Life After Rejection, or How to Pick Yourself Up Again

One of the hardest things a writer ever faces is the fact that the novel they love so, SO MUCH is not good enough and must be trunked. Maybe you've gotten to the end of your agent list, or you have an agent but the publishers aren't biting, or you self-published, but after a year of 20-or-fewer sales per month, you realize maybe that novel is never going to take off.

A lot of writers quit at this point, because they LOVE that novel, they put SO MUCH work into it, and they just don't think they could do it all over again.

I'm thinking about that right now. Not that my current query round has failed -- it hasn't by a long, long shot -- but after 100+ rejections on two previous novels, even a single form letter can make me wonder if I'll ever get past this stage.

So here's what I do (in order of increasing surety of failure):
  1. Take another step. If you got a rejection, send out another query. Another month of slow self-pubbed sales? Hit up some book bloggers, write some guest posts. Basically, as long as there's something you can do about it, get up and do it.
  2. Remind yourself what's good about the novel. Find the critiques where people told you how much they loved the humor or the dialog, or the comments on your query that said, "I would request this." Remind yourself that you DIDN'T write crap. You just haven't found the right agent/readers yet.
  3. Make a new plan. You love that novel a lot, right? So how can you revise it to be even stronger? What critiques did you ignore before that now, maybe, look like something you could do? Revise that novel you love so much, then try again.
  4. Find a new story you love. Maybe there are no more steps you can take. No more agents, no more revisions. That novel is done. This is hard to accept, but the best way through it is to find a new idea that you can love even more than the first. Believe it or not, you DO have more than one story in you. Everyone does.
  5. Take a break. Feel you have no more ideas, or the ideas you have just aren't big enough? Take a break. Remind yourself why you love your life, and why writing is NOT your life. If writing really is your passion, then the ideas will come, but don't worry about that right now. And don't write the first idea that comes knocking either. Give them time. Let them grow into something HUGE, and enjoy your life in the meantime.
How do you pick yourself up after rejection?


Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Those are all fantastic ideas. And pretty much what I do, too. It helps (a lot) for me to always have a new story I'm working on. And it helps to always be seeking improvements in craft, because that way I know there's hope. If I keep trying. The only way to guarantee failure is to give up. And I read this again.

Sarah said...

I keep writing. I can't say I'll always be able to use that as my coping mechanism, but I certainly do now.

Annie Laurie Cechini said...

I am writing this on sticky notes and posting it to my forehead. This is totally where I am right now. Thank you!!!

Matthew MacNish said...

Sometimes I worry that I may never have any other novel worthy ideas, so I just write short stories and flash fiction to keep myself motivated.

Laurel Garver said...

Great advice. To echo Matthew, I've found it helpful to switch gears and focus on short stories and poetry for a while as a means of developing craft, loosening up, seeking writing credits and general morale boosting.

Myrna Foster said...

Okay, my reaction to the title of this was Luke when Darth Vader tell him he's his father.

But as long as you aren't giving up on Azrael's Curse, these are great tips. Just keep sending out those queries until you find the right agent.

Peggy Eddleman said...

Thanks for this! I just sent out my very first query letter this morning, and I'm gearing up for the rejection I'll face in the months ahead, so this is very timely indeed.

Victoria Dixon said...

Thanks, Adam! You have impeccable timing. I've just discovered a whole new list of agents to query, so I'm not dead in the water yet, but I'm tired of treading! LOL I also need to give myself permission/time to get out there and LIVE again. After all, if we don't get out and refuel on life, how can we write about it? I'm trying to go the research and review route, writing-wise and see what pops into my brain. So far, I've got one short story (already completed) and one book-worthy plot (series-worthy, actually) that will require a TON of research. Not looking forward to all the research, but that's another issue. ;D

Ryshia Kennie said...

And sometimes it just helps to know we're not the only ones struggling with rejection. I remind myself that the only guaranteed failure is to give up on the book or worse, on writing.