Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Rejection Stinks...Or Does It?

I got my first rejection letter. It arrived in my mailbox three weeks ago, and it came from an agent who requested my book proposal at the ACFW Conference.

I filed it away for safe keeping for now. I think I might frame it in the future and put it up on a prominent wall next to my diploma.

Now don't get me wrong. I was majorly bummed when I read the words in that letter. I took a moment to have a pity party, then called my husband and had another pity party, then emailed my fellow Alley Cats and had another pity party...well, you get the idea.

But then I realized something. I had graduated from the school of Afraid-to-Put-Myself-Out-There, and this letter was my diploma.

I mean, think about it. How many fishermen buy all the necessary equipment, then sit on their front porch and cast a line at the sidewalk? No, they go to the pond where the fish are.

And in September, I stepped off my porch and went to the pond where the agents and editors were. Got a bite that turned into an empty hook, but that doesn't mean there isn't another fish in the pond that wants my worm.

The cool thing was that my rejection letter had specific feedback of what didn't work in my story. So now I can make my worm a little juicier and maybe lure that big fish over.

So yes, rejection stinks. For a little while.

But now I'll...pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again.

How do you respond to rejection? Do you have any stories of how rejection made your writing better or propelled you to the next level in your writing career?

*Letter photo by Luigi Diamanti /
*Fisherman photo by Tom Curtis /


Renee Ann said...

I believe rejection or failure can be God's way of leading us. If He didn't close certain doors, I know I'd burst through them! As far as writing goes, I tried a few non-Christian outlets for my writing. Rejection helped me see that the only reason I write is to express some aspect of who I am in Christ. And Christian fiction does that. Not that I've been successful there yet! LOL! But the journey is so much sweeter!

I can't imagine God would've hooked you up with the folks you met at ACFW and your fellow Alley bloggers if He didn't have good things in mind for you, Sarah. We'll be reading your novel yet! Blessings!

Sarah Forgrave said...

Renee Ann - Oh, you're so right about bursting through doors. Thank the Lord He knows what's best for us even when we don't!

Wendy Paine Miller said...

Congratulations on the graduation. ;)

I threw myself out there prematurely three+ years ago. Good things came even from throwing that line out.

I love that you might frame it!
~ Wendy

Heather Sunseri said...

I love that he gave you recommendations on making your story stronger, and I'm guessing you got some idea of what works. That's a huge step in the right direction! And your story is great. So, maybe that one rejection is just one more step to the special person that will launch your book to where it's supposed to be.

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

I think I fear throwing myself out there too early, like Wendy said, so I haven't done anything to garner any rejections. I am thinking next year is the year to take the leap and start the rejection file. I've got to get that thick skin going, you know!

Julia M. Reffner said...

I'm like Sherrinda here, haven't done anything to garner rejections yet. I'm getting used to putting myself out for the critique thing :)

Sarah Forgrave said...

Wendy - Interesting to hear you say good things came from prematurely putting out your line. I think we have to keep that perspective no matter what happens or else we'll go insane. :)

Heather - Thanks for the vote of confidence! I'm anxious but peaceful, if that makes any sense.

Sherrinda - I was totally in your shoes earlier this year, and I'm glad I waited. I spent some time and money on improving my craft, and I think that's how I got the requests I did at my first conference. Not saying I've arrived a loooong ways to go before that ever happens. :)

Julia - Critiques are the first step. Can't learn until you get feedback, right? :)

Saumya said...

Rejections can be amazing! I got a detailed rejection that told me exactly what was right and wrong about my manuscript. I did have to start rewriting but my work is so much stronger now. I would have never given it the chance to become better if it were not for that rejection. And it takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there so props to you!

Krista Phillips said...

Ohhh, I decided to frame my first rejection letter too! Funny, it was from the same agent as yours! (Mine was in 2008 though... and was VERY much applicable, my writing stunk!)

To me, it is a right of passage. "Almost" everyone gets rejected the first time. So I got the first rejection out of the way and could now focus on getting accepted!! Not there yet (and have had one more rejection...) but that too was a step.

YEAH for putting yourself out there! The first one is hard... the ones after that, I think, I get a bit easier. The wait for a response never does though, unfortunately.

Sarah Forgrave said...

Saumya - I recently read an article by an agent that said the typical agent only provides detailed feedback in less than 5% of their rejections. So we can both be thankful we made it into that group. :)

Krista - I've heard that particular agent is notorious for rejecting ideas, so we can count ourselves among the many. :) And I agree on the waiting...torturous!

Casey said...

