Monday, November 14, 2011

Why Rejection Doesn't Matter

One of the toughest parts about being a writer is dealing with rejection. Statistically, it's unavoidable. But it can be a career killer . . . if you let it.

Rejection fills us with self-doubt. You get that little slip of paper or short, terse email and you think:

This story sucks;
my writing sucks;
I suck!

Why am I even doing this? Am I crazy, or a glutton for punishment? Who am I kidding, anyway, thinking I could be a writer?

The fact is good stories, good writing, and good writers get rejected. It could be the story isn't a good fit for the market, or the story just didn't click with that particular editor/first-line reader . . . but it might work for the next one, or the next one after that.

The perfect example is the recent batch of critiques I've gotten from my critique group. While it has, as expected, led to some great suggestions for improving the story, it's also proven that taste is subjective-- a great lesson to remember when those rejections start coming in.

For example, I had one critiquer who actually said:

"I wasn't going to critique this story at first because I didn't think I could do it without being hurtful." Ouch. The person went on to say that they thought the story was puerile and juvenile and lame.

The next critiquer said it was the funniest thing they've read in a long time and it actually made them laugh out loud.

Even one specific joke in the story had readers divided: half of them liked it, half didn't. It was a small-penis joke with a George Costanza "shrinkage" reference, and women found it funnier than men (go figure).

But the point is, not everyone liked the story. I feel like I'm on the right track with it, since it had about a 75% "I enjoyed it" rate, but I know what I'm going to face once I finish polishing it and send it out:

if I send it to an editor who has the same taste as "puerile & juvenile" guy, it's going to get rejected;
if I send it to an editor who has the same taste as "I laughed out loud" guy, then there's a good chance it will be accepted.

The battle is finding that editor: laugh-out-loud guy (or gal).

When it comes back rejected (as it inevitably will), I just have to remember to tell myself, "Nope. That wasn't the guy," and send it back out again.

As further proof that it's all subjective, I pulled a boneheaded move and sent another story to the same magazine twice. It's a rookie mistake and my face is red (and I still haven't figured out how it happened), but I'm glad it happened. The first time, the story came back with a typical form rejection, "Not for us." The second time it came back with, "Not for us but a great story. Please send more." What??? It makes no sense, but who cares! I'm sending them more, lol!

So don't let rejection get you down. Keep sending the story out until you find "that guy"-- the guy who gets your story. It may take a while, but he's out there, somewhere, and it's up to you to find him (or her).

Until you do, remember what they say about opinions: opinions are like a**holes, everyone has one.

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