I really hate getting rejection letters, but even in my short amount of time trying to get published I’ve gotten enough of them. The first few didn’t bug me. I was really kind of expecting them. But as they come in more and more, the critical part of my brain grew. “Are we approaching this wrong?” “Does my novel really suck?” “Am I just deluded?”
I don’t know how other writers handle this. Talking about your rejection letters is a favorite topic for some authors, but it’s one of those that’s usually approached lightly. We talk of it jokingly and shrug it off as much as possible, but at least in the beginning, for me, the doubt remains.
My first round of query letters went to a little more than a dozen agents. A small offering mainly to get my feet wet and get used to the procedure. I didn’t want to be one of those authors that just shotguns the market hoping to hit someone so I took some time and selected a few. After a couple of months all of them had either sent a rejection or met my offer with empty silence.
“I can understand.” I told myself. “These things happen. Keep going.” So I did. I sent out another round of queries. And another. As the rejections increased, so did the doubt. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong or what was wrong with the book. I needed to do something different. I needed a new approach.
The first thing I did was take another really long, hard look at my book. Was it really as good as I thought? Unfortunately, it wasn’t. At the time I had finished writing and editing it was the best I could make it, but I had learned so much in the intervening months. I could do so much better.
I re-wrote, re-edited, and re-imagined. And then I did the hardest thing I’ve ever done while writing. I put it down.
I didn’t print out another hard copy and I shredded the old one with my notes on it. I stored the files for my books on three different computers, two email addresses, and a pair of flash drives. I didn’t want it lost in the interim.
I wanted to give myself time. I wanted to let my mind rest and get obsessed with other projects, other ways of thinking. This morning I opened the file for the first time in six months. I’m going to read it. Just read it. Not edit, not review, just read. I want to see it with fresh eyes. If it’s good, I’ll go back to getting it published. If I can make it better, I will. Then it will go back on the shelf for another month before I touch it again. It’s a slow process, but my novel is worth it.
Wish me luck.