Rejection and how to handle it

If you’re an aspiring author, then perhaps the most important lesson you need to learn is how to deal with rejection, because believe me, you’re going to encounter a hell of a lot of it throughout your career. It can be all too easy to take it as a personal insult when a story you’ve devoted months, maybe even years to, comes back with nothing more than a cursory:

Thank you for submitting to Really Busy Publishers, but we’re going to pass.

Lesson Number One – Just because they turned it down, that doesn’t mean it’s no good.

Publishers have dozens of different reasons for declining a story. Your voice and style might not be a good fit for the house style, they might already have published something similar recently, your story crosses into genres they’re not comfortable handling…none of those mean it was no good. I found that the hardest part of editing anthologies was sending the rejection emails to those who didn’t make the cut. There were many times that I genuinely enjoyed the story, but it just didn’t have that innate sense of being ‘right’ for the anthology and the other chosen stories. So take it from me, if the editor says they liked your story and you would be welcome to submit to a different call, they probably mean it! I never said it to anyone if I didn’t really mean it.

Lesson Number Two – Think about why it might have been rejected.

Be honest with yourself. Did you read and follow the submission call? Did you format your story in line with the publisher’s request? Did you proofread properly, or was it strewn with tiny little mistakes throughout? It’s hard to self-critique, and that’s why it’s great to have a trusted author friend or beta-reader to bounce ideas off and ask for honest feedback on how to improve if you’re struggling to see the wood for the trees.

And finally;

Lesson Number Three – Don’t forget the stories that were rejected.

Just because they weren’t right for one publisher doesn’t mean there isn’t a home waiting for them somewhere else. I’ve spent the last six years writing and polishing short stories. I would say approximately half of them have been published now, and some of them went to four or five different publishers before they were picked up. There’s no shame in that. If you believe in your story, keep sending it out there – and if you don’t, you shouldn’t be submitting it yet.

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If you have any further lessons to learn, please share them in the comments below!

 

Creativity and chronic pain

I’ve been an author for nearly ten years now, and for all of that time I’ve been suffering from chronic pain in my back. My health issues were one of the main issues I turned to writing and the publishing sector in the first place; I needed an outlet for my creativity, and it had to be something I could do from home when the pain was too severe to get out and about. I’ve always been able to lose myself in literature, and when I realised I could write stories that people liked to read, the solution was obvious.

I don’t usually mention my mobility issues here, as it’s something I find very frustrating. There are days when I can get out and about with not too many issues, particularly if I have my toddler with me and can use her pushchair for support, but more often these days I need to rely on my stick to be able to do what I need to. I hate it. I don’t hate the fact I have to use it – that is what it is, and over the years I’ve come to terms with that. What I hate, though, is that something as simple as a walking stick changes the way the world sees you. People don’t see you; they see the disability. They look through the person as if you aren’t even there. That is something so incredibly frustrating that I suppose I subconsciously sought to keep that part of me separate from my writing.

However, I’ve gradually become aware that that was a mistake. My condition and the pain I suffer is part of what makes me the writer that I am. Perhaps it’s true that pain actually helps the creative process – the trope of the ‘tortured genius’ is well-known, and many luminary geniuses across the whole spectrum of the arts are known to have difficulties with either their physical or mental health.  Of course, I can only speak for myself, but if I’m in the midst of weaving a story together, I do find myself shying away from my medication. Not only do I find it dulls the senses, but the sharp relief of the pain gives me something to fight against, a reason to push through the creative block and defy the odds to get the story out of my head and onto the page.

No doubt it helps that the stories I instinctively turn to all have an element of darkness inside them, but I would love to hear from any other authors or artists who walk the line between balancing their pain and letting their creativity run free. Do you find it an easy balance to strike, or must there always be an element of compromise?