Wednesday, 19 August 2009

REJECTION COLLECTION


I've just had a bit of an epiphany.


Yesterday I took out my Submissions File. I haven't looked at it for a long, long time because I haven't submitted for months. Yet its contents have cast a pall over my thinking - and my attitude to writing - for even longer. In it, I've carefully listed every agent, every publisher I've submitted my novel to, together with all the agents I intend to submit to in future. Each agent has been researched through The Writers' And Artists' Yearbook and - if they have one - through their website, with a note of what kind of submission each prefers. Beside each agent I've submitted to, a tick - which later becomes a cross as the novel is rejected.


Then there are the letters. Form letters: Dear (BLANK), with my name inserted. Letters addressed to me (and to my novel) by name. One where the agent has scribbled a brief note: 'I just didn't love it enough to take it on. Sorry.'


Next, the competitions. Just a record of having entered, since unless you're shortlisted, you don't usually hear anything. The Daily Mail First Novel Competition (for which each entrant - and presumably there were thousands - had to submit their entire manuscript); The Yeovil Prize; The Harry Bowling Prize (I did follow this one up and was told that I'd come 'close' to being shortlisted, which was a bonus).


I'd opened the file in order to transcribe a precious email comment from an agent, who I'd been introduced to through the generosity of a published writer. A rejection of my partial, but 'you write really well and the characters are convincing'.


I didn't expect to gain anything from opening the file. I feared that it would just slam home (again) the fact that I was unsuccessful, unpublished, unwanted.


Well, it wasn't like that at all.


I read it through from beginning to end. And I felt - surprisingly - quite cheery and upbeat when I'd finished. Why? Because I realised that I've achieved a lot. Not in the eyes of the world, but in my own esteem. Not only have I spent 18 months writing and revising the novel, but I have sent it out there and will do so again. These rejections are my badges of courage, of resilience and of hope. They also represent my membership of an elite club of writers who try, try and try again. Only from their ranks do published authors emerge. I realised each time I send my novel out, I do in a symbol of loyalty to my work and to myself as a writer. Each submission is a symbol of self-belief. Every time I submit, I demonstrate the tenacity that any writer needs to develop in order to win through.


Which is why I'm starting the next round of submissions. Not with any expectation of a positive response, but as an exercise in persistence and determination, two qualities which need strengthening and practising. And yes, I'll feel crushed each time that manila envelope slaps onto my mat. But as Joy Harjo, the Native American poet, says:


'You can use rejection to put you in a funk and stop you from writing, or you can crumple it up and use it to build your fire in the evening when you write.'


I know which I'd rather do.

35 comments:

Julie P said...

Put it in the fire and carry on! I'm with you, Susie and Joy Harjo!

If you give up you definately won't get published but if you keep sending your work out there's that chance, no matter how small, that you just might get published.

Good luck with your next submissions.

Julie xx

graywave said...

Susie, Mine's all in an Excel file, agents and publishers down the side, books I've written across the top - and colour-coded: rejections in red!

The truly wonderful thing about this arrangement is that, when I signed my very first book deal a couple of weeks ago, I could grey out the whole column for that book, knowing I would never need to hawk it around again (except to readers!)

It took me a long time. So hang in there. Your day will come.

Derek said...

We're all shoulder to shoulder with you there, Susie. I wonder though, how useful it is to hold on to rejections, once we've extracted the juice from them? It can be quite liberating to read, note and then reject the rejection - ably assisted by a paper sgredder or a fire!

Samantha Tonge said...

Inspiring post, Susie. I've held onto all my rejections over the last 4 years but cannot face looking at the ones for previous work. Still, i keep them in the hope that one day they will compound the satisfaction i feel if i ever get that deal.

Best of luck with the subs and power to you for such a positive attitude.

emmadarwin said...

Susie, that's so beautifully put. And a very important moment.

I think, too, that it's not just about practising being brave, and being resilient, and persevering. Intelligent faith in your work (as opposed to the tone-deaf X-factor sort) does actually make a difference to your writerly self... Hm, I can feel a blog post coming up...

I kept rejections which said something nice about the work, but not form ones, as I remember.

Deborah Riccio said...

Susie, well said. It takes an enormous amount of self-belief to go through a submissions process after the unsuccess (note I didn't use the "Failure" word)of a previous. I've done it twice now over the course of 3 years and my rejection slips - never letters - and sometimes even just a scrawled note on my original covering letter saying "NO!" (nice) reside in various places from a plastic box in my writing room to lining a cats basket to one of the UK's landfill sites. Such is my 'filing system'. Perhaps I'll be a little more organised this time round! Might break the spell - who knows? And as one of my lovely bestselling author friends says and which has become my mantra - "It only takes one YES"!
Let's hang in there!

Roderic Vincent said...

You're an inspiration, Susie. And great comments above.

Susannah Rickards said...

Susie I admire your attitude enormously, and found your post inspirational.

I'd add that whilst it's so tempting to burn rejections or shred them or throw darts at them, as has been suggested here, it's essential to keep them. I lost track of some submissions last year and then couldn't remember who had seen which story, and whether or not I'd submitted a story somewhere before.

I know novel subs are simpler as you usually have only one on the go, but it's immensely useful to be able to check over the rejects, and recall who said what for the next round of pitching.

Good luck Susie.

Susie Nott-Bower said...

Thanks, all, for your fabulous comments. Graywave, congratulations on your deal!!! Must feel wonderful, probably in direct proportion to the time it took to get there.
All the very best of luck with your next round of submissions, everybody!
Susiex

sarah fox said...

A great post! You put it so well - you write so well!

A large part of this business is determination and persistence. Good luck, Susie.

