Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Don't Bang Your Head

by Julie Coulter Bellon

I was sitting on my living room couch watching my five year old son spin around and around in circles. He probably spun around thirty or forty times before he stopped and staggered forward laughing until he got the hiccups. I smiled as he gulped a few breaths then began to spin again, going in the opposite direction. After another forty spins or so he laid on the ground, hiccuping and laughing. I used to spin as a child, getting that dizzy feeling as the world tilts crazily around you.

Sometimes I think that feeling is akin to sending a manuscript off and hoping that you will be accepted and published. It’s a little bit of a giddy feeling, perhaps you smile or laugh as you imagine the publishing company opening your manuscript and eagerly reading your work. But, then the hiccups come and, a few weeks later, the world tilts again as you open a rejection letter.

When the world rights itself, and you pick yourself up off the floor, you will have to begin to process the fact that your precious book wasn’t accepted.

But here are some tips I found for coping with rejection.

1. Laugh at your rejections. I personally took heart in that one of my rejection letters had the phrase in it that the timing wasn’t right for the "LSD market." Just seeing that little typo made me laugh and helped make the rejection sting a little less.

2. Learn from your rejections. Even though I threw my rejected manuscript under my bed and pouted, telling myself that I would never write again, eventually I did get it out, dust it off and make the suggested changes, which resulted in a published book. I wasted time pouting, and should have put aside my pride and just made the changes sooner. Alas, I am human, and have a sensitive soul, but rejections are part of the writing business and it can be brutal. I must say that I have learned something from every rejection, however, and am still learning what it takes to be a writer.

3. Always have a new project underway, something that will give you hope no matter how many rejections come your way. I believe that I have improved as a writer with every book I’ve finished, so I always try to have a project in the works when I have a book in the submission process. Not only does it improve my skills and give me hope, but it gives my mind and hands something to do while I wait to hear on the submitted manuscript.

I also have two quotes from other authors regarding rejection that I particularly like. Isaac Asimov once said of rejection, "I personally kick and scream, and there's no reason you shouldn't if it makes you feel better." Of course, I like this quote because it made me feel a little better about my pouting episode. The other one is from Barbara Kingsolver when said that: "This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don't consider it rejected. Consider that you've addressed it 'to the editor who can appreciate my work' and it has simply come back stamped 'Not at this address'. Just keep looking for the right address."

Isn’t that a great analogy? Just keep looking for the right address. There were several famous authors who kept on looking for that right address and didn’t give up even in the face of multiple rejections. For example:

Dune by Frank Herbert – 13 rejections

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – 14 rejections

Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis – 17 rejections

Jonathan Livingston Seagull – 18 rejections

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle – 29 rejections

Carrie by Stephen King – over 30 rejections

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell – 38 rejections

A Time to Kill by John Grisham – 45 rejections

Louis L’Amour, author of over 100 western novels – estimated over 300 rejections before publishing his first book

John Creasy, author of 564 mystery novels – 743 rejections before publishing his first book

Ray Bradbury, author of over 100 science fiction novels and stories – said to have had around 800 rejections before selling his first story

The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter – rejected so universally the author decided to self-publish the book

From a rejection slip for George Orwell's Animal Farm:
"It is impossible to sell animal stories in the U.S.A."

From a rejection slip for Norman MacLean’s A River Runs Through It:
"These stories have trees in them."

From a rejection slip for article sent to the San Francisco Examiner by Rudyard Kipling:
"I'm sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don't know how to use the English language."

From a rejection slip for The Diary of Anne Frank:
"The girl doesn't, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the curiosity level."

Rejection slip for Dr. Seuss’s And To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street:
"Too different from other juveniles on the market to warrant its selling."

So I guess the moral of the story is to never give up no matter what anyone says and no matter how many rejections you get. Improve it, change it, do what you think is necessary, but if it is a project you believe in, never surrender. Keep spinning and keep writing even with all the hiccups along the way.

Someone once said the difference between a published author and an unpublished author is that one never gave up. And I believe that.


At 1/24/2008 2:55 PM, Blogger Anne Bradshaw said...

All this is joy to the writer's soul. Thanks for the reminders, Julie. I'm copying, printing, and pasting on wall. Wahoo for rejections!

At 1/24/2008 6:23 PM, Blogger Jon said...

While I can sure appreciate the philosophy behind dealing with rejections, at what point do you humbly say, "Maybe my book is crap."?

On the other hand, my wife (the editor) regularly sees books* that are in dire need of scooping, if you know what I mean, and yet they make it to the editing stage.

It seems like after 100 rejections, to keep going would be some sort of obsessive-compulsive behavior. "SOMEone out there will take this!" (cackling madly)

I do have my own secret weapon, though, when the time comes. Jeff will help me with my query letter. That should get me in the door! (Jon cackles madly.)

* None from the Six, though. She's liked those.

At 1/24/2008 6:36 PM, Blogger Josi said...

Wow, it's inspiring to know such talented writers got rejected as well. Great post, julie.

At 1/24/2008 7:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Honestly, Jon, I would think it would have to be up to the writer. If you are getting some feedback on the rejections, it's up to the author to take it and make the changes or not, to decide whether the work is really crap or not and when you want to give up.

You could be like Beatrix Potter, who got UNIVERSALLY rejected, and self-published, because she believed in her work. (Didn't that happen to Richard Paul Evans, too? He was universally rejected so he self-published, The Christmas Box?)

I don't know if anyone else can make the "my work is crap" call except the author, is my opinion. After 100 rejections though, I think I would personally make some drastic changes or start another project. LOL

Julie Bellon

At 1/24/2008 10:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think writing for the "LSD market" might be kind of fun....

At 1/24/2008 10:30 PM, Blogger Nancy said...


Loved your post. That's such a good reminder, and comforting for not only those times when we face rejections, but bad reviews, as well. I've been known to wince a time or two when I see a review of my stuff online that really stings.

And of course, they've been wrong. ;-)

Nancy Allen

At 1/25/2008 12:11 AM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Great post, Julie. I see that my rejections and I are in very good company!


Post a Comment

<< Home