I keep meaning to write this post, because I think it’s an important topic — personally and professionally — but my hands have been so full with reviewing and writing lately, I haven’t taken the time to do it.
You may recall a couple of months back, that I was taking a shot at writing outside my comfort zone to answer a special submission call for Harlequin Desire. I discussed a bit in that post some things I actually know now are in direct violation of good writing habits:
- Write what you know/love: I almost NEVER read contemporaries, and the only Harlequins I read as a rule are Nocturnes (hello PNR). I certainly have no experience with CEO, cowboy, secret baby, or forced/arranged marriage romance. Plus, I hadn’t written anything new in over 3 years. I had no business just sitting down and spitting out an outline, a synopsis, and three chapters of a genre and formula I knew nothing about.
- Have more than one first reader: Goddess bless my mother, but she’d rather be doing Sudoku than reading romance novels. She never reads my PNR/UF or needless to say, my steamy LGBT and darker stuff. She gave this a try because it was plain old contemporary (not that it’s plain or old — it’s REALLY DIFFICULT. I just mean that there are none of my usual cuckooberry flourishes like magic or fangs in there). She worked hard to edit. But she’s my mom, and she’s not going to be hard on me.
- Don’t write such a piece in less than two weeks: I was trying to get my writing life back together after my illness, and I in no way gave the piece the attention it deserved. It needed at least three more passes, and if I had done them, I would have realized the story just wasn’t going to work as is.
But let’s move on from those lessons learned. What I really wanted to talk about is rejection and success.
If you’re a writer, you’ve heard all the rejection advice before: don’t take it personally, learn from it, get used to it, keep each rejection as a badge of honor. It proves you ARE a serious writer, and that you keep working like every professional artist does to get better and hopefully reach success.
We all know the stories of popular writers who were rejected dozens of times before they sold their first novel (except Stephen King ). I have a few books under my belt, and I’ve gotten rejected quite a few times myself — for a manuscript that won an award or three when I first completed it. You just never know what’s going to tickle which editor on what particular day.
Here’s the thing that a lot of people don’t say (or think): Rejections are precious, and invaluable teaching tools. Even the ones that just come in a form letter let you know that maybe you need to go back and read the mss again. Maybe you should set it aside for a while, get away from that particular world, and come back refreshed to look at it again — it can be exhausting to read the same story over and over again. A rejection can tell you all kinds of things you might want to think about. As long as it NEVER makes you think about giving up.
The best kind of rejection, of course, is the kind that comes with a personalized note or comment. I’ve been lucky enough that almost all of mine have had something. A few even had encouragement to try submitting again at another time, or change something and try again. Some have pointed out a passive voice issue I’ve had for years, and still continues to plague me. Others have pointed out other things (*cough*wordiness*cough*). But each and every constructive piece of criticism has been another tool in my writers’ box. Rejection is one of the most worthwhile things that can happen to a writer.
So what is the agony of success? I’m not talking about being chased down the street or inundated with crazy love/hate mail for selling billions of books or what have you. I’m talking about a number of things us normal, everyday published writers experience: fear of internet-style flaming in the form of “reviews.” Becoming complacent when you’re published enough to have a comfortable amount of money coming in — no matter what, you always have to keep practicing, keep learning, and always listen to your editors and first readers, even if you don’t always agree. Then of course, there’s a big one: you’ve had a wonderfully received tome or two… and now you don’t feel like you have another one in you. You do. You just might not have it all right this minute. Go easy on yourself, just KEEP WRITING. Ignore the haters.
This is one of the things I adore about NaNoWriMo — it gives you permission to write 50000 words of shite. No one is going to judge you. You don’t even have to write a coherent novel or novella. As long as you put your rear in the chair every day, it will happen.
The reaction I got for the piece I submitted in March was actually a relief. I never wanted to write Harlequin Desires. I didn’t really care a lot about the plot I sketched out (although I liked the characters, and it was fun to write a different heat level of sex than I usually do.). Spending the next three months on it would have been a bummer, and held me back from a bunch of stuff I really wanted to do. (Fangs! Pretty boys in love! Ghost stories!)
So sometimes, a rejection is exactly what you were looking for. The loss of an advance was kind of a bummer, though.