Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Well heck...Rejection...What was your first time like?

Despite the post title, there is no pity party here.  I have been living life to the fullest over the past week and a half and haven't been blogging.  While there was some definite task avoidance going on, there was some serious growth as well.  See, on the 13th of February, I received my first rejection letter.  Now, despite the crappy timing...Valentine's eve...this wasn't an entirely bad experience.  Within that notice of nonselection came some effective and ineffective advice.  See below:

Hello Christine Benson,
Thank you for your submission to Red Fez. We know that you put a lot of time and effort into your submission, so we appreciate you thinking of us. Right or wrong, we have decided against using your work in our next issue.
 (Polite, direct and to the point.)

You indicated you wanted to receive feedback on your submission. Since you put the effort into submitting to us, we feel you deserve an explanation for our decision. There's nothing worse than submitting to a publication and learning nothing from the process. Here is the raw feedback from our editors: (Standing by their word)

Feedback from 2 editors:

Discovering invisibility
 1) in the first 2 paragraphs, there is a serious overabundance of the words: flames, brats, beds/bed, and grease. I think some synonyms would do wonders for the redundant use of said words.(Fair enough, I tend to overuse words and I should have caught that.  Rookie mistake.)   it's a somewhat confusing how many people are involved here because she refers to everyone involved as the boys, she and marie e.t.c. this sentence in particular could have been better: (Too many pronouns.  Ok, well this is probably also valid as I struggled with identifying the speaker a bit due to the personal similarities that brought out embarrassment.  Lesson learned: Go for it.  Don't hold back.  Readers don't automatically think the event happened to you when it is labeled as fiction.  And if they do think that, then you must have a strong protagonist.)

For years they had been all getting together and drinking and nothing like this had ever happened before.

get rid of the all, no need for that. i haven't even mentioned how generic some of these metaphors are:

She robotically, handed him another beer, pausing to watch the cold tear of sweat running down the bottle; the slight tremble of excitement causing it to drip on her hand.

robotically? like mechanized? ugh, me no likee. (Ok, I have to admit, this one hurt.  I especially liked that line, I felt this line.  So why did I like it?  I've had to think about this one a lot.  This has been a big part of my task avoidance and self-doubt.  My peer group gushed over this line and the imagery.  I felt it, because at this point, I was going for it, mixing the real experience with the fiction.  However, because I hadn't gone for it before, hadn't let the reader SEE my protagonist and how much the proceeding experience affected her, the reader couldn't feel what I felt.

2) Not terrible, but it doesn't seem like a fit for the Fez. (Fair enough...this happens.  I need to get better at analyzing the places I am submitting.) This reminds me of the submission about a group of middle aged couples awkwardly watching porno movies together. In fact at first i thought it was the same piece. Is my mom sending these in under different pen names? (Really?  Is this comment necessary?  How am I learning from this?  This genre was a risk for me anyway.  I have to admit, I am now gun shy about sharing anything like this piece again.  Any ideas on how this can help me grow?)

Having said that, we're just one publication with one opinion. In the end we can't help but publish what we like. We could be wrong about your piece and it wouldn't be the first time. We thank you for giving us the opportunity to look at this piece - we appreciate it - and wish you best of luck in finding a suitable publisher for your work. (In fact, check out our Friends of Fez page for a list of other publishers that may be interested in your work!). We hope you'll continue to consider Red Fez in the future. (Thanks for being open and honest.  I appreciate the way they left the door open for me.  That makes it all feel better...it honestly does, no sarcasm at all.)

Artistically yours,
The Red Fez Editorial Team 

Over the past week, I have contemplated this letter and reread it many times.  I went back over the piece of writing I had submitted and made some corrections based on their feedback.  I even took some time for myself to feel the sting and disappointment of being rejected.  Once I was ready to stop crying in my orange juice, I had to work my way back on track.

5 Things I did in response to my rejection...

1. I didn't stop completely.  I wrote some poems for myself.  I wrote about 400 words on my WIP (admittedly with the creep of self-doubt).  I scribbled an idea here and there from my dreams.  

2. I shared my experience with friends, family, writing peers and even my 7th grade students.  Talking through the rejection helped me bring perspective to it.

3. I read a book, for fun.  Not a trade book about improving my writing, just a novel.

4. I opened my blog several times, knowing I wasn't going to write but needing to remind myself how new I am and how much I want this.

