15 March, 2012
Last Friday I blogged about how I hadn't had any feedback on anything for ages, but I had just been shortlisted in a short story competition. Well, since then feedback has been rolling in thick and fast in the form of three rejections of one sort or another in the space of five days. Grand. It got me thinking about rejections. We all know the (often grossly exaggerated) stories of famous writers getting rejected - Iain Banks had written five novels before he got published, JK Rowling was rejected a billion times before somebody saw the potential, William Shakespeare was set upon by wild badgers and kept captive in the forest for three years before putting on a play*... And these stories can be both encouraging and rather disheartening. But however motivating it can be to know that Kathryn Stockett had her novel The Help rejected a ridiculous amount of times before it went on to sell millions and be made into an Oscar-wining film (thanks for the tip Angeline!), there's one thing I'm pretty sure of. I bet none of these famously-rejected authors spent their time reading articles on how to deal with rejection.
There seems to be an incredible number of articles, blog posts and book chapters about getting through the trauma of rejection. Yes, it's natural that a rejection makes you feel momentarily disheartened, and it's great to have the encouragment of friends when it happens, but if days later you're still moping around declaring that you're not cut out to be a writer, then you're probably right. Being rejected just means that you're writing. As an athlete nobody had to cajole me into entering another race when I'd performed badly or got injured. If they had needed to, then I shouldn't have been running.
So let's not give each other tips on what to do when that brown envelope drops through the letterbox (provided you've paid the right postage!). Let's celebrate our best and worst rejections together.
My least favourite was the one that came in the form of an e-mail with no signature line, just three words, 'Please see attached', and a rejection letter you could download. Call me old-fashioned but I think that's rude. I have no problem with standard rejection letters, I can completely see the necessity, but it doesn't take a lot to fill in someone's name and put your own name at the bottom.
My "favourite" rejection on the other hand was from a big agency in London who thought, "there is huge potential here; you write brilliantly and the premise is wonderful". They still rejected it, but at least they thought it was worth giving me a little feedback.
What have been your best and worst rejection experiences? How many times would you continue/ have you continued to send your work out before giving up?
* some examples may not be true in the literal sense