Monday, April 29, 2013

Building a house of cards, part five: Novel submission and novel rejection

Reflections of Undertakers of Rain

We've all heard those stories about writers with award winning books having to endure dozens of rejections. Or even more tragically, Patrick Kennedy O'Toole and The Confederacy of Dunces. He got so many rejections that he finally checked out. Sometime after his suicide, his mother submitted the book to an English professor and The Confederacy of Dunces became an instant classic. If only Mr. O'Toole could have seen it. The point is, there are rejections and rejections and rejections.

I've had my share of rejections. And sadly, my work with Umbrella Factory Magazine, I've dished out my share of rejections. Incidentally, I hate giving a rejection more than I hate receiving one. I suppose I feel like this because I don't ever want to hurt anyone's feelings. That and, a rejection does not hurt my feelings.

A big part of writing is the inner conflict. The self-editing, the self-censorship, the self-doubt mixes so very wonderfully with the balance of work and life and family and the desire to write. So much of this happens at the desk at home or in the office. So much of publishing is the waiting game which leads to self-doubt, insecurity and this leads to nothing good. At the end of the waiting game, almost without fail, there is rejection.

Rejection is as important as submission.

Making a submission, and this is the case whether it's a poem or a short story or a novel is a very big step. Making a submission means, if not to the world, then at least to you, that you are ready to let go of something and giving to the wider world of letters. What leads up to a submission is this: 1) your product is finished, completely ready to be read. 2) your product is revised so many times that it's practically flawless. 3) The formatting is perfect. 4) you know without a doubt that this is your best work, and you're putting out there for judgment. You have worked tirelessly making this, whatever it is, the best possible thing ever. Well, this is a good thing because the act of submitting your piece has forced you to make it right. In a way, planning a submission and making a deadline is a great incentive to finishing your product.

Then you get a rejection.

As I said last time, if you let enough time go by after the initial writing of a novel, your emotional stake in the piece, your ego in your work fades away and you can look at it objectively. Well, what about after dozens of revisions, manuscript preparation and submission, is there still emotional stake and ego? Well, sure. Your emotional stake may be that of pride of a job well done rather than that of blind passion. Whatever your stake is in it, a reject does sting.

What's the upshot of rejection?

Occasionally, an editor will tell you what's wrong with your work and why it was rejected. Generally, you get no feedback. And far more often, you'll simply never hear back. When a rejection does occur, this is a great opportunity to revise your work. Think of it this way, the more rejections, the more revisions, the better things will shake out next time.

Undertakers of Rain received 4 rejections. Four. That ain't so bad. I submitted this piece to one contest, one publisher and two literary agents. I got one reason why I got the rejection: this novel does not suit the demographic we serve. I got one form letter. I got two no response. In any event, before this novel left me, I reread, reviewed, and revised it. I did the same thing at each rejection. I think it made for a better novel. And it certainly made me better at it: revision, patience and tenacity.

At time I wrote this post, I did not have a release date for Undertakers of Rain. I signed the contract with Ring of Fire Publishing at the end of February, and if it's anything like the time line last year, I would imagine this novel will release sometime over the summer. I'm immensely grateful for the opportunity to write. I'm grateful for all the mediums in which my work gets out: this blog, Sophia Ballou, Rocket House Studio and Ring of Fire.

It's a great time to be a writer.

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