Tuesday, September 22, 2009

In which I go all Stuart Smalley on your- manuscript

Okay, first I have to congratulate myself and Mr. Cate on hitting anniversary #7 last weekend. Go us! Marriage is a lot like writing, isn't it? Some passages turn out brilliant on the first draft, and other ones, well... you really earn. It's those of us that are working the hardest that make it look the easiest.

Anyway, onwards and upwards, to a topic near and dear to all of our hearts, big, smelly 'ol rejection. Yep. Turned down, escorted out, no date for the prom.
I've had some encouraging little ego boosts in regard to my writing (and most importantly improving my writing) lately, and so now is probably the time to write something smug and pithy about rejection, because it comes for all of us, like chicken pox used to when we were kids. If you don't get it early, you won't have immunity later, and it will really hurt and possibly make you sterile.


Does getting rejected mean your writing is no good? Or your book unpublishable? Not necessarily. Every time I'm in the bookstore, I have to play the exact same game as the agent facing that inbox o' slush. I don't have the money to buy every book I want. There are thousands to choose from. So the elimination process has to get pretty rigid. Books get taken out of the running immediately for being too short, too long, wrong genre, terrible cover art. Arbitrary, yes, but can I read every single one before I make my decision? No.
Then step two- actually pulling the book off the shelf and reading the back cover, or the first few pages. Think of how far that book has come, just getting selected off the shelf of two hundred others. Now more random disqualifiers; writing style, point of view, prologue, no prologue, realizing it's the first in a series of 20, and I have a thing about commitment... the "reasons" are endless. I just have to find a way to pick 4 books I really would like to read out of a pool of 100,000.

I'm just saying, when you get that "no" it doesn't really mean that you can't write, or that the agent/editor hates you, or it is the worst injustice of your life. It means you have to remember the 2 rules of being crazy enough to write for publication.

1. There is always, always room for improvement.

2. Everyone who has ever been published has heard more NOs than YESes.

5 comments:

MG Higgins said...

Love your analogy. I'm a very picky book buyer and it's such a subjective process. Who knows what likes and dislikes go into an agent's or editor's decision making? Rejections still sting, though. I want my MS to be so fantabulous, everyone wants it!

Lily Cate said...

Of course, the goal is to write something universally accepted as "perfect" and also "wonderful" isn't it? The Rejection Proof Manuscript that becomes Bad Review Repellent upon publication?
Aahh. What a lovely, lovely dream...

Paul Michael Murphy said...

Well when you put it that way...

adrienne said...

Funny, my kids and I were JUST talking about chicken pox...

Being a picky buyer myself, I can definitely relate to that analogy. And I'm always aware of rule #1, but I can never have too many reminders about rule #2.

Anna said...

Great post! I love especially point no. 2 at the end. :-)

And congrats on your anniversary!