6 October 2012

Defence Against the Dark Arts – Tips for Your Writer’s Toolbox Part 2

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This is part 2 of a series. I recommend that if you haven’t read part 1, that you read it first by clicking here.

In part one I explained how a writer’s life isn’t easy and that we need to be prepared for when the “Dark Arts” start to pull us down. This is particularly important for writers, because for many of us writing isn’t a choice – it’s a calling. This is a special distinction, and is worthy of nurture and protection. I spoke about self doubt in part one, which is the Dark Art that has the biggest pull on me at the moment. It is all part of keeping my journey as a writer – and yours – on track. Here goes, part 2:

Rejection and Bad Reviews

The chairman of my writing group said to me the other day “no one is a real writer until they have had their first rejection letter.” Rejection is part of being a writer, along with old cliché – “you are only as good as your last piece of work.” Nobody is immune from this – just look at the mixed reviews J.K. Rowling has just received for her latest book “The Casual Vacancy”. Writers are under pressure to produce a constant stream of their best quality work. Of what other job do we expect the best 100% of the time without a bad day? Rejections and bad reviews/feedback, which fail to be constructive, can eat up a writer - annihilating their creativity.

We must remember that a lot of writing is subjective. What will suit one publisher, won’t suit another; what one agent likes, another may hate. I’ve just had a pitch rejected from a national newspaper “it’s a moving piece, but it just isn’t right for our pages. I hope you place it.” It’s a rejection, and every rejection stings – chipping away at our self belief. I take the view however that it was my fault for not researching more carefully whether my article was correct for that publication. After all, they never said that it wasn’t any good – to the contrary, they acknowledged it was moving. I’ve learned from that rejection – to do better research before my pitch.

So, rejection doesn’t necessarily mean that your writing is bad; it can mean that your work isn’t right for that publisher at that time. The trick is to do your research and find the publisher that your work is right for. You will sometimes find that you've done your research well and submitted the perfect story/manuscript/article and you are still rejected. If a publisher has recently accepted something similar to your work, it stands to reason that it is merely your timing which is wrong for that publisher.  Your writing and instincts were spot on and you will place your work somewhere else.  Be prepared – I didn’t say that task was easy, but it is worthwhile.

If you still aren’t convinced, this is a list of novels which have been rejected, and subsequently rose to the heady heights of success. Like the men and women who rejected these works, the people who are rejecting your work could end up with massive regrets; make it their loss - not yours.
  • Carrie – Stephen King: This novel was rejected so many times King threw it away. His wife rescued it and the rest is... well pretty well known.
  • The Diary of Anne Frank: Rejected 16 times. 
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s / Sorcerer’s Stone - J. K. Rowling: Rejected 12 times. 
  • Twilight – Stephanie Meyer: Rejected by 14 literary agents before it was taken on. 
  • Lord of the Flies – William Golding: Rejected by 20 publishers. 
  • A Time to Kill – John Grisham: Rejected by 12 publishes and 16 agents 
  • Judy Blume: Received rejections for 2 years before achieving success. 
  • The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkein: This novel took 14 years to complete only to be initially rejected by his publisher. It was eventually taken on despite expected losses. 
  • Dubliners – James Joyce: Received 22 rejections. 
I could go on as this list has only just started, but I think you can see what I’m trying to say. No, being a writer isn’t easy; but if you have the writing bug inside of you it can be so rewarding. You were born to write – nurture that gift and don’t give up. After all; if the writers listed above had given up, their lives (and ours) would be much poorer.

How do you cope with rejection? Let us know by leaving a comment below. You never know – you may be helping to salvage the next Stephen King from the waste bin! Leave us your tips, and keep an eye on this blog for the rest of this series.  If you don't want to miss out, why not sign up to email updates by clicking here?

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M.C.V. Egan and Jolie DeMarco said...

And then there is GREAT HOPE! Thanks for this awesome post a MUST SHARE!!!!!

C. S. Wimsey said...

Thanks so much for the comment - comments like this mean so much. Sorry for the delay in replying - I've been up to my ears trying to help my father settle into a new home. I'll get there in the end :-)

Anonymous said...

This is a really inspiring post, thank you. It is hard not to let those evil thoughts make you doubt yourself. I too battle with it on a daily basis. Even if I do get something published I always think something along the lines of 'oh it must be slim pickings' or some such. It is so important to have that support network to give you that kick up the bum when you need it. I think it's important to react out to those people and not fester alone.

Thanks again for the links. Will follow with interest!