The Timeless Art of Getting Back on the Horse

We’ve all been there.

I got rejected by a BIG publishing house editor around 10 days ago and I haven’t really been able to share the information until now.

Some of us use the dear joan letter as a springboard for our next plunge into an alien world and rebound with a kitbag of ideas; others take rejection (from an agent, a publisher, an editor – they all hit hard) very personally and never surface again.

But there is part of me that uses the kick of the mule of rejection – timelapse included – as a way of getting back up on the animal; I think I come to terms with my own vulnerability, start to look at the wounded soft centre as a way through, as a tool to create a gentler version of a particularly difficult character, or to be ruthless and throw out a superfluous scene.

For me that’s a better way  than to allow the rejection process to gag and bind me into hardening and toughening and ‘becoming the adversary’.

Been there; done that.  And it doesn’t work because I’m still me inside. I live with me and my characters, my story are part of me.  Something phenomenal came from my keyboard and I’m not going to let it go.

It’s not easy to say this.  But I have slept on it.

Writers are traditionally loners by definition.  I think the part of this writer who feels most miffed is the invisible self-critic, the one on alert all the time; so being told by the ‘expert’ what I already know: that’s a little of a let-down. 

The thing is, the other comments were really helpful, constructive, even complimentary.  I liked having my writing style compared with Sheri Tepper; Barbara Kingsolver;  and yet sustaining a ‘fast pace which manages to stay just the right side of chaotic’ (?)

 I like chaotic.

But putting it out there, stretching out the young shoot and having it nipped by frost – again:  that is the hardest to handle.  It implies not good enough. Compromise, adaptation, tailoring required.

There are those who react to a negative response by thinking their work is somehow mediocre, not complete; needs re-grouping, splitting into two separate books; compromising the original idea which was to write a great big exciting blockbuster to end all blockbusters.  

Why then let the dream die?

Why shouldn’t the original dream  be more real than the  ultimate short story mini-format adaptation the publishing industry thinks it wants?  We know it’s the reader who counts : s/he’s the one with desire to read our book in the mindset we originally conceived it: holed up in the imagination, carried along by the story, wanting to see what happens next.

It’s the reader that keeps us in the novel business.  The publisher is incidental.  Heavens, don’t let them know I said that.  I might get rejected – again.

I don’t intend to offend the big publishing houses – if indeed there are personalities left to offend.  They are necessary to the whole works.  There are, however, one or two little things they should know: people have, do, and will continue to read. The book business isn’t going to die.

Like the rest of us it’s currently going through a process of change.  

One thing a new-age spiritual discipline teaches me is change can make or break me: make or break any enterprise. It’s up to the individual to see change (in this instance, rejection) as failure or potential success. And no outside critic is more valid than my own fierce inner censor.  

But a writer has to lay down his tools when it comes to the query letter  because it requires a different mindset to write, a commercial approach that’s usually foreign to the novelist, the romance author, the passionate thriller-writer.  Unlike the industry:  they have the edge on us. They get to use tools – like arbitrary filtering, rejection – that have kept them in business: it allows them to do what they do best: publish books. They get to shut out the best, the middling and the bad at the first hurdle, just because that’s what they have to do.

I like what Randy Pausch says in The Last Lecture

‘The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.’

I agree.  I’m not other people.  I’m going to make this one work.

Explore posts in the same categories: Authors, edit, publish, fiction, non-fiction, publishing, writing, muse, inspiration

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2 Comments on “The Timeless Art of Getting Back on the Horse”

  1. Devon Says:

    Wise words my dear friend. I have learned a bit about rejection being in business all these years. I’ll spend hours, days, maybe weeks on a proposal that a potential client has asked for. Often, they will not even pay me the courtesy of a reply. People can be so rude. Most of the time the proposal is not accepted. Sometimes it is and I make a living. I don’t know. Is death by a thousand cuts better or worse than a swift beheading? At the end of the day you are right. The fiercest critic lives within. You know if your writing is good, great, bad or indifferent. Rejection by a “Big Publisher” is not a value judgment. It means that at this time your work doesn’t meet their needs. Their needs may change (unlikely), your work may meet some other publishers needs (possibly), or you can alter your work to meet their needs. Writing for the crassly commercial market may be aesthetically less satisfying, but it is what professionals do. If you don’t get published and you don’t get paid, you are a (hopefully) talented amateur. The brick walls are for other people. I like that.


  2. I’m glad we agree: dear Devon. Not that I ever doubted. You have a particular flair (or so it has seemed to me) of one who attracts just what he wants to attract. It’s an art. But your support on this particular hiccup is tangible and I thank you. We go at things with vigor, passion and belief in ourselves and our work and it comes as a shock when the world ‘out there’ sees it differently. Must be the saddle I inhabit; I never was any good at proceeding at a canter or a mild trot; certainly never side-saddle. Always at full gallop. Is there a lesson in there? No. I hope not. Walls are for other people.
    And bless you for commenting on the 4th July. Means a lot to me.


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