5. I read tweets, blogs and status updates from fellow writers, published and aspiring.  We all struggle sometimes.  How we respond to that struggle seems to be what separates the successes from the failures.

So, here I am.  Feeling like somewhat of an embattled veteran and picking myself up to carry on.  I have great supporters out there (and more clearly identified them by sharing my struggle).  I still have the drive to move ahead and work for my dream.  I'm putting myself back on my ROW80 goals.  Writing will go on and I will grow from this experience.  Now, what I'm wondering...what was your first time like? 


  1. Hey there! I certainly know how it goes -- I have gotten my fair share of rejection as well as agents wanting to see pages. In fact, i just blogged about rejection myself yesterday! Keep in mind that it's subjective (I received a rejection on query + 5 pages and a request for a partial off of a query + 10 pages within the span of one hour a couple weeks ago!); however, feedback is always a wonderful gift. It was nice that they gave you some good information. Keep going and NEVER give up! You will succeed!

    1. Vivi,

      Thanks for the perspective. You are so right about the subjectivity. I just wish it was easier to know when and where to send which piece. But then, I guess things wouldn't be so much fun. Thanks for the support! Best of like to you!

  2. I have to admit, I've only received a real rejection letter once. The other times I've submitted my work for various reasons, I've been thoroughly ignored. The rejection letter I got was for a review submission, and in all actuality it was the nicest put-down I've ever had, lol. The lady informed me that my book was simply too long, and that the genre wasn't really her specialty. It would take her too much time to read it, and she simply couldn't do it. She did, however, offer to forward my information to other bloggers who specialized in my genre, and from that, I heard zilch.

    It taught me to target my requests a little better, and reach out to people who might be more receptive to the product I'm selling. A similar process to the editor's words you described above was the editing of my manuscript (which was 350k words long, and one of the most painful and tedious things I've ever had to go through lol) of The Sentient Fire, my first book. That was painful in ways that just sends imaginary nails into your heart, as the editor rips apart your prose and grammar, making you feel like a complete idiot.

    But, though I did grumble to myself about it, I went ahead and made the changes that my editor suggested. I realized that two heads are better than one, when it comes to writing anything - but especially a novel - and during the course of smiling to myself at my ingenious use of the English language and heart-pounding scenes I constructed, I did what anyone who was human would do.

    I made mistakes.

    I had that exact same rookie feeling you described with some of them, the editor's corrections glaring at me like tiny suns buried in the text. Others I disagreed with, but made the changes anyway. Editors are readers, just like all of us, and they have their own inner voices. The greatest strength of an author, in my opinion, is your ability to capture the "feel" of your inner voice in the text, so that it comes through to the reader exactly how you meant it to. That, as well, is one of the most elusive things to capture as a writer. In the end, though it hurt, it only made my book better. One of the best things about the editing process is that it gets your work in front of someone who isn't familiar with your inner voice. A good editor can really make a good book amazing, and it's a long process.

    In the end, it all makes you grow.

    And I've rambled on enough. Great blog, and good luck with your future submissions.

    1. Thank you for you amazing sharing! This is why I love blogging! We can share our experiences and learn from one another. Keep writing! Good luck to you as well.

  3. Hmm, yeah, some of their comments were unnecessarily mean. I think that may come from having to read through so many submissions, it must be hard to maintain a sensitivity to everyone's feelings all the time. And like they said, your submission wasn't what they were looking for, so that doesnt mean your story was 'bad' just wrongly placed. It's important to remember there's a difference.

    My first rejection came as quite a shock. I started writing Harry Potter fanfiction when I was 16, and I posted it all online, and overall it went down with readers extremely well. I then wrote my first original short story, submitted it to an online mag, and it was accepted! So 17 year old me was thinking 'Wow, this is easy! I must be a brilliant writer!' Then I submitted another story to a different place, thinking they'd surely love it, but actually no, they did not. I received feedback in a similar way as you did, and one editor tore my story apart. It was crushing. But then I did have a long way to fall. Teenage arrogance is rather mountainous.

    I've since had lots more rejections, some of them hurt more than others, but they all hurt at least a little. Even when I know that the criticism is valid and true. But I've had stories rejected by a few mags, and then had them accepted by someone else. So a lot of it is down to sending your work to the right places.

    I'm glad to hear you're still writing! :) That's the best way to get over rejections.

    Oh and by the way, reading novels 'for fun' is one of the best ways to improve your own writing anyway!

