While it doesn’t look like I will finish all the projects I set out to finish this year, I did reach a big milestone. In 2012, I received two rejections from editors to whom I’d submitted my manuscript. Instead of lamenting those rejections, I was humbled by them. These women took the time to contact me personally and explain what they liked and didn’t like about my manuscript.

That feedback, combined with the critiques I’ve received from my crit partners, reignited my spark to continue working with this manuscript. Rejection isn’t just a part of the game–of that fact, I was already well aware. It’s also a crucial component to our success. We can use that feedback to fuel our desire to polish our manuscripts.

The cold, hard, enlightening truth

One editor said that the story wasn’t a fit for her line. She suggested that I hadn’t written a paranormal romance novel at all, but rather, an urban fantasy with strong romantic elements. Her feedback meant one of two things: Either my story wasn’t the type of story I thought it was, or my opening chapters and synopsis needed to be revised to suit the genre in which I was writing.

Photo by Lynn Kelley in WANA Commons

It was great food for thought. My cheeks reddened slightly at the thought that I may have become, quite by accident, the writer who sends her manuscript to the wrong publisher for her story. Or perhaps my opening chapters didn’t hint enough at what was to come and I needed to step it up with some hints of romantic tension. Either way, I saw my manuscript in a way I never would’ve if I hadn’t submitted it.

The second said that, though she loved the story’s male lead, the female lead just didn’t work for her. Neither did the “meet-cute” between the two characters. That feedback, combined with advice from one of my crit partners, got me thinking about how to rework the beginning of my story. I know that I sometimes struggle with structure, especially in longer works. How could I write a story that was true to the characters and realistic given their situation, but one that still captured a reader’s attention? Did I know my female lead as well as I thought I did? How could I help my readers to see the nuances in her character in a way that was relatable?

The wheels started spinning. Dozens of ideas flitted through my mind, some easily cast aside, others grasped and mulled over. I came up with a handful of solutions and chose the best one.

In short, those rejections let me know where I was on the right track and where I was still wandering through the forest. They let me see my own work through fresh eyes, and that perspective jump-started my excitement for this story. Plus, time away from the story gave me the mental distance I needed to see potential solutions I wouldn’t have when I had just finished it.

Bumps in the road: Just another part of the writer’s journey

Slowly but surely, I am becoming a stronger writer. Earlier this year, a friend offhandedly remarked, “Honestly, I figured you would be published by now.” I’m not sure if she overestimated my writing ability, underestimated the complexities of the publishing industry, or was disappointed in my lack of progress. Six or seven years ago, I thought I would be published by now, too. But I’m glad for the journey, for the gut-wrenching hours spent sitting in front of a computer screen grappling with resistant characters or plot lines, for the kindly worded rejections that reminded me that I’m on the right track but not quite there yet, for the bumps in the road that have fueled my determination to stay on my writing path.

This year, through the writer’s block, the migraines, the mystery fatigue, the days I was too sick to write, I’ve learned that now, more than ever, I am on the right path. Instead of losing my drive, I’m more certain than ever before. Instead of feeling disillusioned or defeated, I feel excited by the possibilities.

What about you? What have you learned about yourself as a writer recently? What obstacles has life thrown in your writing path, and how have you overcome them? And how have you learned from rejection in its many forms?

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