Make Rejection Your Motivation to Grow
We hates it, precious. We hates it.
Rejection stings. It undermines. It tarnishes every writing success you’ve ever had. That was all you had, it whispers. You already peaked, and it’s downhill from here.
And yet, we can’t quit writing, can we? At heart, we’re incurable story-tellers with the lives of characters pulsing through our blood. We can’t stop writing. But if we let rejection infect us, we’ll never break out of its cycle.
People say, “It only takes one yes” and “The business is so subjective.” These things are true, and remembering this might help you stop weeping and binging on your comfort food of choice. But it doesn’t help much when you face your next blank page. Since you can’t control the whims of the publishing business, you must take control your own journey as a writer.
I’ve experienced a number of rejections lately, including on a project I thought was a sure thing. Rather than keep cranking out similar stories and expecting a different outcome, I’ve taken a long hard look at my work and asked myself: Am I bringing the best I have to the table?
It’s not that these projects weren’t difficult. I swear, I tore my hair out over some of them. But I’ve come to realize that if I don’t learn something new and vital about the craft of writing in each and every story I write, then I’m not growing and learning as a writer. And if my works have been rejected, maybe it’s because that lack of growth is apparent.
One of the most common reasons for rejection—and the most puzzling for writers—is: I didn’t connect with your main character’s voice. If you’re like me, you’ve banged your head on your keyboard over that one. What’s wrong with the voice? What did she mean, she didn’t connect with it? How do I fix what I don’t understand?
Some of the things I’ve started to question about my own writing, especially as it pertains to voice, are:
- · Am I choosing the right point of view for the story? Or have I defaulted to the point of view I’m most comfortable with?
- · Have I given POV to the right characters? (Considering how my drafts change over time, have I recognized that a POV character in the first draft has lost importance as the story evolved, while another character has gained importance?)
- · Have I delved deeply enough into character arcs and fully explored my characters’ emotional crises and eventual growth? Or have I simply skimmed the surface because going deeper makes me uncomfortable?
And, not directly related to voice, but looking at my projects holistically:
- · Have I tried something new or stayed squarely within my comfort zone?
The last time I had a big book deal was when I left my comfort zone of historical fiction and ventured into urban fantasy. When I started that project, I didn’t think I would ever finish it. But I did. And now it’s a three-book series.
In the past year – in between the weeping and the binging – I’ve done my best to grow and learn as a writer. I’ve explored new genres and tried my hand with different points of view and verb tense. I took an old manuscript that came this close to selling and rewrote it, changing the POV and delving deeper into character emotions. I took POV away from a character who didn’t need it and gave it to a character who had more agency in the story. I outlined a book from start to finish – which is not something I normally do. And I started a project that is way out of my comfort zone.
I’ve decided to stop looking at rejection as a condemnation of my writing and start looking at it as impetus for personal growth.
Who wants to join me?