Own Those Rejection Letters–And Start Getting Requests

If you write and submit your writing, you will get rejected. Repeatedly. Harshly. Or you’ll be ignored. It’s like in Lost when Rousseau warned Sayid about Benjamin Linus: ‘He will lie. For a long time, he will lie.’ You will be rejected—for a long time. But the good news is that one magical day it’ll all turn around. You’ll open your e-mail. The name of an agent will be there, waiting for you to click on it. In your heart you know it’s another rejection. You don’t want to read it. But you open it, as you knew you would. OMG! It’s not a rejection, it’s a request; Jennifer Jackson wants to read my entire Iconocop manuscript (for example)! Believe me if you are persistent, if you build your knowledge repertoire and name, it will happen.

IT’LL TAKE YEARS: I know, you’re thinking you’ll be the exception. Your first MS is phenomenal, the next Look Homeward, Angel. Let’s be real: your first manuscript is borderline trash. Put it in a drawer, write for another year, and then dig that 250,000 word behemoth out and give it the once-over. You’ll be eating crow, sure as sugar. Same goes for your second beast. My first two works of naiveté are safely tucked in a drawer where they can’t hurt anyone with their offensive prose and meandering plot-holes. Submit your third. By that time you’ll have done what many wish and fail to do: you’ll have written that novel you always wanted to write. You wrote it, finished it, and then repeated. Congratulations, you’re a writer on your way. You’re clinging to that Writing Ladder like a champ. Don’t keep revising that first epic fantasy. Move on to the next project. Challenge yourself; write in a different genre, use a different POV. Submit shorts to e-zines and contests.

My first MS was a sprawling apocalyptic thriller with Christian overtones. Then I wrote the requisite epic fantasy. Dozens of rejections ensued (fully deserved, as I now see through hindsight). Finally I switched gears and wrote an urban fantasy. That book was Iconocop, first in the ongoing Mythcorp Series. It was with Iconocop that I earned my first request. Andrea Somberg at Harvey Klinger Literary Agency, on reading my query letter, asked to see the complete work. I have a flashbulb memory of that day. On opening her e-mail I let out a loud breath, like I’d been holding it in for years. I’d been down in the dumps, and sorely needed that e-mail. After that I started getting a smattering of interest in my work.

Keep at it, keep switching gears. Listen to your characters (Knox, the MC of Iconocop, told me after 70 pages that I was stupidly filtering his voice through third-person POV and that he needed to be written in first-person. It made all the difference). Keep working. Keep submitting. You’ll start getting those requests. When I did, I doubled down on work, polishing prose, cutting adverbs. How will you react? Think about it. Prepare for success.

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