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Friday, August 30, 2013

On Dealing with Rejection: Guest Post by Jennifer Lawler


Today I'm delighted to have the fabulous Jennifer Lawler as a guest poster. She talks about something all writers fear--rejection. Enjoy!   

Despite the fact that I’ve been a working writer for *cough* years, I still get rejected. I get rejected all the time, no matter what I do to minimize the chances. One thing I know about writing and publishing is this: if you’re not getting rejected, you’re not getting published.

So, because for me “getting published” equals “I get to keep a roof over my head, yay!” I have to deal with rejection. I’ve developed a thicker skin over the years, but seeing that “no, thanks,” still makes me flinch. Lately I have been doing more work that is near and dear to my heart, and that makes the “no, thanks,” even harder. I mean, when someone rejects “Seven Ways to Organize Your Garage,” it’s hardly the death of a dream. But rejection of work that is deeply meaningful to me can feel that way.

I deal with rejection in two steps. First, I accept it. Rejection is part of being a writer. It just is. I don’t try to tell myself, “Someday when I am Super Famous, I will never be rejected!” Because that’s not true and I know it’s not true. But I also don’t try to pretend that it doesn’t hurt. It does. So, I let myself feel that: “Well, ow. I really thought that would be a match. I’m so disappointed that it’s not.”

But I can’t let the “oh, ow,” derail me. If I’m not careful, “oh, ow,” results in my curling up on my bed, thumb in mouth, rocking back and forth and wondering if it’s too late to study accounting. (Don’t ask me how I know this.)

That’s why I have step two. Step two is actually step one, because it comes first. It comes before I even hit send on a query. Here’s what I do: I plan for rejection.

Here’s why the plan is important: it’s easy to give up on an idea, an essay, a novel, when it’s rejected, especially if it’s rejected more than once. But I don’t want a computer full of ideas, essays, and novels that never see the light of day. If I have a plan in place, I am more likely to keep my work out there, and keeping your work out there is what results, eventually, in success. Taking your toys and going home after one or two rejections doesn’t do you or your work any favors.

So, before I send my first query, I make a plan. If it’s something big, like I’m trying to find an agent for a book, then I make a spreadsheet, and I research agents, and I come up with the names of one hundred people (yes, that many) who might be a match. Then I send the query out in batches of ten. I may tweak the query if no one responds. If I get requests for material but no offers of representation, I may go back to the material and make edits, but I never do this lightly and I always have a plan (with deadlines).

For smaller items, like an article idea, I’ll come up with a couple of places where the idea might work ifI tweak it. I prioritize according to what’s important to me for this piece: the market where I have a great contact who’s likely to accept it; the place that pays the most; the magazine I’ve been trying to break into and this may just be my ticket in. Then I figure out a few more places to send it if my first choice says no. For example, a piece for writers may be suitable, with some changes in slant, for Writer’s Digest, The Writer, or Romance Writers’ Report (the magazine of Romance Writers of America). 

I make a note of this loose plan in my to-do file, and if a rejection comes in, then I just look up my plan, make whatever changes are needed, and send the query on its way again. Like Kelly, Inever let more than twenty-four hours pass before sending out a new query afterreceiving a rejection—something I actually learned from her!

Rejection is never pleasant, but if you have a plan, you don’t have to let it stop you.

**This post courtesy of Jennifer Lawler, the author or coauthor of more than thirty nonfiction books as well as sixteen romances under various pen names. Her publishing experience includes stints as a literary agent and as an acquisitions editor. She just released the second edition of Dojo Wisdom for Writers, the second book in her popular Dojo Wisdom series. She also offers classes in writing book proposals, planning a nonfiction book for self-publishing authors, and writing queries and synopses for novelists at www.BeYourOwnBookDoctor.com (under the “classes” tab).