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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Rejection Avalanche

Rejection. It's a lot like snow for a writer. In the beginning, it's almost fun, like watching it snow outside while the cast of the movie White Christmas sings, "snow, snow, snow, snow."

As the full extent of winter takes hold however, and you have shoveled the driveway for the eightieth time only to watch the plow pass by and pile it up again, and the wind howls and drifts it all back over, you begin to feel mildly less enthusiastic about the entire process.

"The forecast is calling for more frigging snow, eh?"
It's difficult not feel a little, well, jaded. Except as writers, we don't have a weatherman to curse. We have only the litany of literary agents and editors. People, who themselves seem somewhat jaded to the naked eye.

It's tempting to get angry and lash out by writing blogs about literary agents hating kittens and the like (even though anyone who actually would write such a blog would be doing it in good humored fun). 

But, for a seasoned writer, or anyone who desires to become a seasoned writer (notice I didn't say "successful"), then you need to understand that ridicule and rejection are necessary evils to weed out those souls who are less than fully dedicated to the craft.

As soon as writing emerged, there were authors. As soon as there were authors, there were critics and editors passing judgements. Imagine how it would have felt to have a typo pointed out right after you finished work on ten months of pecking out tiny letters into a stone tablet. Or to have written another book for the old testament, only to have religious scholars cram your scrolls into a jar and leave them in the back of a cave somewhere.

I would even argue that it is only after having survived a myriad of mistakes, ridicule from friends and neighbors, and an avalanche of rejection, that you finally begin to grow as a writer, and write solely for the purpose of writing and better learning the craft. Because it is then that you are writing, not for the imagined masses, or the agents, or anyone...except for yourself and the love of the thing.

"YES! I write in these clothes!"
It is through this that you become leaner and meaner (figuratively speaking of course, because you're a writer and spend most of your time eating cheesy poofs and sitting at a computer), and you become immune to rejection of any kind. Well, almost any kind. There are still two kinds that piss me off to no end (and as luck would have it, I've received new examples of both in recent days)...

I've talked about spammed out form rejection from literary agents, who see no fault in requesting queries in certain fonts and formats and meeting all of their specifications, only to reply by hitting the big red "dear author" button. We've established that those agents probably hate kittens too. But, there is something even more heinous lurking in the darkness...

"Thank you for querying me about your manuscript. I've read your sample pages and I'm sorry to say that the project just isn't a perfect fit with my current needs. This has less to do with your strengths as a writer and more to do with my goals as an agent and the trends of the current literary marketplace. I wish you the best of luck in your search for the right agent and publisher. Keep writing!"

Is this agent saying that I have strengths as a writer? Is she implying that my work isn't consistent with the trends of the current literary market place? Oh my God. Which trends is she referring to? The ones about publishing crap like the Fifty Shades porn books? Or is she saying that I should write a trilogy? Or maybe something about vampires? Holy shit! OMG!

Oh, wait. If you google the entire thing, you'll discover that it is just another spammed out form rejection.

As someone who has read literally hundreds of blogs by literary agents about querying and the color of their favorite socks, etc., let me say something openly to them. IF you are an agent who replied to queries with a form rejection (as almost all of them do), just say it is a 'NO' in your spam form. DO NOT try to make me feel better by including crap about "trends" or my "strengths as a writer." It makes me believe that you are human, have a soul, and might have actually read my query and are replying with something personal that includes clues or hidden messages. 

There is a clear winner though, and you'll be surprised to learn that it didn't even come from a literary agent. They, after all, tend to maintain certain levels of professionalism. The best rejection that gave me the biggest WTF?! moment arrived in my inbox recently from a literary magazine.

About a month ago, I received a request from the publishers of a local start-up literary magazine, pleading with me to submit them a piece for their launch issue. They asked for basically anything that I had laying around of a certain length to include in the magazine as they wanted to tap into my local "following" (apparently desperate to get my mom as a subscriber or something). The email was both long and personal.

Not being one to disappoint (and disregarding the fact that they were offering no financial compensation), I wrote a piece special for them. A few weeks later I received a "dear writer" form rejection.

I still can't even think about it without laughing hysterically. In writing there are parts of the rejection process that will make you stronger and more resilient. There are other parts that will push to brink of madness.

Oh yeah. Did I mention it snowed again last night and is snowing again right now? Sometimes, all you can do is put your head down, laugh, and keep shoveling. The alternative is madness.

Keep. Writing. Spring is just around the corner. 

Thanks for Reading.



  1. See, I was right. The snow was deeper when I was a kid.

  2. This is a great post! I really enjoyed it, and actually I've had a similar blog post saved for months, I just haven't had the balls to post it... I'm glad you did!

    1. What are they gonna do? Reject you?

      Thanks for reading, M.R.!