Last weekend I got my first rejection for my novel, Thousand-Word Things. I was really disappointed - much more so than usual (I try to be chipper about such matters) - as the agency was one which had liked some of my previous work enough to send me a letter of encouragement. This time, it was just a standard rejection letter.
My plight became somewhat comedic on Sunday, when I told some good friends that I'd had a rejection. Their three year-old daughter was very concerned, thinking I had said 'injection' and wanting to know what was wrong. Thus followed a loud conversation between her and her mother, in the middle of our church, along the lines of:
"Not injection, darling. Rejection. Chloe's had a rejection. A REjection. REJECTION. No, Chloe's fine. She's had a REJECTION, not an injection. Rejection means..."
Lucky it's not a sensitive subject, huh?
As time goes on I find myself feeling more reluctant to talk to non-writers about the submission process. It's easier to pretend you're not trying, than to admit you're failing. However much I quote statistics at them (about one in every 1000 submissions to literary agents is successful), I feel like they must be judging me for not being "good enough". I'm both touched by and dread the question, "Any news?" (News? Well for the last year I've sat at my computer every day trying to put words in the right order, and now I'm just about ready to have a lot of people I don't know tell me it's not good enough.)
If you're not a writer (or not one who submits work to editors), what's your impression of the world of agents and submissions? What do you think when a writer tells you about their failures?
I firmly believe that you can't be a writer if you remain downbeat about rejections for too long. But equally you can't be a writer if you don't care! Sometimes you'll be riding a wave (a couple of years ago I had a few months where I won prizes in several short ficiton competitions as well as getting my first commission for an anthology); other times you'll go months with no news or only rejections. Last time I asked you about your best and worst rejections. Today, I want to ask you about your attitude to them instead. Do rejections get you down? Do you have a limit of how many you can take before reaching for the chocolate? When do you give up?
I'm still excited about my novel, which is already in the inboxes of other agents. But in the difficult moments, when I'm trying to justify committing every day to writing and hoping, I remind myself of this quote from Jill Dawson (one I've posted before):
"I can, of course, see the temptation of not beginning. Chiefly, not beginning sustains the belief that you are gifted, that the novel - when you one day get round to writing it - will surpass all others [...] Not beginning protects you from the disappointment - no, the shame - of reading what you have written and finding it rubbish. It also prevents you from an equally disturbing possibility: discovering that you can write."
At least I began.