The Writers' Life

Redlights and Rejections

My husband hates red lights. He will take a longer route through lesser-used roads to avoid a traffic signal. Red lights don’t bother me. They only last for thirty seconds, or maybe a minute at busier intersections. Sometimes, they even give me time to check the map, freshen my lipstick, or make a phone call before the light changes.

We need to view rejections like red lights—a temporary stop on our journey to publishing a book. Sometimes, we need to find another way to continue our journey.

When I’ve really got my hopes up, rejection hurts. The DFW Writers’ Workshop claps for rejections because they know that writer has finished a manuscript and had the courage to send it out. And sometimes I celebrate rejections with my favorite dessert, a hot fudge sundae, before I get back to writing the best book I can.

Recently, I just got stopped by the biggest deterrent of all.  My publishing company–which had sent me a contract, edited my manuscript, and sent me a copy of my cover—went out of business. Now that’s red light with a capital R. (I had an extra large hot fudge sundae, by the way.)

Did I decide I wasn’t fated to be published? Did I quit writing? No. The next day I examined my options and sent a query letter to the best one.

But I haven’t pinned all my hopes on that one book. As a productive writer, I have several manuscripts that have made the rounds and I’m working on others. In response to a positive rejection by a Harlequin editor who suggested I submit to a different Harlequin line, I’m polishing a trilogy I’ve been working on. I will submit it with a copy of the editors’ positive comments.

And the sequel to my ill-fated novel is about to be critiqued by a published author (a nice benefit offered by the local chapter of my romance writer’s organization). I’ll use that author’s comments to revise my sequel before entering the prestigious Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart Contest. Since I’m not published, I am now eligible for the contest. How’s that for a silver lining?

As I’ve written several novels (that have garnered several rejections), I am also exploring self-publishing, where being able to put out my collection of  books in a short time is a decided advantage. Of course, if I go that route, I will hire an editor to help me fine-tune the story and a cover artist to make it look as professional as possible.  A good package is very important to help sell a book.

In the end, though, what can rejections teach you? You can get  praise for your writing that uplifts your spirits, even though the editor is ultimately rejecting you. Sometimes you receive good feedback about what editors don’t like and then know not to send that type of story to them. If you get a scathing rejection, you may realize how your story needs revising so it will get better results next time.

What else can you gain from rejection? A fighting spirit. Don’t get even, get mad. Show the editors of the publishing world that you can do better, that you are a force to be reckoned with, and that you have what it takes to entertain a reader. So forge ahead and let red light rejections be damned. Nothing can stop a hardworking, determined writer who keeps at it from achieving that dream.

Carolyn Williamson, DFWWW Member since 1977

photo credit: Thomas Hawk via photopin cc

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2 replies »

  1. So sorry to hear about your publisher, Caroline. I thought you finally had it this time. Congrats on picking yourself up and going on. I fear I will be writing the same novel for the rest of my life. And never sending it anywhere!

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