Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Rejection--Stings Like a Bee

by Julie Coulter Bellon

I’ve recently read several blogs from authors whose work was rejected. They were going through all the emotions of frustration and sadness, wondering if their work was any good or if they should just give up entirely. After all those months of waiting, it seemed so unfair and cruel to them to have the final answer be, “no.”

Most authors go through this. I did. I submitted my first novel to three LDS publishing companies. It was a heady feeling because back in those days, you printed the manuscript out, went down to the post office and mailed it. Just holding that thick envelope and seeing that I had done something worth submitting to a publisher made me smile on the drive there and the drive back. I got a post card in the mail a few days later from one of the companies saying they’d received my work, and I think I smiled most of that day as well. But a few months later, I received another letter from two of the companies that said thank you for submitting, they could see I’d spent a lot of time on the manuscript, but it was something that they couldn’t publish at that time, etc. etc. Although one of the letters had a typo in it where they’d put the “LSD market” instead of LDS and oddly, seeing that little typo in my rejection letter made me feel better.

When the last rejection came through, I did the one thing no author should ever do. I gave up. I put the manuscript in a little box and shoved it under my bed. I told myself that my writing was probably only good enough to be bound at Kinko’s and given out at family reunions. My manuscript sat in that little box for over a year. I thought about it now and then, but I never touched it. Finally, one of my author friends asked about it, wondering what had ever happened to it. I looked at her and said, “it was rejected.” She sort of looked at me funny and asked if I’d revised it at all, or started something new to submit. I said no. My one and only manuscript was under my bed gathering dust bunnies. She shook her head like she couldn’t believe what I’d just said. After that conversation, I went home and pulled it out, including the rejection letters. One of the letters had come with evaluation comments and I read those over. Somehow, after leaving it alone for so long, those comments didn’t sting as much and I saw the merit that they had. I went down to my computer and pulled the manuscript up and started to make changes. I was surprised at how good it felt and how much I could see where the changes really did need to be made. My author friend kept asking about it, and encouraging me to submit again, which, after several weeks of revising, I did. Within ten days I had an answer from the companies I’d submitted to---answers that were two offers. I chose the one I felt the best about and the rest is history. My book came out later that year, and I’ve published five more since.

But even though it turned out well for me in the end, I wasted a lot of time. I should have kept writing and revising, instead of having a little pity party for myself. I mean, rejection is hard for anyone to take, and I think any author who gets a rejection letter has the right to take a step back, eat chocolate, make a scrapbook of rejection letters, tell your best friend, whatever makes you feel better. But the important part is to get back on the submission saddle. Don’t let a few rejections beat you. Maybe your work needs revision, maybe you need to research different publishing houses that could be a better fit for you and your work. It might take a bit to figure things out, but once you do, submit again. And remember, rejection can be a polishing tool for your writing and will make you a better writer, author, and champion of your work, if you let it. Just don’t let your writer’s journey lead to a dusty old box under your bed. Let it lead to a published book on a store shelf, because, as my favorite quote says, the only difference between a published author and an unpublished author is that one gave up and one didn’t.


12 Comments:

At 10/14/2010 3:54 PM, Blogger L.T. Elliot said...

Good thing for good friends. So glad she kept asking. So glad you kept going. Late to the gate or not, it doesn't really matter if you win at the finish line, right?

 
At 10/14/2010 4:11 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Well said, Julie! Your quote reminds me of one from Jack Bickham where he says he doesn't know any authors who failed, but he knows many who quit. Rejection is (a very unpleasant) part of being a successful writer.

 
At 10/14/2010 4:35 PM, Blogger Tamara Hart Heiner said...

amen! I'm a firm believer that any book can get published w/ enough revisions. throw nothing awy! loved the typo too. maybe they were typing w/ a baby in the lap...like me...

 
At 10/14/2010 5:58 PM, Blogger T.J. said...

I love rejections. They just affirm to me that the publishing world doesn't know what they're doing.
Ok, not really. But I do feel like each rejection I've received, I've learned something about my work. Even though I've had form letters, I've realized what I was missing from them.
I'm glad Tamara is a firm believer in revisions. She'll be seeing request to read one of mine soon. :-)

 
At 10/14/2010 7:02 PM, Blogger Shanda said...

I'm so glad you pulled that dusty box out from under your bed. :)

Loved this post, Julie.

 
At 10/14/2010 7:26 PM, Blogger Michael Knudsen said...

Fantastic story, Julie, and an inspiration to all who have felt like giving up!

 
At 10/14/2010 9:50 PM, Blogger Julie Coulter Bellon said...

L.T. I am so grateful for all my author friends--old and new!

Stephanie, I'm going to add that to my fave quotes as well, especially because it's so true.

Tamara, I learned to type one-handed quite well when I had a baby in my lap. So happy you have your sweet baby. :)

Shanda and Michael, thank you. You made my day!

 
At 10/15/2010 8:06 PM, Blogger Rachel Ann Nunes said...

I'm so glad you had the courage to go back to the manuscript, Julie, because look at all the other wonderful books you've written since then! A little kick in the pants does us all some good. Kind of fun giving them occasionally, too. :-)

 
At 10/15/2010 8:14 PM, Blogger Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Thanks, Rachel! You always have been good for a kick in the pants. Does this mean it's okay to say you were my "author friend" and not have it sound like I'm name dropping? :)

 
At 10/17/2010 9:51 PM, Blogger Krista said...

Yay! *clapping hands* Very good story. I'm so glad you pulled that box back out!

 
At 10/19/2010 12:37 AM, Blogger Rachel Ann Nunes said...

What? It was me? Now I'm blushing.

 
At 10/20/2010 7:03 PM, Blogger Julie Wright said...

awesome. glad you didn't give up :)

 

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