Guest Post: A Ranting Writer’s Survival Guide to Rejection…

Today, I’m delighted to be joined by another ‘ranting’ writer Michelle Flatley. Michelle is – like me and many readers of this blog, I’m sure – going through the whole process of submitting her manuscript to agents at the moment. It can be a frustrating experience, especially those dreaded rejection letters. Here, Michelle gives a few tips on how to handle it.

Derek has kindly invited me to write a post and I am thrilled to be here to share some thoughts about my writing journey, so far. I know it’s the start of a new year and most of you writers out there are feeling positive and hopeful, just like me. But what about when things don’t quite go to plan and your writing dream appears to be in tatters? Yes, I am talking about the dreaded rejection email or letter. I’ve been crafting a novel for a year now and have so far totted up 21 rejections. Out of these, just two agents have given personal feedback, six agents never replied and the remaining sent me a generic email.  So how do you deal with the ‘No, thank you’? Do you scream and rant? Do you get depressed and swear you will never write another word, ever again?  Here’s my guide to surviving what is often an inevitable part of the writing process.

Expect and accept rejection. The chances are, unless you are extremely lucky, exceptionally gifted, or you have a famous name like Pippa Middleton, that rejection is a strong possibility. Remember most agents get 1,000 manuscripts a month. Ouch! Did I mention my husband is related to Michael Flatley, the dancer! True, albeit, distantly. I think I need to write a book about dancing…

Ask yourself why your book got rejected. Did you send it to the right agent? Did you think you were Virginia Woolf and spend a year structuring a clever literary experiment that no ‘normal’ person would ever read, or buy. Guilty!  Analyse your own book. YOU wrote it. Dissect it and do a thorough book biopsy.

Take advice. If you are lucky enough to get feedback, consider and act on the advice you are given. If a literary agent has taken the time to comment on your work, they have thought about your writing carefully. One agent suggested my book was ‘overwritten.’  How dare they say such a thing about my tribute to Virginia, Charlotte Bronte and the rest! What a cheek? Ahem… they were absolutely right. But don’t tell them I said so.

Read and research books that sell. One of the ‘best’ rejections I got was from Carole Blake at Blake, Friedmann, who suggested I buy her book From Pitch To Publication. Some of you might be thinking ‘What! You bought her book when she wouldn’t publish yours?’ Ok, I did buy it, after a little sulking. You see, I am human, after all. And as I read the book I realised something very important. Just when I thought I was ready to send my book out into the lion’s den that is the literary world, it suddenly became apparent that the book wasn’t ready, and worse still, neither was I. If only I’d read this book BEFORE I wrote my novel!

Despite everything, carry on. If you can’t take rejection, writing novels for publication is not for you. Experience is a wonderful thing. Getting that ‘no’ is not the end of the world. It will give you more time to polish your book, give you more time to make your book the exceptional work you want it to be. So, keep writing and you never know what might happen! And thanks for reading.