"Failures, repeated failures, are fingerposts on the road to achievement. One fails forward toward success." - C. S. Lewis
This is honestly one of the most depressing topics to begin this blog with, but it's the common thread that bonds serious writers together. From Rowling to Tolkien to little old me (say it ain't so!) we've all heard those two little letters squished together in what we learn to identify as heart-crushing defeat: NO. Granted, mine was just this morning when I was yelling at my cats, and it had nothing to do with writing...
The truth is I've lost count of the number of rejections I've received. It doesn't really matter. Writing is about more than rejections. It's about more than dreaming of being a best-seller, or having the instant success, or seeing your book be made into a blockbuster. Writing is about passion. It's hard work. It's studying articles, accepting criticism, opening your soul up and bleeding onto a page, it's about constantly getting better and better whether someone is representing you or not.
Now, I'm coming at you from both sides of the table. I know what it's like to be in the slush pile, and I know what it's like to have an agent. (The secret? It's not much different, they're both really hard work because writing is a job.) Having an agent can be extremely validating, though. (We'll talk about that when we talk about choosing the right agent next week.
In the meantime, how do you handle it? Do you eat a bunch of ice cream? Do you walk away? Do you give yourself a number of rejections and then move on to a new manuscript?
I'm not saying my way works for everybody (but it is me, so it probably will). If you believe in your manuscripts, and you believe that you've got a great idea, fight for them. WAIT!!! There's a way to fight for them. If it was rejected, odds are the industry professionals saw flaws. Be open to that. Get books on writing. Study them. Read writing articles. There's such a thing as editing your manuscript for grammar, but do you go through and rip it apart seam by seam deleting whole chapters and even good writing for the sake of a better story? If a scene is unnecessary, cut it. Dialogue that doesn't develop anything even though it's cute? Slashed. (We will have a series in Write it Right on Manuscript Mayhem, these are just typical suggestions.)
The bonus about Manuscript Mayhem, is oftentimes you will turn your novel into an entirely new creature, so to speak. When I expanded my abilities to include an almost clinical eye that can identify weak writing, even if it is my own, I learned how to become a better writing version of myself, and I started producing the type of work that I was proud to put my name to. The best news? Your new novel might surprise you with where it ends up going.
So, I suppose you have to ask yourself...is a rejection really a failure, or is it an opportunity to become amazing? I tend to look at it the second way, not just because it sounds better, but because I truly believe it. I have gotten better and better as each NO made me stronger and stronger. I invite you to do the same, and to remember that agents are desperately seeking for their matches. They can't take on everybody, though I know many who wish they could. Since they can't, let's show them that we're not just anybody.
P.S. Always ALWAYS save drafts, don't just delete your hard work. You never know when those tidbits might come in handy.