Silence and Rejection
This seems like as good a day as any to talk about rejection. The #Pitchwars agent round is coming up on Wednesday and Thursday. Here’s the thing about having made it this far: having received success (making the cut at all), in spite of knowing that there were equal parts of luck, goodwill, and subjectivity involved (which my rational brain tells me, “THEREFORE YOU SHOULD KNOW BETTER!”) I’ve got my hopes up. How could I not? All of our pitch and openings will go live at the YA Misfits site. I’m guessing the format will be that each entry (36 of us, I think?) will get its own upload, providing a comment box for each (though that’s only a guess).
The natural fear is the empty comment box. That no agent responds. That no person at all responds. That my work suggests to nobody that they should read further.
I follow a number of agents on Twitter and periodically read their blog posts and, unsurprisingly I suppose, one of the common themes that comes up is bad behavior. The most egregious incident that I know has to be the agent who was assaulted in her car by someone whose manuscript she’d rejected. The most common are arrogant query letters (rep my book! It’s so good I won’t even tell you what it is!). Then there are the threatening phone calls, the misguided phone calls and emails, and in general, it’s every writer acting like their manuscript is more precious than a newborn, if only someone would take the time to get to know it.
Important note: I have not been rejected a million times. I’ve been rejected six, because that’s nearly the sum of query letters I’ve sent out so far. I’ve done ten, plus the occasional submitting of query letters for critique, and, most recently, I paid an editor to go over the first 15 pages of a manuscript. I say this because I don’t mean to assert I’ve got that kind of experience in rejection, although I would like to think that if that were the case I’d be building up some calluses on my ego.
Here’s the thing. There’s almost no way to take a rejection, whether it’s a form rejection or a personal one, as anything other than a slight on your work. Even when it’s not. The corollary is that, because writing is so personal, a slight on it is a slight on us, the writers.
This is what we should all do. Memorize two (2) dramatic monologues of contrasting styles, one dramatic and one comedic (alt: one contemporary and one classic). Go and audition for plays. Experience first-hand rejection. Find out who got cast instead and be depressed by the fact that the other actor is a) so much worse than you, what could the director have been looking at, b) no better than you, why would it make sense to pass on your breadth of skills, or c) so much better than you, why are you even bothering.
I’m not saying one rejection is worse than the other. I am saying that actors can be rejected a lot more. Think how many auditions you can go to in the time it takes to write one manuscript.
It’s easy to dwell upon being rejected. It’s harder to remember how fortunate I am to have made it this far at all. I’m not sure why the implicit criticism of a rejection burns the way it does, except perhaps that it rarely comes with a “why.” We can fight a Why. Silence is a loss of control.
What to do?
Embrace the silence. Write more.