No one wants to receive a Dear John, Dear Jane, or Dear Writer letter. Whether it’s from an ex-lover, an agent or an editor, rejection is rejection and it’s painful.
There are varying degrees of rejection. Some can actually inspire you, while others can be downright hurtful. Yet no matter how good or bad they are, our egos and confidence take a beating. Initially, we may want to:
• Scream and rip the manuscript to shreds
• Start revising the book–at that moment–from chapter one.
• Burn the rejection letter along with the other 50 stuffed in the desk drawer
• Become BFFs with Jose, Jack or the Captain.
• All of the above or a few of your own creative choices
Yes, I know. It hurts like hell.
But the next day, after the hangover and putting out the fire we started in the trashcan, we grab our manuscript, and tape it back together. Then we try to behave like the professionals we are, and take this rejection as a sign of getting closer to our dream. And remember, the most successful authors were rejected. I might add, some none too nicely.
I ran across an interesting blog, “One Hundred Famous Rejections,” complete with the blogger’s editorial comment(at the end in italics) that I thought could make any aspiring writer struggling with rejection, hopeful. (I only saw 78, listed. However, I’m sure they’ll have a complete list in no time.)
Here are a few from their list. I urge you to look at the rest.
Famous Rejection #1: F. Scott Fitzgerald
F. Scott Fitzgerald, considered to be one of the best American writers, wrote The Great Gatsby in 1922. While the book is now ranked #2 in Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century, he once received a rejection letter that read: “You’d have a decent book if you’d get rid of that Gatsby character.” I believe history would beg to differ.”
Famous Rejection #43: Nora Roberts
Bestselling romance novelist Nora Roberts has written over 209 novels! We think that deserves repeating. Two hundred and nine novels, which spent a combined 861 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List. But, before all that, there was rejection.
[Nora Roberts] submitted her manuscripts to Harlequin, the leading publisher of romance novels, but was repeatedly rejected. Roberts says, “I got the standard rejection for the first couple of tries, then my favorite rejection of all time. I received my manuscript back with a nice little note which said that my work showed promise, and the story had been very entertaining and well done. But that they already had their American writer. That would have been Janet Dailey.” Nora found a home with Silhouette books, and since then romance has never been the same.”
Famous Rejection #69: Louisa May Alcott
“Little Women” would never have seen the light of day if Louisa May Alcott let rejection hold her back.The editor of Boston’s The Atlantic magazine, James T. Fields, told Alcott’s father, “Tell Louisa to stick to her teaching; she can never succeed as a writer.” As far as rejection goes, that one is pretty harsh! Fortunately, Louisa May Alcott never took it to heart. Instead, she told her father: “Tell him I will succeed as a writer, and some day I shall write for the Atlantic!” Not long after, she did!”
Rejection #72: Jacqueline Susann
“Novelist Jacqueline Susann is famous for her book Valley of the Dolls, which sold over 30 million copies. She’s also known for a particularly nasty rejection letter. Editor Don Preston initially wrote this about Susann’s initial manuscript:
“…she is a painfully dull, inept, clumsy, undisciplined, rambling and thoroughly amateurish writer whose every sentence, paragraph and scene cries for the hand of a pro. She wastes endless pages on utter trivia, writes wide-eyed romantic scenes that would not make the pages of True Confessions, hauls out every terrible show biz cliché in all the books, lets every good scene fall apart in endless talk and allows her book to ramble aimlessly…. most of the first 200 pages are virtually worthless and dreadfully dull and practically every scene is dragged out flat and stomped on by her endless talk… I really don’t think there is a page of this manuscript that can stand in its present form. And after it is done, we will be left with a faster, slicker, more readable mediocrity.” Wow. Now that’s a rejection!”
Famous Rejection #76: Chinua Achebe
“Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” has been considered a milestone in modern African literature written in English, and is one of the first to receive global acclaim. It has sold over 8 million copies worldwide, been translated into over 50 languages, and was selected as Time Magazine’s 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005. And, it too, was rejected: It was sent to several publishing houses; some rejected it immediately, claiming that fiction from African writers had no market potential. Finally it reached the office of Heinemann, where executives hesitated until an educational adviser, Donald MacRae – just back in England after a trip through west Africa read the book and forced the company’s hand with his succinct report: “This is the best novel I have read since the war”. In 1958, the publisher published 2,000 hardcover copies, and the rest is history.”
Lesson in all this?
If and when you get another disappointing ”Dear Writer” letter, take another glance at some of the most famous authors who had their work handed back to them. And remember, they prevailed. We will too.
And one more reminder. Stay true to you and your book. F. Scott Fitzgerald didn’t take out Jay Gatsby, did he? If he had, we would have been reading “The Great Whathisname.”
Chin up and keep writing because it only takes one YES.