    1. Ya know, I hope my rejections always hurt a little. I am not sure that I ever want to feel so good and so arrogant that a rejection is insignificant. I think the rejections validate the acceptance and sweetens them a little bit. If everyone accepted everything I did as if it were gold, then I would wonder if they were being honest or even reading it. LOL! That...or I'm just a masochist. And I agree, reading for fun really is like studying. Plus, it is just simply fun!!

  4. Oh rejection... I wonder if there's a small part in all of us that thinks we'll be the exception. I know I thought that. Oh how wrong I was! Rejection has made me such a better person... once you can get over the initial hurt and learn to absorb it, it makes you a stronger writer, person, and force to be reckoned with. It took me awhile though. Such a great post ;)

    1. Thanks for the support Morgan. I think you are right, a small part of us probably does hear that voice...no matter how we try to deny it. It just means you've worked hard and done your very very best! Keep writing and giving us something to reckon with girl.

  5. Wasn't Kathryn Stockett's The Help rejected 60 times? What was the novel that you read for fun?

    1. I believe it was. I read two actually. I read, Never Eighteen, by new YA author, Megan Bostic. An amazing story about reconciliation and courage. I also read The Kite Runner--see my book review on this one. (posted today, 3/7/12) Both phenomenal reads!

  6. I've gotten 2, but was just happy that they responded, because some of them will tell you, "If you don't hear from us, we just didn't like your work, blah, blah, blah. :-)Or basically, if it's not what we are looking for, we don't have time to send you a reply email.
    I am still going to query my series, but I went ahead and self published a novella through createspace, because I wanted to see what it was like and to get my name out there. I have another novel that I am almost finished with, that I will self publish also.
    Just keep working at it. Read a lot of help blogs and other's books and remember you can't please all the people all the time. Good luck and keep writing!

    1. Thanks for the advice and support. You are so right, can't please them all. So what was it like, being published? Do you think you will prefer self-publishing over traditional? Why will you do some one way and some the other? I am curious about how one decides these things. I am writing my first novel and will finish by the end of June, so I am very interested in what other authors are doing.

  7. I lost count of how many rejection letters I received. The first one I got was when I was about 16, and I remember being oddly happy about it. It was as if I'd finally been recognized as a writer - of course I would have loved to be accepted, but it was a good step in the right direction. Rejection is just normal for any and every writer.

    1. Thanks, and I completely understand that feeling. I did have that feeling too. I mean, at least someone in the publishing world has looked at my writing and given me feedback. That's a lot closer to being published than I was a year ago when I hadn't considered myself a serious writer nor had I submitted anything for publication. Rome wasn't built in a day!

  8. I haven't got this far yet but it gives me some idea of what to expect. Great informative post, thanks Christine.

    By the way I nominated you for the Liebster award on my blog.

    Morgan x

  9. Christine, let me say how much I admire you for what you've done.

    1) You've taken disappointment and handled it like a pro. You allowed yourself to fully experience the emotions, but not wallow in them. To me, that's the mark of a mature individual.

    2) You set yourself to learning everything you could from the rejection and apply it to improving. To me, that's the mark of a wise individual.

    3) You shared the experience AND the particulars, laid it out there for the world to see. To me, that's the mark of an individual I can respect and admire.

    What you have done was brave, bold, and very classy.


    1. Wow! Thank you so much. This was fun for me to do. At the time, I had no idea if it was the sort of thing people did. You know airing out your "dirty laundry" can be uncomfortable and deemed inappropriate. Then I decided, that I didn't care. This is my blog and, well, if it's not what people do, maybe they should. Why not put the ugly out there, examine it. Share our experiences with it. That is how we learn after all. Apparently I made the right choice. This has been, by far, my most popular post. And the feedback I have gotten has been so bonding and therapeutic. Everyone responding and sharing what they have experienced is what pushed me through; what allowed me to retain myself through this process we call writing (although I find it to be synonymous with life). So, I thank you for your kind words and your respect. I was moved by your feedback. And, I checked out your blog. Still looking for another person to share critiquing with? (I promise I am not always this comma happy, I'm tired.) Have a great evening!!

    2. You're very much welcome. I'm definitely still looking. :-)

  10. Thanks for sharing the experience, I honestly think that they are a bit picky if you ask me, but they are the publisher so I guess they can be. At least they gave you feedback.

    I think it was really great that you kept writing! I hope you continue to do so! I hope to read some of your writing too. :)