Sarah, what a great post and I love your analogy about the fisherman, so very true. I haven't submitted yet, mainly because I don't want to burn a bridge before I get there type of thing. I would really like to meet the agent/editor in person and see if there is an interest there first, like what you did. But I think you have a great attitude and besides more lessons are learned from losing than winning, through winning is often so very nice. :) Go ahead and frame that rejection, it just might be the fuel for your fire! :)

Kaye Dacus said...

I DID hang my first rejection letter on the wall beside my diplomas---right next to the one that says I have a master of arts in Writing Popular Fiction, because the letter from this particular agent said I needed to study the craft of writing.

I took the letter down when I received my author copies of that same manuscript when it was published almost exactly two years later. So don't give up!

Sarah Forgrave said...

Casey - Meeting editors/agents face to face really is invaluable, in my opinion. So if you feel like your writing isn't quite there, I say wait until it is and then put out the feelers.

Kaye - I love your story! It had me chuckling...the image of that letter next to your master of arts. And what a great example of success!

Mary Vee Writer said...

In addition to the writing talent God has given you, he also has made you an encourager. The fisherman analogy is such a help. Sometimes it is hard to buck up through rejection, but when there is a reason, one like the fisherman story, then it is much easier.
Thank you for posting and sharing your experience.:)

Pepper said...

Great post! Congrats on your bravery. It takes guts (and a little insanity) to take the leap like this.
One thing Ruthy (from Seekerville says often) is that if you don't try, you will fail 100% of the time.
I'm moving on up to the latter 20s in my rejection pile. Sigh. But there's a right time and place for my stories, just like there is with yours.
You are a beautiful writer. You'd have to be to get to the place you did with the Genesis. But I've also been privy to your story. (I LOVE sneak peeks). You are talented.

How do I handle rejection?
Eat chocolate.
Read someone else's writing so I can disappear for a while from my disappointment.
Get inspired to write.
And the cycle starts again :-)

Maybe I should have prayed first and THEN eaten chocolate. Hmmmm....

Danielle Diez - Maiden of Emmanuel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sarah Forgrave said...

Mary - You just sent encouragement right back to me. Thanks! :)

Pepper - Oh, if only I would think to pray BEFORE I eat chocolate, I wouldn't have to be on a diet right now. *sigh* Thanks for your kind words. And I love Ruthy's true!

Danielle Diez - Maiden of Emmanuel said...

Your optimism is cool and congrats to the rejection letter.
I did say congrats, so no need to reread the sentence.
I hope to see a post about a published book of yours for the first time and I'll definitely be looking it up, but till then, it's awesome you had the courage to actually be courageous.


Sarah Forgrave said...

Maiden - How fun that I'm getting congrats for a rejection letter! :) And oh boy, I'm sure my friends at The Writers Alley will be some of the first to hear me screaming whenever I get "The Call".

Casey said...

And you'll hear the screams right back Sarah. :)

Patti Lacy said...

I'm really proud of you, Sarah. BECAUSE you are listening to GOD'S call to write and accepting a big part of the game.

Believe me, it's hurry up and wait every step of the way. And I'm about to start book five.
They like this part. They reject that.
And then the readers, who hate this one, love that one.

But isn't that LIFE????

You go, girl. I'm on your side.

Sarah Forgrave said...

Casey - We'd better warn the blogosphere before the screamfest then, huh? :)

Patti - Thank you so much for the encouragement! And now's the time to build the thick skin, since it sounds like I'll need it for the rest of my writing career...oy vey...I need to see a dermatologist.

Sandra Stiles said...

No one likes rejection letters. Before school started this year we were asked at our first faculty/staff meeting to tell one of our long term goals we are working toward and one hurrah! I listened to everyone talk about wanting to go to Ireland or Australia, etc. When it was my turn I said my goal was to get my book published. My hurrah? I had just received my first rejection letter. The principal had a funny look on his face and asked how that was a hurrah. I replied. One down before the right one comes along. Where would I have been if I'd not taken the chance? Congratulations. I know the right fish is out there for you.

Sarah Forgrave said...

Sandra - Great story about your hurrah! We're a sick lot, aren't we...choosing rejection letters over Ireland, LOL.

Angie Dicken said...

I have totally been in your shoes...rejection inspires me to prove myself even more!! :)

Catherine West said...

I once heard that you should treat each rejection like a stepping stone. I think it's a great visual. Yes, they suck, and it's hard, especially when there is no reason given for the rejection, those are the worst. But what I found was that for each 'bad' rejection I received, there would come a 'good' one - where the editor would take time to make a few comments about what she liked/didn't like and ultimately why the story didn't work for them at that time. Those are the truly stellar rejection letters we should all strive for! LOL! Keep going, friend, you can do it!