You’ve Got Two Options. Choose.

So without going into details, I just got a rejection on the novel I’m currently trying to sell.  It said, as others have said, that there’s too much focus on worldbuilding, and not enough honest emotion.

The thing is, I spent about fourteen months working on that novel, getting it to be the best it could be.  I’ve polished it to the absolute best of my ability, and if there are ways to fix it at this point, it will involve a complete rewrite from scratch.  Which will be another fourteen months invested, because my first drafts suck.  I’m pretty much curled into a ball right now, suckin’ back tears because I put everything I had into this goddamned novel, and here’s a data point suggesting that my end product may not be good enough.

You know what my options are now?

1)  Quit writing.
2)  Write a better novel.

That’s it.  That’s the writer’s creed.  Maybe this story can’t sell.  Maybe your talents aren’t good enough.

Keep trying.

And it sucks.  I mean, that’s a year of my life invested that I may have to throw away.  I got good critiques on it from my fellow writers, professionals told me they didn’t think I’d have problems selling it, the friends I handed it to largely liked it.  I used every bit of technique I have to make it sing.  Yet here we are, racking up a very kind “No thanks.”

Now, keep in mind that this is a transitory emotion.  My novel may find a home, because maybe it’s just quirky and needs to find the right place to nourish its baby-bird delicacy.  Or it just may not be very good.  But this is what happens when you’re a writer.  You spend weeks pouring your heart’s blood into a golden chalice for someone, only to be told hey, this Bud Lite over here is way tastier.  And what do you do then?

1)  Quit writing.
2)  Write a better story.

I’m not dicking around here.  There was a time when I racked up form letters from Asimov’s.  Eventually, I got in to my favorite magazine, fighting against the best in the business for my well-earned slot in one of the most prestigious magazines in sci-fi.  Then I did it again.  And again.  Why?  Because I looked at my choices.

1)  Quit writing.
2)  Write a better story.

I kept writing.  Eventually, I wrote a better story.  As you can, if you stick with it.

This entry is written from the heart of rejection, that stinging kick to the teeth where you feel like this rejection is proof you don’t deserve a seat at the big-boy table.  That you’re a fraud, masquerading as a writer – which is an emotion, I think, every writer faces.  That fear that maybe you can’t do this.  But I’m sharing this pain because the difference between you and the people who didn’t make it is going to boil down to perseverance.  You’re going to send that story around until hell won’t have it, and your next story will knock their socks off.

I don’t know if I can sell this.  I may not be able to.  But I do know that my next novel will be better.  And, if necessary, the one after that will be even better.  I’ve taken my gut punch for today, but I’m gonna stumble back into the damn ring, because the other option involves flinging a bloody towel at the feet of the refs.  And when I do that, the game is over.

Option #1′s a little easier on the ego.  Option #2 will get me there.  I hope.  Some day.  And so I tell you:

Write a better story.

3 Comments

  1. Shandra
    Jun 20, 2012

    Without knowing where you’ve submitted it there is also potentially #3: Submit elsewhere, while doing the other.

  2. George
    Jun 21, 2012

    John Scalzi, one of my other favourite authors, has this to say:

    How do I feel about one star reviews? I’m fine with them. I’m sorry these folks had an unhappy reading experience, but the point is that no matter what I wrote, someone would have had an unhappy reading experience. I know this because there’s not a novel I’ve written that someone hasn’t seen fit to complain about, often at length and sometimes with the vitriol usually reserved for politicians of the party one does not like.

    It’s part of the territory, and the sooner one as a creator comes to grips with it and accepts it as part of the process, the better off one will be. I think as a creator you owe your audience your best efforts, but if at the end of your best effort some of them are still not happy, the best response is, oh, well, maybe next time. You will never make everyone happy. If you try, you’ll likely create something mediocre, and then nobody will be happy. Least of all you.

    One-star (and otherwise negative) reviews happen. Accept them, own them, and then move on from them.

    Maybe you should put your novel’s synopsis, and maybe an excerpt, up here on this blog? Who knows, maybe a wandering acquisition editor will stumble across it and be intrigued.

    It happened to Scalzi…

  3. Dan Tannenbaum
    Jun 25, 2012

    Bravo! You show (and not tell) how determination and acceptance leads to success. Thank you for sharing this.

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