Rejection. The Big "R". It's a part of every writer's life. Even Shakespeare got booed a time or two. There are beaucoup articles and blogs out there on the interwebz (like this one) telling you how to cope with rejection, from sources much more credible than lil ole me, so I'm not gonna do that. Instead, I'd like to talk about not just coping, but finding the good in the rejections.
Sometimes the good is in the critique - like five big agents all telling you in unison that your Knights-templar-time-traveling-space-opera-romantic-comedy-cozy-mystery-with-serial-killers-from-Mars idea might be a little difficult to market until you narrow your focus a bit more. When they're all saying the same thing, there's a learning opportunity.
I can, on occasion, be a bit of a Pollyanna. I tend to think things will turn out for the best. So I take each rejection as a "something better to come" notification, rather than a "you suck and should stop writing right this instant to save humanity from your crappiness."
Lately, I've been seeing a trend in rejection letters. This one sentence keeps popping up. "I liked X, Y, and Z, but I just didn't love it as much as I wanted to." I'm pretty sure this is just the kiss-off du jour, but I've been thinking about that phrase and it has me thinking about dating. (Stay with me, this is a good analogy, I promise.)
Let's say you date three guys. Bachelor #1: You meet, sparks fly. Zing, baby. It's all chemistry, all over the place. You're climbing on one another like a hero and heroine in a romance novel. But then, as you get to know one another, you realize you aren't compatible outside the bedroom. You're opera, he's punk rock. And opposites may attract, but what are you going to talk about? Eventually, the passion fizzles and you go your separate ways.
Bachelor #2: After the debacle with Bachelor #1, you let your mom set you up with a "nice boy". He's sweet. He's charming. He's educated. He cooks, he cleans, he wants three kids just like you and he already has your dream vacation in Bora Bora planned as a honeymoon getaway. He's perfect. But where's the zing? When you look at him, you feel nothing. Nada. Zilch. Kissing him is about as appealing as making out with an iguana. You like him. You really like him. Maybe you even love him a little... as a friend. Eventually, you have to pull Bachelor #2 aside and have The Talk. I'm sorry, darling. I love you, but I'm not in love with you. Can we still be friends?
Then comes Bachelor #3: He's the trifecta. Chemistry, companionship, and love. There's zing. There's conversation. And he makes your little heart go pitter pat. You're so glad you didn't cling to your zing with Bachelor #1. You're so glad you didn't settle for the stable friendliness of Bachelor #2. Bachelor #3 may not be perfect. He may leave the toilet seat up or track mud all over the house with his manly boots, but he's The One. You can see your fiftieth anniversary in his eyes. This one is a keeper.
So what does this have to do with rejection? Bachelor #1: An editor may love your voice, love your story, love you to pieces, but if he/she can't fit you into the market somewhere, that love is going to fizzle in a hurry. This is a business and don't you forget it.
Bachelor #2: All the elements are there. You have solid writing, you have a somewhat marketable premise, and it might actually sell a few books, but the zing, the passion, it's missing. The editor may like you, but the editor is also smart. They know Bachelor #3 may be right around the corner.
You know why I love this analogy? Because one woman's Bachelor #1 is another woman's Bachelor #3, and vice versa. We're attracted by different things and willing to compromise on different things. The same is true of editors & agents.
You keep getting rejection letters? Good for you! You're putting yourself out there. You're dating! You can't meet Bachelor #3 if you aren't on the market. I know it sucks to go through all those people who aren't the right fit, but the right one is out there. Keep submitting.
Your happily ever after may be just an email away.