QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Guest Blogger: Jim Warner-Rejection Blues: Part 1

We are delighted to feature a guest blogger this morning. Jim Warner submitted a two-part article on a topic near and dear to all aspiring authors: Rejection.

Part 1: The Blues

Rejections. They’re the bane of every aspiring author.

They come in the form of polite form letters or emails, sometimes personalized, sometimes with the dreaded “Dear Author” at the top. Your query was unsuccessful. You’ve been bounced, declined, rejected, or fireballed. Maybe it’s your first, or maybe you’ve got so many of the damn things your file cabinet is a fire hazard. No one likes being told they weren’t right for an agent or publisher. It always stings. But sometimes, it hurts.

When it does, you’ve got the rejection blues.

Maybe you’ve got past the query phase. Maybe you got a request for a partial or full. You got your foot in the door. Someone thought enough of your project to read more. Maybe your hopes were sky high, you thought you were going somewhere, you’re on your way to seeing your name in bold type on a book cover.

Then the letter comes.

“In the end,” the letter says, “I thought it wasn’t up to our standards.” Or they didn’t have enough enthusiasm. Or they liked it and they just didn’t think they could sell it. If you’re like most writers, you can probably add a dozen other taglines to this litany.
A rejection at that phase really smarts. You wonder, “What did I do wrong? Was the writing that bad? What could I have done differently?”
You’ve got the rejection blues.
The other day, I was reading the comments page on a particular agent on this very website, and a woman mentioned that she just didn’t feel like it was worth writing anymore. I don’t know why she felt that way. Perhaps she’d taken one hit too many, read one too many lines like, “Thanks, but no thanks.” Or, “This is not for me.” I won’t put words in her mouth, but I know one thing for certain.
She’s got the rejection blues.
I bet you get them too. But don’t be alarmed. I know a cure for the blues.
In music, there are various techniques for getting out of a blues scale. You can transition from a minor key to a major one, or resolve a diminished chord into a perfect fifth, or change modes. As a writer dealing with the rejection blues, you have to do much the same thing. You have to keep your chin up.
Changing keys while playing a song is not always easy. It can be a tricky compositional problem, and it’s hard to do well. As a writer, dealing with rejection is also difficult. But you have to keep the faith. You have to learn how to handle it.
Because, if you’re going to break into the publishing business, you’re going to take a lot of hits. You have to find a way to deal with rejection. It’s a personal thing, much like the act of writing itself. What works for you may not work for me, and what works for me may not work for you. Worse, what works for you may not work for you next week.
But you still have to learn to change keys. In my next post, I’ll give you some ideas on how to do just that.

* * *

Jim Warner turned to writing fiction after he discovered that there were no jobs available for an intergalactic spice smuggler. He's sold everything from liquor to luggage, worked in academic and public libraries, and has composed over a hundred pieces of music. In college, he majored in American history and anthropology. He has completed six novels, including four urban fantasies, a horror piece set in Dark Age Paris, and a science fiction/mystery thriller.

Part 2 of Jim's Rejection Blues will be posted tomorrow. Thanks again, Jim, for sharing your time and talent with us.


Candyland said...

Excellent post! And something we all know a little (or too much) about. Can't wait for part 2!

Brenda Drake said...

Thanks for the post Jim. As far as querying goes, I think I'm sort of bipolar by now. Manic one minute Depressive the next. Can't wait for part two.

Claude Forthomme said...

Me too! Can't wait for part 2! This is a great description of what it feels like...

Unknown said...

This came at just the right time. I received a rejection for a partial. I get the rejection part, to each his own, but with comments like my characters or premise lack depth with no inkling as to how or why, I am lost. Bewildered. And left scratching my head. I hate this Limbo, this place where you just aren't sure where to go or what to do next.

Victoria Dixon said...

Yes, just in time to remind me not to put the cart first. I've got a requested partial waiting to go and I've already got so many dreams and expectations.... Thanks!

John Hazen said...

I always find the best cure for the rejection blues is to sit down and reread one of my novels. It reminds me that the real reason I started writing was for myself, not for anybody else. It reminds me that I never feel more alive than when I'm writing. If I ever do get published, that would be great, but I'm not going to lose sleep if I get a rejection letter (or 2, 3, 4...). I feel for that woman who was looking to chuck writing altogether, but I think she needs to look inside herself and ask why she was writing to begin with. She shouldn't need someone else's validation if she really loves what she's doing.

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Charli, those rejections are the worst, when they tell you your characters are flat or your storyline predictable, but don't tell you how or why. Press onward, though. One thing I've learned is that one agent's trash is (sometimes) another agent's treasure:)

Thanks, Jim, for the guest post.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful inspiring post. Seriously, thank you for writing it. I haven't even began that rejection journey but I know it's coming and I will definitely keep all you say in mind because I know it's a tough world out there.

Tara McClendon said...

I love the comparison to music and the blues scale. I have never thought about the rejection blues and changing keys, but I will keep it in mind if the blues hit. Thanks for the post.

Julie Musil said...

What a great post, and I can't wait to read part 2. Rejections do sting, but what keeps me going is writing more material!

Jen J. Danna said...

Thank you, Jim, for an excellent and thoughtful post. I'm deep into the query phase myself, but I've been lucky to stay out of the rejection blues for more than a moment or two. I think I'm very realistic about the difficulties associated with breaking into the publishing industry, but I'm bound and determined to give it my best shot. I've had enough requests for partials so far that I've at least stopped doubting my query letter (which I was doing when the initial rejections started coming in). BUT, I haven't had responses from any of the partials yet, and I'm trying to prepare myself for that being a bigger blow. This is where the rubber meets the road -- that will be a rejection of my writing, not my query letter. So, as I prepare myself for the blows yet to come, I'm looking forward to your words of wisdom because I know they're about to come in handy...

Yvonne Osborne said...

Great post for my rejection blues. Changing keys is hard, much as changing time, or changing the blank page to one filled with words that beg to be read. Rejection of requested fulls is harder than rejection to requested partials which are harder than rejected queries. But at the end of the day it's all rejection. I look forward to Part II.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great post. I can't wait for part 2. I haven't even started querying and I suffer from this.

Stina said...

Can't wait for part 2.

Oh, lookie, I don't have to wait. Part 2 is above this one. :D