Wednesday, March 24, 2010

rejection of a rejection

I once heard an agent read a rejection he’d got from someone he rejected. The letter began with something like, “ Thank you so much for your rejection but I’m afraid I’m unable to use it at this time. For that reason I will have to reject your rejection. Please don’t take this personally. I receive many fine rejections every month, so I have be quite selective in the rejections I accept.” It went on for a full page like that. It was hilarious. The agent was obviously amused. Did it help the writer get a second look from the agent? Uh…no. In fact, this agent said that while he’d got a good laugh from the letter, he not only had no urge to look at the manuscript again but he would probably be wary of dealing with the writer as a client. He was worried he might be a problem.

I love the idea of responding to rejection with rejection. Who hasn’t wanted to do something like that every time they get one of those little notes? The rejection feels so personal. It is like they’re saying you’re a bad writer, but they aren’t saying you’re a bad writer. They’re just saying that a particular manuscript on a particular day didn’t make them go “wow”, didn’t make them fall in love with the manuscript. (Really, these days, editors, and even agents in most cases, need to fall in love with a manuscript to take it on).

We are writers and we are going to be rejected. We have to learn to live with that unpleasant fact and move on. One way to reduce the sting is to see it for what it is not—I repeat it is not someone saying you’re a bad writer.

And of course, they may be completely wrong about the manuscript you did send them. There’s always that. We’ve seen that many, many times (eat your heart out you twenty plus editors who rejected HARRY POTTER). But, right or wrong, that won’t matter to you at the moment you get the rejection. It will hurt. (Steinbeck called his many rejections “ each one a little death.” )You can write a rejection of a rejection. You can scream and shout and curse etc… But after all that what you have to do, what you must do, what you can do, is write on. Keep writing on. That’s what writers do. Eventually someone will say yes.

12 comments:

Lola Sharp said...

I've seen that rejection of a rejection several times, but it is still funny to me.
Clever catharsis or scary/creepy, I'm not able to decide, but funny for sure. (if I were an agent receiving it, I'd run, FAST, in the other direction. Laughing.)

~Lola

brian yansky said...

Thanks, Lola. My agent, Sara Crowe, just wrote a blog post here http://acrowesnest.blogspot.com/ about rejecting manuscripts and people's responses. She is gracious in her attitude; it's interesting how no to some people doesn't mean no. Anyway, she reminded me of that rejection of a rejection letter--I think it was David Hale Smith who read it to us.

Karen Strong said...

Love the post. Rejection is definitely part of being a writer. We must keep writing. You need only need on yes.

Also loved Sara Crowe's post as well.

brian yansky said...

Thanks Karen. So true.

Anne said...

Great post - funny and true! Now I want to write "rejection letters" to all my rejections... only for my own eyes, of course!

paulgreci said...

Brian, thanks for a fun post. Rejection is definitely part of the seeking-publication-puzzle. And yes, we need to keep writing b/c you never know when or where that yes will come from, or from which manuscript...and if you haven't written that next manuscript...

brian yansky said...

Thanks, Anne. Maybe rejection therapy is a good idea. Thanks, Paul--true

laurapauling said...

I think it's the whole positive and negative rejection thing. To get a positive rejection for some writers is a milestone.

Lisa Green said...

Love it! Rejecting a rejection is too funny! Not that I'd do it, but still...

dirtywhitecandy said...

I have so often been tempted to do this. Really I should be more grown up about it by now. Rejection never gets any easier!

Jemi Fraser said...

I popped over from Karen's blog - she's right - you've got a great blog :)

Rejection stinks, but I think most writers kind of expect it!

brian yansky said...

Thanks for stopping by everyone and for the kind words. And yeah, I think every writer has wanted to write this letter. It might be good to write one every once in a while just to get it out. Then throw it in the trash, of course.