Monday, June 16, 2014

Dear Aspiring Writer Me, Shut Up (by Jody Casella)

Dear Jody,

Shut up.

Stop trying to figure out why your latest story/book/poem was rejected.

Stop angsting. Stop analyzing. Stop crying and whining and despairing. Stop discussing ad nauseum with your friends and family and writing buddies, asking: WHY WHY WHY????

Those rejections are freaking indecipherable codes. I'm not lying.

The two words on the bottom of a form letter that said Nice Story...

What does that mean?

Should you revise and resend? Send something else? Do nothing? Is it a sign from the Universe to keep writing? A sign from the Universe to quit? NOT a sign from the Universe at all, but merely a hastily scrawled note from a twenty-year-old, over-worked intern who thought: "Hey, this is a nice story"?

Who knows.

The TWO form letters you received a few months apart that rejected the same story...

What does that mean?

We really really really don't want this story. OR Did we already send this rejection? Our twenty-year-old intern sure did drop the ball in the record-keeping department. Drat. Better send another just in case.

Who knows.

And ditto these:

The agent who contacted you out of the blue because she read one of your stories in a magazine and asked you to send her THREE of your manuscripts--the agent that you NEVER heard from again...

The editor who said she liked your book but didn't love it...

The agent who said she loved your book but couldn't take it because she already represented a similar project...

The editor who liked your book and wanted to "help you with your career" but never responded to your emails after that...

What does any of it MEAN?

Guess what?

YOU WILL NEVER KNOW!!

So, let it go.

And keep writing anyway.

Love,
Jody of the Future



9 comments:

  1. Some of those examples are painfully familiar. When you want something so badly, you keep examining things from every angle, reading meaning into the color of the pen or some other detail.

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    1. Ah, the pen color. Don't get me started, April. Here is a good reason for writers to connect with each other. No one else can truly understand the sick angst we put ourselves through.

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  3. Great post, Jody! I do the same thing--overanalyze rejection with the intensity I thought I could only muster for bad break ups, or any break, or even just a crappy date. Being happily married now, I no longer waste time despairing about boys (thank goodness), but the manuscript rejection will exist for as long as I write. Why do we do this to ourselves? Of that's right. We love it.

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    1. Thanks, Jen. Sadly, you are right. Rejections never get any easier. I do try not to stress about them too much anymore though. "Try" being the key word.

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  4. I used to hear about writers trying to use eye-catching stamps on their envelopes, seeking every possible edge. (It never occurred to me to do this back then--I doubt it worked--and now of course everything is done by email.)

    So much effort goes into a manuscript, and a terse, cryptic response was all we had to go on--so of course we tried to wring extra meaning from it.

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    1. Never heard of the stamp idea. Thank God. I once spent hours constructing an email query and got a response--I'm not lying--in less than five minutes. Form rejection. My first thought was WOW. How fast is that? The agent IMMEDIATELY knew this project was wrong wrong wrong for him? Later, I sort of appreciated it. Better than waiting for months to hear back. Or never.

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    2. I knew about the stamp idea--and tried it. Jennifer's right--didn't work. I've also been through every single one of these scenarios. Once, I got a rejection from an agent for A BLUE SO DARK that consistently referred to the protag as "Margo." I was flabbergasted at the time. "How could you read 'Aura' and think 'Margo'?" I wondered. As awful as it is, sometimes, books are rejected simply because an agent or editor is just plain not paying attention. You are absolutely right--you can't take any great meaning from a rejection--sometimes, there just isn't any.

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  5. Some of the best advice I ever got: "Publishing is a business."

    I remind myself of that daily --- there are always business decisions we can't understand because we're not the ones who must make them. Trust me, it helps pull you out of the rejection depression.

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