Good Rejection …
Is that kind of like Good Grief?
A sarcastic zinger?
Something people only say when they’ve been rejected so many times that they just have to find something positive to say or else they’ll dissolve into a puddle of salty tears and never be able to transmute into solid matter ever again?
Rejection is never easy. Ever. And each one has the potential to bring us one step closer to becoming that puddle. But there are those instances that should be acknowledged as being plausibly good. And one should be prepared to accept them as such, to use them as a stepping stone away from the melt-down.
I’ll admit: form letters are not good rejection. The “Dear Author, Thanks for your submission but no,” type do not generally inspire me to a greater level of self-confidence, nor towards a desire to … do anything, really. They just sting.
However, a form letter with even one drip of pen ink in the shape of a word … That’s worthy of not being lumped in with the rest. Unless that word emphasizes how much they thought my work stunk – which, really, they’d never take the time to do – then I need to be prepared to take that hand-written note and do something with it.
It might say something like, “Thanks for your submission. We really enjoyed reading it and wish you all the best of success.”
Or, “Thanks for your submission. Although your work is not right for our list, we hope you will find a good fit.”
Or even, if you’re really special, “Please submit something else.”
“But those are still rejections!” you might say. “Show me the money!”
Those kinds of words, written by hand in ink, are the money, my friend. Think about it: These people potentially receive thousands of queries each month, and instead of simply stuffing a pre-folded form letter into your SASE and moving on to the next query, they took the time to unfold that letter, pick up a pen, and write. To you. Personally. You must have done something right. So instead of impaling that piece of paper onto the nail with all the form letters you’ve collected, keep it aside. Use it as a stepping stone away from the melt-down. Take a breath. Regroup. Adjust your lenses. And, by George, don’t just sit around waiting for your next SASE to show up in your mailbox. Figure out what that something is that you did right, and make it better! That’s why that publisher/agent took the time to write to you.
“Oh. If only I’d get a handwritten note.”
Maybe you haven’t. Maybe all you’ve ever received are un-inked rejections. Maybe you’ve wallpapered your room with form letters. May I suggest something? I mean, something you can do after unpapering your room?
Take a breath. Regroup. Adjust your lenses. And, by George, don’t just sit around waiting for your next SASE to show up in your mailbox.
That’s right. Same as above. The only difference is that you might want to take the time to figure out what doesn’t work in your writing, and make it better. Maybe you’re not quite there yet, but that doesn’t mean you’ll never be. Join a critique group. Take a writing class. Surround yourself with other writers. Be open to suggestions. Read a ton. It’s amazing what can be learned both formally and through osmosis.
What you don’t want to do is come to the conclusion that all publishers/agents are idiots and don’t know good writing when they see it. Please don’t do that. This isn’t about them. It’s about you. It’s about how you can become the best damn writer you can possibly be. It’s about refining yourself, your craft, your inner voice. It’s about stepping outside of yourself for a clear view and determining what kind of a person you’re going to be: Will you fight for what you want by fighting others, or will you fight for what you want by improving yourself? I’ll argue the latter is far more effective.
Rejection is never easy. Ever. But the good thing – really! – is that how it ultimately affects us and our work is in nobody’s control but our own. So, seize the opportunity. Take a hold of those rejections, both inked and un-inked, and decide how you’ll fight for what you want.
May the best (wo)man win.