Rejections and the benefit of humility

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Pretty much the second my post about waiting for agent responses hit your screens last month, rejections hit my inbox. You know that saying, “It’s raining cats and dogs?” For me, it was raining No’s and Also No’s.

I took it hard – harder than I should have for someone who’s been through this before with another novel. The reason is something I’m going to confess to you even though it casts me in an unflattering light, because… I don’t know, there’s just something about you, random internet stranger, that makes me feel like I can open up to you.

I had been cocky.

I had this notion that all these agents would be DAZZLED by my premise and come pounding at my door for the chance to read more. When those agents were distinctly not pounding, my big fat arrogance-balloon got its air let out and went “ssppffflllll” around the room.

Then came the fear. Had I misjudged it? What if my book was actually a flaming pile of garbage? I opened my first few chapters to panic-edit and found sentences so terrible I couldn’t believe they snuck past me before. What else had I missed??

At the same time, though… I rediscovered things I loved about the story. Those things calmed my doubts and invigorated my motivation. I remembered how much I believe in this book.

So after that brief flail-a-thon, I got back on even ground. Weirdly enough, feeling less than rock-solid certain about my novel makes rejections… easier? …to take? When you’re cocky, any contradiction to that pulls the rug out from under your feet. When you’re cocky, anything less than success makes you cry out “BUT WHY??” But when you’re humble, you get to feel hopeful. You get to focus on the delight of the maybe. You get to feel gratitude for any progress you make. When you’re hopeful, you get to look at what’s ahead. Rejection feels bad, but hope… Hope feels good. 🙂

For those of you also in the query trenches, how is it going? Had any bites on the line?

~ Noel

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22 thoughts on “Rejections and the benefit of humility

  1. I can empathise. Several years ago, I submitted a fantasy to one agent – the agent I’d decided would represent me. I was busy looking for a bigger house while they negotiated the advance cheque…

    …and then the rejection letter arrived. I almost packed in writing, but instead set about doing all I could to journey to ‘as good as’ I once thought I’d been.

    It’s been over four years since I was rejected, and I’ve written many novels since, and beta’d dozens for others. Right now, I’m just preparing to submit once again. It’s likely I’ll still be rejected, but I know each new novel I write shuffles me that little bit closer to ‘good enough.’

    I wish you well and, should you wish it of me, I’d be happy to beta for you in the future.

    Please, keep writing, because each penned word moves you that bit closer to an agent’s ‘yes.’

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh Gary, I’m so sad to hear you stopped submitting after only one rejection!! 😦 It takes many MANY submissions, even for great writers, to get a yes. (I realize the irony of me saying this when here I was, not long ago, getting all frowny-faced over just a few rejections. But let’s ignore than irony for now.) I’m glad you’re about to submit again and I hope you give it more than one no before rushing off to write a new novel. Please! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ah, no, don’t be sad. It wasn’t that I stopped submitting, but more I started learning! I’d surrounded myself with sycophancy – people who’d told me I was as awesome, and it was so much easier to believe that than walk the hard miles to where I’d imagined I’d always been. I wasn’t disillusioned (for long), wasn’t giving in, but worked with some very clever people who pointed out I was still in my writing infancy. With their help, I improved.

        8 novels and several million words later, I read your post at the point I was ready to start querying again. – Thing is, I’ll query every agent on the planet now as, although I know I’m still improving, I also know my words have value. Back a few years ago, they were nihilism and despair, an eclectic combination of adverb and aberration. Many an eye boiled in its socket attempting to absorb the literary wasteland that was my gibber-prose.

        But now I write well.

        And, remember, I’ve read an excerpt of yours in the past, and so know you write well too. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    • I had to give up on a novel too (my first one), at least for the time being, even though I thought it was truly good. I feel your pain, and hope the best for whatever you’re working on now. Maybe the market will shift in the future and our earlier books will have another chance.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Had my third rejection the other day. When I first started writing the novel I was cocky, I secretly thought it was the best thing anyone would ever write. But I was well over that by the end and was just greatful to finish it. Like you I still believe in the story but I’m realistic about the prospects of publication. You never know though that next one that comes back could be the one, that goes for both of us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re right – even in a sea of no’s, it only takes one yes. Maybe everyone needs a tiny bit of cockiness to make it through writing a novel. It’s such an enormous effort – we have to believe the book is worth more than its trouble. If that’s what motivates us to the end, then maybe that’s okay. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Admittedly I only know you through the wonders of the interweb…but I have to say you strike me as one of the least cocky people-persons I’ve ever “met”. It’s a difficult tightrope – you have to be confident and believe in what you’ve written but I can also understand why that can make you feel as if you were being cocky. You have talent, imagination and passion – but even the most talented, imaginative and passionate need some luck along the way. Keep at it – sounds like as always you’ve turned something negative into something upbeat 🙂 I’ll be in the query trench one day – just as soon as I can navigate the chasm of eternal tiredness, traverse the crevasse of self-doubt and finally span the grike of lethargy that has splintered my clint of enthusiasm.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Awwww, this note made me smile, thank you. The support of friends makes it much easier to bear. 🙂 Haha, make sure you take a left after the crevasse of self-doubt! When you get to the forests of demoralization, blow your encouragement whistle and a bunch of friends in the form of woodland critters will carry you through, chirping nice things about you along the way. I’ll be with them. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh Noel, I’m sorry to hear that. A novel is a huge investment of time. It’s a niche market though, so keep wiggling your line until the right person falls in love with it and bites. I just submit poems, so it’s not as dire if they say no. I did write a kind of funny epistolary poem a while back using lines from a rejection letter (the kind designed to be PC and spare your feelings). I’ve been encouraged by my writing group to submit it, to find a home for it, so I can’t “publish” it here, but could tuck it into a personal email if you’re interested. It might make you feel better. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your encouragement, Joan! I’m still in the early stages of querying, so I’ve got some options. Oh yes, I would love to read the poem! Great idea, creating it from rejection letters. I’m sure I’ll be familiar with a line or three. 😉 I’m not sure if I should publicize my email for all to see, but if you go to the “social media” tab in this blog’s menu, there’s a contact form.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The contact form wouldn’t show bold type, gray type, or italics (all crucial to reading the poem), so I sent it as an attachment to the gmail address associated with your WP account. It is shown when you leave comments on my WP site. Enjoy. I’ve gotten my share of rejection letters, as you will see from my tongue-in-cheek parody. 🙂

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  5. I know how you feel! The worst part is, for me, when the rejections (and sometimes even the “I’d-like-to-see-mores”) leave me crippled with self-doubt. Like you, I start frantically rereading my opening chapters, worried about what I’ll find. It helps me to remember that a rejection isn’t a rejection from the entire industry — it’s just a rejection from one person.

    It’s also weirdly comforting sometimes that the odds are stacked so high against us, because that means I can EXPECT a “no” — and be pleasantly surprised when it’s not a “no.” (Or at least not immediately!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • You hit the nail on the head. When I was all puffed up with myself, I expected yes’s, so the no’s were bewildering and crushing. But when no’s are expected, then they feel normal. Plus there’s no further down to go – only up.

      That is… unless….. we keep submitting……… and keep getting no’s…………… FOREVER…………………………………. but I’m trying not to think about that right now!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Bracing yourself is a good thing – it’s better than being surprised by them. EVERYONE gets rejected, usually lots of times, so it’s really quite normal. I hope that helps. Best of luck! Is this the one about the Victorian girl who likes being possessed? 🙂

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