a blog post and forget it completely when the dark cloud of doubt decides to settle over your head once more…

If you write, you’re a writer. End of story. Get on with it!

Grab those bootstraps, and keep on going! Image: wikiality.wikia.com

Grab those bootstraps, and keep on going!
Image: wikiality.wikia.com