Rejection, Edits, and Critics…Oh, my!

It seems that yesterday’s post spawned some very good questions, and rather than force everyone go slog through the conversation in teeny-tiny letters, I thought I’d get a little more in-depth on some of the answers I gave yesterday.  First off, it floored and humbled me that someone would actually ask for my advice.  I freely admit that I have no clue what I’m doing, but to have such wonderful questions asked of me was quite touching.

You guys know who you are. 🙂

Moving on:  I think the best approach to this post is going to be to discuss things in order of appearance in a writer’s life.

1. Rejection

A good friend of mine, Lucy Blue, told me after my very first rejection that it was part of a writer’s life, and ultimately didn’t mean squat in the big picture.  And you know what?  She was so very right.

The first rejection I got hurt like hell.  It scared me.  It made me throw an absolute temper tantrum that nearly made my husband toss me out on my head.  I threw my pen down and swore I’d never write anything ever again, because I sucked and I wasn’t good enough, and I would never, ever, ever make it.

And then when I finished with the screaming fit, I looked at the story again, and realized that the reason it was rejected was because it did need a hell of a lot of work.  It still does, as a matter of fact, because I’m still working on it.  When I’m done fixing it, I’ll resubmit, but until then I’m going to take that advice to heart.

My second rejection was from a pretty big name in the Romance world.  My story wasn’t right for them, but after a few fixes, Rebel Ink handed me a contract in two hours.  I think that was some sort of record.  (BTW, E…if you’re reading, there are three more stories in that series!)

The last rejection I got was from the same house as the first rejection.  I turned around the very next day and sold it to Sugar & Spice.  That contract turn-around was less than 12 hours.

Each one stings.  It hurts.  A LOT.  Yes, you have another person dangling your fate before your eyes.  Yes, that person has the ability to crush you with the flick of her wrist.  Yes, she is passing judgment on the manuscript that you have poured your heart and soul into.   Yes, it sucks complete ass.

But the point I’m trying to make here is that just because your story isn’t right for one house doesn’t mean another won’t love it.  I know I said this in the discussion on the last post, but submission editors are absolutely overwhelmed right now, and as one of the many adding to their respective workloads, I respect their decisions to drop the floor out from under me.  A rejection is not a “do not ever write again” note.  It’s simply an “I’m sorry, but your work isn’t right for us, thanks” or a “we’re overhelmed and can’t handle anything else right now, sorry” note.

There are levels of rejection, too.

An outright form rejection means that your work isn’t a fit at all for them.  Sorry, but send it somewhere else.

A “revise and resubmit” note means they have faith in your work, but you need to fix what they tell you to fix.

A note from a sub-editor telling you that you’re being handed off to another editor is a good sign.  It means they like you, but aren’t sure they can handle you at the moment.

And then there’s that glorious note that you open and find yourself surrounded by white light with an angelic chorus in the background:  The Acceptance Letter.  See the next section.

 

2. Edits

I’m going to tell you right now…I’m a huge baby when it comes to edits.  I’m terrified of them, because I’m always on the lookout for that “OMG…don’t EVER write again” note from my editor.  Yeah, yeah…I know it’s not likely to happen, but it’s still a huge fear.

My last round of edits wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be.  My editor, Rory, is a wonderful woman who really knows her stuff and has endless patience.  How she didn’t absolutely choke me, I don’t know.  Probably because she’s half a country away.

The best advice I have for any new writer is this:  YOUR EDITOR IS YOUR FRIEND.  Yes, she’s going to be brutal, but that’s her job.  She is meant to point out every flaw, typo, and shortcoming your work has.  She is meant to tweak it and polish it and poke at it until it can stand up on its own and gain attention.  DON’T YELL AT YOUR EDITOR.  THANK HER.

Yeah, Edits suck.  It means you have to change things that you think are perfect. Well, let me be the first to pop that pretty little bubble and tell you that THEY AREN’T.  If an editor flags it, it’s for a good reason.

There were quite a few times during my She-Wolf edits that I wanted to throw the computer across the room, and where I absolutely, 100% believed that she was wrong.  Of the dozen or so of those instances, I could only justify keeping one thing that she wanted to change, and that was because it was a dialect-based offense.  I explained my position, she said okay, and we moved on.  There were a few changes that I still disagree with… but when I got stuck, I asked for her advice and she gave it to me.  Ultimately I ended up rewriting a few paragraphs because I just didn’t like the redundancy of the suggestions, but in the end, it came out much better than it was at the start.  All in all, I would absolutely love to work with her again.

Editors, in all honesty, make us better writers.  They point out the things we don’t want to see, show us where we can improve, and work to make us as good as we can possibly be.  I don’t like being told that what I did wasn’t perfect, but I’m willing to accept the suggestions of someone who knows more about what I’m doing than I do.

And in all honesty, if you can survive edits, you can survive anything.

3. Critics

After getting past the editor, you get your book on the shelves (or e-shelves).  Congratulations.  Have a bottle of wine.  You deserve it.

Just be prepared, because for every dozen or so people that love you, there will be at least one that hates you.   Most critics are pretty professional.  I mean seriously, if you don’t like my work that’s perfectly okay.  It’s your opinion, and I respect that.

However.

Once in awhile, you will come across one that is childish and catty and mean for no reason.  Case in point –  I found a review of Marked by accident on some chick’s blog.  She absolutely tore the book apart…and what’s more, she went on to comment about how I was the worst writer she’d ever read and she hoped that no publisher would ever be stupid enough to give me another contract because I was writing drivel.

And that was making what she said nice.

So I did what I do best… I threw a fit.  On my blog.  And vented all sorts of frustrations.  By the next morning,  said blog post had vanished, which leads me to believe that one of the 12 hits it got that night was her.  I still can’t find it, but I think I got my point across… I made some very biting comments about how if you’re going to review someone’s work, you don’t have to be unnecessarily cruel.  There are ways of saying you don’t like something without being a heartless bitch about it.

A week or so later, I got a royalty statement, a payment, and a personal note from my publisher in which she told me that she has people asking for more of my work.  She gave me a huge boost when she suggested I join several networking spots and really promote, because she thinks I could be something.

My advice on dealing with critics:  You’re published.  Chances are, they aren’t.  If you ever have doubts about yourself, just look at your royalty statement.  If you’re selling copies, one opinion is a drop in the bucket that you needn’t concern yourself with at all.

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