Gillian McDade said...

Rejection is completely normal Susie! One should remember never to give up.
Love the pic by the way, and good luck with future submissions....
G x

Samantha Tonge said...

Yes, Susannah makes a very pertinent point. I do check back over rejections when subbing a new book, if it is someone i subbed to before who was remotely positive. It's also useful to compare response times, you can remind yourself how long a particular agent took to get back to you last time around and therefore have a realistic idea of how long to wait this time.

Susie Nott-Bower said...

That's a very good point about timing. I need to get some dates into that file. That way you at least have some sense of how long it may take to get a response.

Elise said...

Hello, just wanted to say how much I've enjoyed reading your posts. Good luck with the novel - you are right, persistence is absolutely the key thing and something that you do now may pay dividends months later.

Fionnuala Kearney said...

Susie what an inspirational post! And well timed for me as I'm off on two weeks holiday then back to the submission process.
I have the excel file version and the hard copy letters and yes I have read them lately, even the one printed on crooked headed paper! Its true! It was like they said 'No! Dont throw that box of paper out - keep it for the rejections!'

Susie Nott-Bower said...

LOL, Fionnuala!
I guess it'll be REALLY bad when they start sending rejections on the back of someone else's submission!
Thanks, Elise. :)

Jeannette said...

Great quote about the fire.... Whenever I look at my submissions folder, it inspires me to send out more. Probably because of the shamefully low number of submissions, compared to the vast list of possible places to send to. Good luck to you!

Deb said...

Hi Susie,
Lovely honest post there. They say everyone has a book inside them, but not everyone has the ability to write one, let alone send it out in to the big wide world. Hang on in there. Perseverence is the key.

Susie Nott-Bower said...

Thanks, Jeanette and Deb! :)
Susiex

Kath said...

Over the past few days I've been thinking "What if I just go on submitting stories to magazines for years and years and they never ever buy one?" But if I stopped it would leave such a big hole. Writing has replaced reading for me really.

Susie Nott-Bower said...

But what if you stopped, Kath? Then you'd never know. Keep sending 'em out! :)
Susiex

Kath said...

I know, Susie, that's the thing.

Olivia Ryan said...

I think you've given us all fresh determination, Susie. What a great attitude. And you're absolutely right - the tenacity to keep on submitting and to withstand the rejections is one of the most important attributes any writer can have. Most of us who have been published have gone through the same sort of process that you are going through now, at the beginning - and a lot of us have gone through it again since, too! Self-belief is the key, as you quite rightly say. The best of luck with your next round of submissions. It only takes ONE person, to say yes and make it all happen for you.

Claire Moss said...

What a great post - and we've all been there. I once saw a JK Rowling interview where she said she wasn't disheartened to get her first rejection because it was what real writers got. I think I can relate to that - with every rejection I've had the initial moment (or day) of dejection, then I've quickly felt even more fired up than I did before. I'm a firm believer that every no brings you closer to a yes!

Susie Nott-Bower said...

YAY! Let's all go for it. What's to lose, anyway! I like that JK story, Claire; and Olivia, it's brilliant to have published writers here who've been through the process and emerged into the light!
Susiex

Lydia said...

"Published writers are just unpublished writers who wouldn't give up."
I wish I knew who said that, but I remember reading it and finding it very inspiring when I was trying to break into the women's mag market when I first started. Great post Susie - you go girl!! Very best of luck with new round of submissions and to all of us whatever we're trying to get published. Thanks for this post, Susie and just remembr we're all with you. It's one of the best things about a blog like this: to know you have writer "friends" out there rooting for you!

Susie Nott-Bower said...

Thanks Lydia! :)
Susiex

Jessica said...

I seriously admire you so much for putting yourself out there and never giving up.

As someone who literally just created a reading/writing blog and who has a goal of getting published, I'm glad to read a blog of someone who is so honest about the industry. You have such a positive outlook and I can't wait to continue reading.

Susie Nott-Bower said...

Jessica, that's lovely of you but I feel I must own up to being one of the most easily dampened people in the world! It's taken a long time to even begin to work on new submissions, which is why I chose to blog about it - I need to focus much, much more on my own tenacity and persistence.
All the very best with your blog,
Susiex

Desiree Torres said...

I received my first rejection yesterday and found this very inspiring. Thank you!

Susie Nott-Bower said...

Welcome to the rejection club, Desiree! :)
Keep sending 'em out there!
Susiex

Jonathan Ball said...

This is perhaps obvious advice, but you're doing what you need to do ... as long as you have begun another project and are working on it while you wait for your submissions to be accepted or rejected. If you haven't begun another project, then you need to begin one right away. If you're still tinkering with the same novel you are making a serious mistake --- or you aren't ready to submit it in the first place. Again, apologies if this seems too obvious, but it's a good reminder for some people.

Susie Nott-Bower said...

Funnily enough, Jonathan, your comment's just made me read this post again, on the very morning that my first rejection in this round flopped onto the mat. I think I'm going backwards - this was a form rejection addressed to 'Dear Sir or Madam'. At least until now they'd addressed it to me and mentioned the name of my novel! Yes, it hurts - as ever - but perhaps a little less so each time. And the fact that I'm 18,000 words into the next one really, really helps.
Susiex

Norman Robert Barnett said...

I enjoyed reading your original "Rejection Collection" then it just suddenly disappeared. Now it's back -- and I still enjoy your writing. What you gotta do is keep on keeping on!

Derek Thompson said...

Thanks for your comment. As a fellow writer yourself you'll understand that technology is a capricious beast. And yes, it's only over when you decide to stop! The Strictly Writing team.