Monday, January 30, 2012

Suzanne's Minxy Guide to dealing with the dreaded R

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.


Joanna said...

Very best of luck with the outcome of your partial and thank you for this excellent advice on rejections.
I think it's important to remember that everyone gets them, none of is immune, but we all have to get over it quickly, pick ourselves up and carry on.
I usually allow myself a maximum five-minute sulk first.

Catherine Coles said...

I feel your pain *munches chocolate*. Although, it has to be said, you have a quite wonderful success rate and should be immensely proud of yourself you fab Minx xxx

Maya Blake said...

A chocolate cupboard...*sigh* I'd invest in one in a heartbeat if I didn't fear my every-spreading backside would expand to the size of a small country!

Hugs on the ridiculous wait, hon!

Romy Sommer said...

Hugs on the 13 month wait, Suz. You're sounding incredibly healthy in spite of it, but here's another box of virtual chocolates anyway. (They're soft centres, but don't worry - I've alread removed all the ones with liqueur inside).

Anonymous said...

I have a shelf in my pantry that always has a 3 pound bag of Ghirardelli chocolate chips. I take a handful every day.

A most excellent post, and very very wise advice!! Sending you my best wishes for a positive outcome, Suzanne.

Cheryl said...

Well you certainly convinced me at point 1. And I agree - chocolate makes everything better - well except the size of my bottom but I cant see it so ignorance is bliss.

I hope you get success with your work - stay positive - we spend enough time cursing those Rs as it is.

Jennifer Probst said...

This is a fantastic post and SO true! Great suggestions and I have used every one of them with tons and tons of rejections and years writing. I kept believing and finally did it and I KNOW you will too - hang in!

Amalie Berlin said...

Excellent advice. Have been thinking about the diversification thing for a while.. now more inclined to try it.

I am sadly more pessimistic in my 'length of wait' assumption. The longer it goes, the more I assume it *has* been read, but that there's so much to change that it would take a whole week to draft any sort of revision letter. I procrastinate projects that seem massive.

My doubt-crows are nasty little %@#$'s :)

Teresa Ashby said...

Great post, Suz and some terrific advice (and what happens to those subs we never ever hear about - where do they go?)
Fingers crossed you get good news after all this time, but good for you having a plan in case it does come back xx

Jackie Ashenden said...

Love the advice, Suzanne! My wait is at the four month mark but am not expecting anything for...well...maybe another six? Diversification is the key I reckon. The awesomeness of the Jackie is too great to be limited to one publisher. *laughs hollowly*

Nina said...

Great post! And very true.On all counts. I turned to short story writing when I first realised that I wasn't miraculously going to become a succesful category romance authour overnight or even overyear or at the rate I'm going over decade!! And after a few attempts I realised that I could sometimes write short stories that someone actually liked enough to buy!! Not for every magazine by any means (though I'm working on it!) and not every story but it still gives me a warm fuzzy feeling whenever a story is accepted.
Fingers crossed for your partial - surely you have to hear back soon - and may all your baskets bear fruit!
Nina xx

Patsy said...

I'm not going to count my rejections as I suspect I may have received more than you.

Christy Kate McKenzie said...

You have just named my biggest fear. What happens if an editor likes your story enough to request a partial or full but then by the time they get to it they have moved on? It seems terribly unfair. Surely they won't do that, will they?

Also, I can't imagine a year wait. I'm sure (or maybe I hope) to have the chance to wait, then at least I will have received a request, but a year?! I'll be insane. I can't even wait for microwave popcorn to stop popping before pulling it out!

Caroline said...

Great post Suzanne (as always!). Love your PF stories BTW - so keep writing them! 13 months is an *awful* long time to wait though. But you never know....Caroline x

Jenny Beattie said...

I couldn't possibly have a chocolate cupboard. The only way I know it's time to stop eating chocolate is when it's all finished, gone.

Good luck with the one out on submission.

Judy Jarvie said...

So very true!
It's why I have to take solace in knitting occasionally. I sometimes briefly go in the huff.

Crossing everything you hear soon!
Long waits are no fun.

Kath said...

Excellent advice, Suzanne. All we can do is write as well as we can, target our markets sensibly and then trust to luck and good timing which do sometimes work in our favour. xx

Elissa Graham said...

I found it hard to go past advice point number 1 - chocolate fixes 80% of everything. 100% efficacy is only achieved when it's teamed with a decent glass of bubbly stuff.

Perhaps your submission was so totally awesome that it's doing the rounds of the office so every employee knows what 'stunning' really looks like?

Now I kid you not my captcha is: upers so that's got to be a good omen, doesn't it?

Diane Fordham said...

Excellent post and excellent advice THANK YOU! :-)

Maria said...

Fabulous post, Suzanne. I found myself nodding at everything you said. Especially the bit about chocolate. If your partial returns, get it out there again, there are other publishers after all. But maybe it won't!

Keep thinking positively, the best is yet to come!

Sally Clements said...

Have decided that this year, I'm going to say 'self publishing'. So Self publishing!
Much better for the mental health - of me anyway!

Suzanne Brandyn Author said...

Great post, Suzanne. I know of that R letter you hastily press with the pad of your index finger. They are not personal as a lot of publishers don't accept what I write also. As you say it's a part of the industry. We all have them.Don't get your hopes up too high on the bigger publisher. I was almost there, right to aquistions, then no no no, too much romance in it. It sucked bigtime.
Congratulations on getting to where you are. It's a big step.
All the best and I'm starting to hang out as you now, waiting for the news.
Good Luck.

Suzanne :)

penandpaints said...

Great advice, Suzanne! You have had lots of success too, you should be very proud of yourself.
You're right about the choccie, I had two cream eggs yesterday when PF said no to my re-write.
Never mind, must write something new!
I hope you hear some good news soon about your partial.

Sue Blackburn said...

Fabulous post Suzanne. So positive and reassuring. Stay positive about your partial too - you're a brilliant, successful writer don't forget that:o) xx

Suzanne Ross Jones said...

Thank you all so much for dropping by and for your lovely comments.

Apologies for the delay in replying - problems posting, again. It's getting a bit tedious. I'm also having problems logging into the google forums, which is why I've been a bit quiet on those, too.

But - and most of you will have heard this because I've talked of nothing else - I heard back about the partial. It was good news - a full request. So now I'm busy polishing - having used up a tin of Mr Muscle and I'm now onto the Mr Sheen. Pledge is next. Am very scared about sending it in.