You might be looking at today’s topic thinking, “pessimistic much?”, but failure and rejection are inevitable sometimes in life. Better to expect that it’ll happen at some point and be prepared to get through it, no? I chose to bring up the topic at this time because next week those who have entered the Amazon Breakthrough Novel contest will find out if they’ve made it passed the first cut. There are going to be a lot of disappointed people who may take the news to heart and consider giving up. I say, DON’T DO IT! Not moving onto the next round does not mean your writing sucks or that you should never pick up a pen again. It just means you need to stop down and look at your work. See what can be changed or improved. Get more feedback from others. Write, write and re-write. Try, try again. If writing is your passion, you owe it to yourself it give it your all and that includes dealing with getting bad reviews, rejections and people just not liking your stuff.
I’ll share a little story with you all. I’ve been writing since I was in elementary school. First on a typewriter and then on a giant green screened IBM computer. When I was in 7th or 8th grade, I started writing my first novel (rather than short stories). It was a sci-fi adventure called Jarva. I was so proud of it. When I hit 50 pages or so, we ran the half finished manuscript through a program that analyzed the words and sentence structure to tell you the reading level you were writing at. It told me I wrote at a 6th grade level. I was absolutely crushed. I thought it was telling me my writing was awful and below me. Little did I know that a 6th grade level is close to what the average adult reads at. It was a huge blow to my ego and consequentially I put my writing away and short of a couple of newspaper articles in middle and high school, I didn’t start writing again until I was in my late 20s. Who knows what I could have produced in that time.
Am I worried that I’ll go back on a writing hiatus if I don’t move forward in the ABNA contest? No. Between being passed up for jobs and rejected by boys (notice I didn’t say men…), I’ve learned to take it in stride and move forward. I’ll polish my pitch and try again elsewhere.
Writing, like any other art, is subjective. There are going to be people who don’t like it regardless of what you do and that’s OK. You may get twenty, fifty, a hundred rejections. It still doesn’t mean your work is no good. It means you look to improve on what you have and you keep sending out those queries until you find that person who sees the brilliance in your idea and feels as passionately for it as you do. If everyone gave up after a rejection, we could have missed out on some fantastic stories. Below is a list(*) of some well known, even classic books and the number of rejections they received before they found that kindred soul who saw the glory in their work and wanted to get it out there to share with the masses.
Diary of Anne Frank (16)
Dr. Seuss books (15)
Dubliners , James Joyce (22)
Dune , Frank Herbert (23)
Gone with the Wind , Margaret Mitchell (38)
Harry Potter book one, J. K. Rowling (9)
M*A*S*H , Richard Hooker (17)
The Prncess Diaries , Meg Cabot (17)
Watership Down , Richard Adams (26)
A Wrinkle in Time , Madeleine L’Engle, (26)