Someone said something to someone recently that got me thinking about a thing that happens to writers a lot. Rejection.
It wasn’t even a rejection of my own work that led to this thought. Although I had my own latest rejection came very soon after.
I heard a story recently about someone whose work got rejected and instead of shrugging it off, having a little cry/drink/tantrum in the comfort of their own cupboard-under-the-stairs/bathroom/shed with a large stash of chocolate/glass of wine/Netflix, this rejected author shouted and raged at the publisher. Really. Not just in their head/under said duvet/into afore-mentioned bottle of wine. (See how fast THAT escalated – it was only one glass a minute ago.)
Now, I’m not gonna lie. I’m shouty. And opinionated. And I don’t like people disagreeing with me or rejecting me or my work. But it happens, and I’m (occasionally) a grown up. I try to remain professional (mostly). And, ultimately, I want to be published, so annoying any publisher in this industry by screaming and raging about the unfairness of their decisions and how wrong they are would seem like a Bad Idea. As in most industries, people talk to one another. Do I want to be that person labelled industry-wide as ‘difficult‘, ‘stroppy‘, or even ‘a total bitch‘? Nope. I want to be ‘She’s great to work with‘, ‘she’s professional‘, and I’ll take a bit of ‘she’s kinda fun‘ if it’s going spare too. But difficult, narky, abusive? No thank you. I’m not planning to bash the nails into my own coffin. So why would someone do that?
Well, because, when you get a piece of work rejected, it feels like this:
And we all feel it. It’s a natural response. Imagine if you’ve just given birth and the nurse says ‘Damn, she’s ugly.’ (Yeah, yeah, newborns can be, but that doesn’t mean anyone is allowed to astually say it out loud.) As a writer, our work can feel a lot like a new born baby (with just as much crying and sleepless nights, probably). We don’t want to hear that it wasn’t worth it. Imagine someone cut the heads of every flower in your garden, tore the cover of all your books, tipped paint across your carpets, peed in all your wine bottles … any or all of those … or something else.)
It sucks. It hurts. We don’t like it.
But, guess what? Publishers get a bazillion submissions from a bazillion writers and there are bazillions of words to read and not all of those words are always going to fit in the space they have available. Sometimes, they literally do not have room. They may love your story, but also have twenty other stories that they also love (‘Someone has to be sacrificed – we can’t all fit on the lifeboat‘). They may love your story but it doesn’t suit that particular publication (‘Yes, your sundress is truly exquisite, but you can’t wear it to the Arctic dinner dance’). They may think your work has promise, but other writers sent in something better (‘Ooh, I love donuts! – Wait – that one has icing and sprinkles, I like that one more’). Also, writing is subjective – maybe your work is great, but it doesn’t sing to that audience (‘It’s great Jazz, but I love Pop’). Or, sometimes, your work actually does suck. Sorry. It’s true. That piece may not have been your best work.
So then what do you do? Oh yes, we covered that! You scream abuse at the person who rejected it. That’ll do the trick. They will see the error of their ways, immediately sign you up to write another fifty pieces for them and tell everyone how lovely you are.
Erm, Nope. Shouldn’t think so, tbh.
Here’s another idea:
Segment Purple, by the way, covers a mulitude of things from re-submitting elsewhere right through to rewriting the piece. I’ve done both. And all the stuff in-between.
I hinted at the start that I recently had a piece rejected. I’m going Segment Purple on it, because it was also Segment Green. It wasn’t right for the submission. But it’s damn near perfect for something else, and I already know where it’s headed.
Meanwhile, I’m scrubbing, polishing, re-writing other rejected pieces that I’ve collected over the years, and I’m going to find homes for most of them. Some will be completely unrecognisable. Some will be mere shreds of what they started as. Some may be a fragment of an idea, a single sentence chopped free from the ones around it. Some will be almost unchanged. What none of them will ever be (I hope) are the pieces that get me a bad reputation for taking a rejection so badly I shot myself in both feet and killed my publishing opportunities forever. If one of my rejections becomes That Piece, I’ll deserve what comes from it.
Please do leave a comment to tell me where you take your rejection sorrows. I like to take mine on a long dog walk. That usually shakes them off.