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At the beginning of my journey I had this hope, you see. This flutter inside me that secretly wished I wouldn't have to, that whispered maybe not me. I clung on to that hope, and when my very first query letter brought back a request for a partial, I was ecstatic. I thought maybe I would be an exception, maybe, just maybe, I would be the writer that didn't have to deal with rejection.
I didn't send out any more query letters. I waited.
My first rejection arrived in the mailbox many weeks later. It was a heavy thing, literally, because it was attached to the first fifty pages I had printed out and sent to New York, now returned to me in a large yellow envelope. It was a nice rejection, personalized with a little feedback on why the agent had passed, but it didn't hurt any less. To my inexperienced eyes, a rejection was a rejection and the hopeful whisper died.
Since then, over the course of many years and manuscripts, I've collected more rejection letters than I care to count. But I'm not here to whine about rejection, in fact, I am, in a way, grateful for them. Because while they were difficult lessons to learn, dealing with rejection has taught me a few things:
- Not all rejections are created equal. There's a world of difference between a form rejection letter and a personalized one. Personalized rejections mean it was a near-miss, it means the agent (or editor) took the time to personally write you a rejection letter rather than doing the easy thing and sending a quick form rejection. True, they both mean "no," but the latter is a subtle way of saying you're almost there. Keep going.
- Rejections aren't the end. I know sometimes it doesn't feel like it, but life goes on after five, ten, fifty, a hundred rejections. Rejections don't mean that you're a terrible writer, or that you'll never be published, or any of those awful doubts that tend to creep in upon receiving bad news about your writing. Every writer has dealt with rejection of one form or another and the best thing you can do is keep going. Keep writing.
- For the writer, rejections are a part of life. Believe it or not, post-publication writers still receive rejections—they're called bad reviews, and even the legendary New York Times Bestselling authors receive them pretty regularly. As harsh as it sounds, the rejections that you receive while querying are teaching you an important lesson—they're teaching you how to develop a thick skin and continue working when the stones are being thrown. They're teaching you how to ignore the negativity and keep pushing forward.
These are lessons that are essential if you want to be a successful writer, and for that, I'm grateful. No, it's not easy, and truth be told, those rejections start to get heavy after a while, even when they're not attached to fifty pages of the manuscript that you poured your heart into.
But despite all that, I honestly believe that in the end, we'll all be better for the experience.
Have you dealt with rejection? What did you do to help you get through it?