Saturday, May 2, 2009

On Rejection

Of course we all feel rejection sometimes. We're writers--and even if we haven't subbed yet, we still know the feeling!

Last month, I received in the mail the rudest rejection I have ever received from an agent. It was the lack of professionalism that did it for me--when I ripped the envelope open and stood by my mailbox reading it, my mouth literally dropped open. (It wasn't as if the agent had slammed me or told me to never write another word--it was so unprofessionally presented I couldn't believe it.) Suffice it to say, I will never submit to that agent again.

Which got me thinking to about five years ago, when I was a fledgling young writer with a freshly printed first draft of a first novel sitting in my lap. I joined a popular online forum and asked for beta readers. I had a taker--I emailed him the manuscript and waited anxiously.

In about an hour, the beta reader wrote back. I wish I still had that email, but the essence of it was: this is the worst thing I've ever read, please delete it and never try to write another book. That, at least, is the mild interpretation of his opinion on my work. He'd read less than five pages and decided he could read no further. He said he'd literally gagged at the idiocy of my work. And he repeated more than once that I shouldn't even bother with this career, as it so obviously didn't suit me.

I cried.

But, fortunately, this was not this manuscript's first venture outside into the world. That year I'd gone to a writing conference, and that same manuscript that induced vomiting in that beta reader had been given to an editor at a major publishing house who'd actively considered it for publication. And having a real-life-honest-to-goodness editor say she liked your work certainly makes anything a rude beta reader says much more of a balm to the ego.

We all have rejection stories, some more graphic than others. But this whole preamble (wow, I didn't mean to get so carried away, but apparently I still harbor some resentment towards these rude people) was to lead up to a link: Literary Rejection, a blog that displays rejections from the literary world. (Found from Linda Kage's blog)

I don't believe in harping on about rejections on a public blog (I was actually very hesitant to post this, but I kept it anonymous so I'm OK with it), but I will say this: sometimes it helps to see that other people are being rejected, too!

Speaking of: The Screaming Guppy just posted about a different form of rejection: when you have to reject a fellow writer's writing during a critique. The comments on this one are pretty good, too.

11 comments:

PJ Hoover said...

Wow. I'm speechless. What a jerk. At least it makes a good story for you to tell, and just wait until you're published and you then relay the story to crowds. They'll love it.

Windsong said...

Wow! I am so sorry. I'm glad that you didn't ascribe that beta's opinion into your life. We all do get rejected, but sometimes I think we have to take into account the merits of the person rejecting us to keep things in perspective.

The Screaming Guppy said...

Thanks for linking over to my blog. :)

And, that is the one problem we do face. Some people are just mean. Criticism needs to be constructive, even in honesty. You can say things that aren't fun to hear - but if you can't do so in a way that is constructive - aka, giving reasons why you don't like it - it's a failing on your part.

Kudos for not letting it get you down. At least not for too long. :)

Litgirl01 said...

I guess that goes to show that what one may think is trash...another will see as a treasure. Ya never know. :-)

Lady Glamis said...

Harsh feedback hurts especially when it's rude, I do agree. But distance always helps, and so does knowing what to take to heart and what to throw out.

Good for you to believe in your work. It's the only way to succeed in this tough business!

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry. That guy is such a jerk!

Christina Farley said...

That guy sounds horrible! So glad you didn't stop writing. And I'm sorry about your recent rejection letter. Sounds like an agent to avoid.

Linda Kage said...

It continually amazes me how inconsiderate some people can be. I'd like to rage on about it, but I probably shouldn't.

Way to go, though, Beth, for not letting that beta reader make you stop doing what you love to do!

Robyn said...

I HATE REJECTION! WAAAAAA! Aren't we glad you didn't let that beta reader stop you. What a creep!:)

beth said...

No worries guys--that jerk happened YEARS ago, so I'm safely over him! But I do think it's important sometimes to think about how rejection--and criticism--can be bother good and bad.

Steph said...

Wow Beth, this makes me both sad and mad. There's no reason to say that to a writer. But screw him. It sounds like you're very dedicated to your craft and that's the number one thing. Chin high!

Steph