Tuesday, 5 August 2008

REJECTIONS... a little advice from an expert

I hate em. I feel sick when I get one. I always did, and always will.

However, I have had to learn to cope. This morning I was leaving a message on a friend's blog, after she had posted her real hurt at seeing a piece of work she knew was good rejected at some comp or other.

I said I was sorry to hear that, but I was GLAD. Part of the learning curve. learn to cope and move on up.

I have to really battle with rejection in this writing stuff, but also every day stuff. (I have yet to meet an adopted adult who copes well with it). And the only way to learn to cope is to expose yourself to it frequently.

So am I just woffling, or what?

Nope. Look at my poetry. Started writing this a few months back. And was pleased/astounded/worried in equal measure to see how pieces were being accepted. All online... but still.

So what did I do? I sent four pieces to the most prestigious place in the poetry world, sat back and waited.

TO BE REJECTED. C'mon, I'm a beginner at this stuff. To sit back and bask, which so many writers do, is just dangerous.

That reject is pinned up on my wall. A form reject, not even a line saying there was a glimmer....brilliant. Just what I needed.

I'm graduating to rejects from print poetry mags in the UK next... watch this space.


Sarah Hilary said...

Yep, you're dead right, Vanessa. It indicates a next stage - a maturing in a writer's life - to invite rejections, to WANT them in fact. It's all about getting grounded, I think, and confronting reality head-on. It's also about finding your level, drawing a line in the sand and using it to think how best to get better, to move past that point.

If we only ever play it safe, sub to soft options or cry shy of the difficult venues, then we never really move forward. That said, I'm all for a bit of back-patting when the black mood is on me - that's when I'll sub a much-rejected story to one of those safe places that I know will take it. But I'm not kidding myself that it's anything more than a palliative for the confidence-rotting wait on the agent re the novel's fate.

jonathan pinnock said...

Absolutely. I'm pretty new to this game, but I've already worked out that the worst thing that can happen is to get an acceptance the first time you sub something. That's worse than a rejection because it probably means that you could have tried somewhere a bit harder.

The rejections still hurt, though ...

(Hi, BTW. Enjoying the blog, and I loved the book)

Sarah Salway said...

This is a great post. It's too easy to get complacent and rejections also make us realise which places we REALLY want to get into and keep working hard enough to get there. Hard though ...

Women Rule Writer said...

Oh, yes. I have a place that I will break, I will break into print in that mag if it's the last thing I do. The rejections are almost like a private joke between me and the rejecter by now. But I'll get in somehow...

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Hi Sarah H

You poor thing.. still waiting for the agent to feed back? All fingers and toes crossed!

Hi Jonathan,

Good to 'meet' you. Thank you for dropping by, and a bigger thank you for reading my book. I am glad you approved.

It is such a fine line, this 'delight and gratitude at being accepted' versus the thought that perhaps a hit could have been too easy. I am no good at judging poems at all... and can only go on the bios of other writers pubbed alongside, and a gut/emotion response to other work, which is not exactly professional!!

... and have been delighted so far. So Im not saying they are 'easy places' per se. Just that my own need is for the acceptances not to come flowing too easy.

With short fiction, where I am a wee bit more grounded in experience... I can gauge levels slightly better. But it's still a morass of imprecision, the subs game. You just don't know if the ed already had work on a similar theme, or if the ed has PMT or if the eds wife left him that morning...!!

Lots of good writing!

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Hello Sarah S (I've just been reading about you and circuses out West... wowee!)

yep. I harbour a dream or two about where I'd like to be read. I just hope I have enough years left in me to try properly!

Vanessa Gebbie said...


I love the thought that there is an "Office of the rejecter of manuscripts" in each ed's domain, inhabited by a creature resembling a blimp with a bald head, one eye and a face like a frog! (It helps...)

Sarah Hilary said...

Yes, still waiting. On the one hand she did promise a swift turnaround if it was a NO because she knows I have an agent wanting the full mss. Then again, if she was interested surely she'd have said by now? Then again, how long is "swift" to an agent? Agh.

Re the acceptances thing - do you also have a tendency (I do) to think that a place wot accepts your stuff too readily/often maybe isn't that great or is simply too easy to get into? I tend to conclude this even when I know that other writers are struggling to get into the same venues. It's maybe just the way a writer's mind works - perverse!

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Interesting thought. Maybe its a self esteem thing... 'I am bad, so if you like me, you cant be worth knowing" sort of stuff"!

I am always grateful when a place publishes my work. It is marvellous, always that they want that piece, and not another, to me. And it is marvellous that it is being read. I love getting emails from readers.

I had one from a reader of Ink Sweat and Tears after 'Reeds' came out- and the thought that someone was kind enough to bother to do that is amazing!

I think it is the way of the world... that once an editor knows and likes your work, you will have more chance of being successful. You will get read, for one! So many stories in slush piles, (I believe) don't get read at all.