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?
Growing sure does happen when we branch out. Changing it up with pov sometimes works great too.
Rejections are hard, and I am sorry that you are going through them. But your way of looking at them is great. I'm with you on trying to do that and try also to be realistic about the publishing world. I really don't want it to govern how I think of life because it's so negative sometimes. Hope you're doing well, Dianne. Miss seeing you around.
Not connecting with the main character is a common reason I reject a story that otherwise had great potential. Often it does just need to go a little deeper.
Great points enjoyed reading.
I'm a strong proponent for using what people say about my writing as a way to become a better writer. Great post.
Rejection is the worst. Doesn't get any less painful. I hates it, but I'm gearing up to query my fourth project anyway. No other way but forward.
Hi Lisa - such an appropriate post ... we can all learn, and should always be learning or guiding others - but it's great you've decided to move on - good luck ... you have it in you for more series - cheers Hilary
Thanks all. As painful as rejections are to read, they truly are a lesson in writing!
I think if I continue writing, I'll have to dig deeper as well.
Great post, Dianne. I remember celebrating my first query rejection - made me feel like a real writer! :)
Excellent post, Dianne.
I totally agree that every new story hold a golden nugget of self-discovery on my writing journey. It's fun to approach a new manuscript with a different approach.
I needed this post, because I'm working on a manuscript and think maybe I'm staying in my comfort zone too much with it. It's fun, but have I really learned and grown as a writer yet? Maybe not.
Most of us reach a point where we stop pointing fingers at those who say no and start looking in the mirror for answers.
Are we doing this wrong? Are we good enough? Should I call my uncle and see if they're hiring at the lumber yard?
The one thing I have noticed since I dove in to this world is work ethic. Most of the writers who have a goal figure it out instead of walking away. They ask questions. They rip up their plans and start over and they continue to write.
Writers are the most amazing group of people I have ever met. They are the modern day version of Rocky. They never stop.
Great stuff. Thanks!!!
Very interesting post, Dianne. It's given me a lot to think about. Thanks for sharing your experience with me! And thanks for posting this Tyrean!
Thanks for all your comments!
Turns out I needed this post this week after some feedback I recently received. So, I'm adding a new question to ask myself about my WIP:
Is the Protagonist acting out of choice or necessity? Being forced into action is always more interesting ...
I'll join you!
How are you? It has been ages, hasn't it! I miss our chats from time to time. You are so right about rejections. After my second book came so close to publication so many times and never really understanding WHY... they love the query, love the premise, ask for the full, you wait and wait and wait, and then, "Sorry. It's just not what I'm looking for. I don't love it enough."
UGH!!!!! Not sure what to say to that. So after about thirty rejections, I gave up. Haven't written a thing in over two years...until NOW.... Delved into an extraordinary new project. A memoir of all things! The woman I am writing about is larger than life. An ICON if you will from the 50's-70's. What she did is just not to be believed for this time period. Kay, the woman I am writing about is no longer with us. I am writing the memoir through the memories of her daughter who 'Lived' through what this insane woman put her through. Think Auntie Mame gone wrong.... lol. Although hysterically funny, by today's standards the daughter would have been taken away from her for child neglect. BUT, back in the 50's and 60's, as long as there was food on the table and roof over your head, you were a good parent. Yikes!
I posted a little snippet on my blog if you get a chance to pop over. It will certainly put a smile on your face. Already have 12k words down and I just started it three weeks ago. Well... I guess I should get back to writing, but when I saw your name pop up in my feeder, I just had to drop by and say HI....
Lots to think about here...
Trying new things and getting out of one's comfort zone, which is a scary thing, is a sure way to grow!
Rejections hurts, but as you stated, if used the right way, it's an opportunity to grow and improve.
Oh my goodness, thank you for this post. I really needed it.
I have received several kinds of rejection. The best come with a note of why my manuscript was rejected. All others I just know this is how the business of writing is.
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