Lately I have had rejections on my mind. There is no particular reason for it, no painful angst or sting of a recent rejection fueling it. Just a random thought that popped into, and lodged, in my quirky mind. Perhaps it’s because my mind has been especially creative of late, and this is simply one more creative seed to sprout.
I happened to unearth some rather famous writers who also suffered the rejection dejection syndrome before they became famous to the rest of us. Actually, it was in the latest Writer’s Digest magazine and I found it an interesting read.
Stephen King, the King of Horror writing, tossed his early draft for Carrie into the trash. From 1971 to 1973, he wrote he was “vulnerable, the the vivid dreams and ambitions of childhood seem to pale in the harsh sunlight of what we call the real world.”. His wife pulled Carrie from the trash and the novel went on to be rejected by 30 publishers. Eventually he was offered an advance of $2,500 by Doubleday. The paperback rights went to Signet Books for $400,000.
Steve Berry. He’s a number 1 international best selling author of 16 thrillers. He said “From the day I wrote my first word to the day I sold my first word was a span of 12 years.” In that time he completed eight manuscripts. He submitted five of them, and was rejected 85 times. It was the 86th attempt that “things happened for me.”
Judy Blume–who hasn’t read her children’s stories either as a child or to our children? She writes: “For two years, I received nothing but rejections. One magazine, Highlights for Children, sent a form letter with a list of possible rejections. ‘Does not win in competition with others’ was always checked off on mine. I still can’t look at a copy of Highlights without wincing. I would go to sleep at night feeling that I’d never be published. But I’d wake up in the morning convinced I would be.”
Saul Bellow (admittedly I’d never heard of him. Turns out he won the Pulitzer Prize. the Nobel Prize, and the National Medal of Arts. I’m impressed.) He writes, “I discovered that rejections are not altogether a bad thing. They teach a writer to rely on his own judgement and to say in his heart of hearts, “To hell with you.'”
Brad Meltzer, bestselling writer and children’s book author. On his website, he had a Q & A. The question was: How do you handle rejections from publishers? His answer was: “I gave their email addresses to my mother. You don’t know pain until you’ve met Teri Meltzer. Fear it.”
Kathryn Stockett, she’s the lady who wrote that incredible bestseller, The Help. She states: “After rejection No. 40, I started lying to my friends about what I did on the weekends. They were amazed by how many times a person could repaint her apartment. The truth was, I was embarrassed for my friends and family to know I was still working on the same story, the one nobody apparently wanted to read.”
Wow, there are some heavy weight writers, talking plainly about their pain, embarrassment, and trials before the big one was discovered. Before their careers took off. And before they were known. So what can I say of my own trail of rejection?
Like most every other writer out there, I can wallpaper a house with my collected rejection slips. In the early days, they were well deserved. I was submitting before I was ready, a lesson I had to learn. Once they became less form letter, and started having encouraging little notes added to the margins, I knew I was on the right track. That still took years upon years. I lost count of exactly how many– twenty something. I finally started placing articles with magazines and devotionals. It gave me credibility with publishers, by-lines to add weight to my bio, and validity to my soul. Ah, sweet validity!
Finally I landed a contract for my first novel, a contemporary romance with paranormal and mystery elements. I learned so much with that book and that publisher. I followed it up with five more novels, two anthology inclusions, a novella, and numerous articles over a whirlwind four years. And two more publishing houses.
And I still get rejections. Despite all that, I still feel the sting of being turned down. I have a couple finished manuscripts, that don’t fit the genre of either publisher, so I am looking around for an agent that does handle them. I am going to have to add on a room to my house so I have somewhere to hang all the new rejection slips I am accumulating. Yet like the famed authors who shared their heartache, I will dream of when these literary babies find a home and become shared with the rest of the world. To me, that is what we write for…to share our stories with the world.