I’ve been a little absent on the blog of late. Procrastinating because I was unsure what I wanted to write about. I’ve read a few books that I’d hoped to write reviews for but I just haven’t got around to it. When I sat down to write today, I realised I should just write about where things are at for me at the moment.
I’ve been querying agents and publishers, locally and abroad, for my completed manuscript- my sixth complete (unpublished) manuscript. It’s not the first time I’ve experienced a series of rejections for my work, but instead of becoming easier, it’s actually becoming harder. Years have passed since I’ve submitted my work in the hope of publication and I know that my writing has improved, I’ve further honed the craft, I’ve developed my voice and I’ve adjusted writing processes to work best for me. So now that I’m delivering the very best of my work out into the world and I’m still getting a “thank you but this is not a good fit for me” response it’s utterly depressing.
I’ve worked with critique partners, beta-readers and even accessed feedback services via the writer’s centre and have received encouraging feedback. There are days I feel like giving up, there are days I feel angry at the industry in Australia (agents who want published writers and publishers who want agented authors) and then there are days where stories are so alive in my mind that I couldn’t possibly tear myself away from the writing process.
Last month I completed (the first draft of) my sixth manuscript, the sequel to my fifth book and it now feels like a redundant project if book 5 is not going to get into the hands of readers.
So what do you do when you feel like you’re close to publication, but not quite close enough? You keep on writing of course!
You know that old saying “to get over an ex you should get under someone new?” Okay, I’m not advocating for a one-night stand, but to just keep on writing. Write something new.
I’ve had a new idea- something completely different to what I’ve previously written- swirling around in my head for a couple of months now. I’ve thrown myself into a new project and it’s already softening the blow of rejections I’ve received…I know it’s not the end of the road. This new idea could open up new opportunities for me.
So here are a few practical tips I’d like to share which have helped me cope with rejection:
1. Don’t give up
Don’t allow roadblocks to get in the way of pursuing your dream. Yes, I’ve had a whole bunch of agents say they weren’t interested in my work and then there are the publishers who respond by not actually responding… But I’ve also had people I admire and respect tell me that my work is good enough. Maybe my story isn’t a good fit for those particular agents or what the market is looking for right now. That’s okay, because I’m going to keep on working at it, not because I think I should, but because I really, really want to.
I don’t read as much when I’m writing, so when I completed my last manuscript I went on a huge reading binge. Published authors always say that writers should read to learn the craft. That’s absolutely true. It’s also a great way to remind you why you love to write. I love to read stories that challenge me, evoke emotion and where the characters stay in your mind for days or weeks after you close the book. I always feel inspired to write after I’ve read a great book. This month I’ve binged on crime fiction, thrillers and a few commercial fiction novels.
3. Challenge yourself
I’ve never been someone who enjoyed doing writing prompts and writing exercises. Apart from journaling and blogging, if I’m writing a piece of fiction then I want it to be words that I add to a novel. But recently, I’ve wanted to play around with different styles of writing and tap into a different aspect of my ‘voice.’ A grittier, darker side that will allow me to explore characters on a whole different level. When I first started writing seriously about eight or nine years ago most of my essays, short stories and half-finished novels were written in first person. It was a great way to access my voice and experiment with different genres. Somewhere along the line I started writing in third person (multiple) viewpoint because that seemed to be the norm in the genres in which I wrote in (young adult, romance, crime fiction). In recent weeks, I’ve been mapping out and planning my next manuscript- which in itself is quite unusual for me. I tend to just dive into a story and pants my way through. But I’m learning that maybe it’s time to try something different. I wrote a random scene that will likely end up in the middle of my manuscript, just to get a feel for my character’s voice. It was a lot of fun. And it was in first person! I sent it to a writer friend and he said “this is what you should be writing, Lauren!” Ah, the power of reassurance and encouragement- it does a lot for a writer’s ego.
4. Think outside the box
I’ve been doing a lot of research of late and I’ve found that the opportunities for writers are endless, When it comes to finding ways to get your foot in the door there are a lot of options; writing competitions, mentorships and various fellowships. A common theme I’ve come across for the various debut authors I follow on social media is that the publication journey often begins with one of the above opportunities. If like me, you feel like you just need someone to believe in you to help you get your writing to the level it needs to be then these options are invaluable.
I’ve avoided writing competitions in the past, but in the past year I’ve sent off my work to a few different competitions and I’ve actually placed just outside the shortlist on a couple of comps so it’s not only a great ego boost, but depending on the comps you submit to you can also get some constructive feedback on how to make your work even better. The Romance Writers of Australia (RWA) is a great organisation who provides in-depth feedback to competition entrants.
I have set out a calendar schedule for the rest of the year with competitions, fellowships and mentorship programs that I’d like to enter this year. They can be quite time consuming so if you plan to do the same, try not to leave your entries until the last minute.
5. Surround yourself with people who get it.
Last, but not least, you need to surround yourself with people who get it. People who bat for you, people who believe in you and people (especially partners!) who don’t mind that you disappear into a world of make-believe at the drop of a hat.
Being part of a wonderfully supportive writing community via social media and also the RWA has helped me feel like I’m not alone in this process. I’m linked with a writer’s group and have connected with several writers who just seem to get what writing brings to our lives. I can’t recommend this enough. I can relate to the writers experiencing setbacks, I can celebrate with the writers who’ve attained success and across the spectrum, I’m part of a community who all love to do the same thing: Write.
So some people might think I’m crazy to start on my seventh manuscript while the other six sit in a metaphorical drawer, I know that I’m the best version of myself when I’m writing, so I’m just going to keep on doing it.
I’d love to hear from other writers. How do you cope with rejection? What brings you back to writing?