After more than 700 rejections (and 107 sales in various guises - thank you very much), I have perhaps had a bit more experience than most of dealing with my work being hurled back at me. Sometimes with a speed that leaves me reeling. (Actually, I'm exaggerating with the 700 Rs - but only because some people don't reply and about half of the submissions were never heard of again.)
Just now, as I celebrate the thirteenth month anniversary of my partial - which was REQUESTED by a big publisher - I'm bracing myself for another big R. They say it's still under consideration, but the cynic in me suspects this is their way of saying it hasn't been looked at yet.
In my vast and varied experience of these things, a reply after this length of time can only have one outcome: Even if they might have been interested had they looked at it when it was submitted over a year ago, by now times have moved on and they will be looking for something completely different.
So, how to cope with that number of knock-backs without going completely bonkers?
1. The chocolate cupboard. Everyone knows chocolate makes things better. Even good days can be enhanced by its consumption. Dedicating a cupboard to it will ensure your supplies never run out and there will always be some sweet stuff to hand when it seems the world doesn't love your writing.
2. Have lots of stories in lots of baskets. If all your hopes are chained to one submission, then if it's sent home with a 'no thank you' letter, it will break your heart. But, if you have other stories under consideration, then only a fraction of your dreams will be tied to each one, so it stands to reason the Rs will sting a little less.
3. Try different kinds of writing. For years, I only wrote category romances. But when I tried short stories, I was astonished to find that not only where they quicker to write (what an idiot) but I also managed to sell a few. I then tried writing other things - such as articles and fillers. My only rule was (and is) that the market I'm aiming for pays. The thrill of seeing your name in print is hard to beat - and sometimes it doesn't matter how you get there. And once you've sold a piece of work, and you realise an editor likes your words enough to pay, it will give you confidence in all your other writing.
4. Never use rejection as a reason to give up writing. If that's what you truly want to and love to do, then carry on regardless. Accept that there are any number of reasons why an editor might decide a project wasn't right for them - and some of them will have nothing to do with your writing.
5. Target your work. There are some markets I'm pretty sure I'll never break into. But that's okay, because there are others who buy a very high percentage of everything I send them. (Can it be a coincidence that these are the stories I like to write best?) So now I make sure most of what I write is targeted to these markets. But I'm also aware market forces and tastes are apt to change, so if these markets start to reject, I'll widen my net again until I find somewhere else my work's suited to.
6. Make plans. My highly anticipated R won't be the end of the world when it arrives, as I'm already planning to tweak and rewrite it for another market.
7. Find a support network - join critique groups and make contact with people who understand. Step forward lovely Minxes and other writing friends - who have held my hand and offered encouragement and advice (and sometimes cake).
It's taken me a very long time to reach this level of acceptance and to view rejections as just another part of the writing/submitting/getting published process. Those of you who've known me a while will probably remember I submitted my first romance for consideration when I was 16. It was written on an antiquated typewriter, over many, many months and returned in the blink of an eye. Even the lovely and encouraging two page rejection letter didn't help. I cried for weeks and went off in a huff for two years.
My giant sulk after the second rejection lasted another two years - during which I wrote nothing. In a parallel universe, where the middle-aged me was around to offer my teen self advice, I'd have gone straight back to the typewriter and be world famous by now. Well, a middle-aged girl can dream.
The waiting though, that's still very hard to deal with, because, despite deep down expecting that R, until it actually arrives that glimmer of hope still lives in my heart, making it impossible to move on properly. And getting on with other things doesn't make you forget your baby's still out in the world awaiting it's fate.
Look out for that invitation to my partial's thirteen month anniversary party.