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Writing Tips: How I Handle Rejection

23 Mar

Updates:

Price Change: November Snow [NOOK] is now available for $7.99 via Barnes & Noble here

I’ve also joined LinkedIn. Connect with me here

In A Certain World: A Commonplace BookW. H. Auden writes, “For an adult reader, the possible verdicts are five: I can see this is good and I like it; I can see this is good but I don’t like it; I can see this is good and, though at present I don’t like it, I believe that with perseverance I shall come to like it; I can see this is trash but I like it; I can see this is trash and I don’t like it.” 41V1x246SUL._SL500_AA300_

While this is a great truth, it becomes a anxiety attack waiting to happen when it’s your writing under judgement, knowing one of these five results will happen. Unfortunately, I think many aspiring writers only accept one response as positive: “I can see this is good and I like it.” I wish this wasn’t the case, but it seems to be true the more I talk to writers. Rejection is hard, and it always will be, but we can learn how to handle it in a way that is healthy.

I have discussed this before. In my post Writing Tips: How to Handle Rejection, I commended John Tompkins for his positive (and hilarious) attitude towards rejected query letters, but I failed to address how I personally deal with such instances.

However, I’d rather not talk about query letters and/or agents, because I look at that as business, and, for me, those rejections are easy to write off, because there’s always another approach to business, and I don’t take it personally. As I said before, it’s business.

BUT–I wanted to talk about another kind of rejection: the reader rejection. This is when readers read your work and respond negatively, often publicly, and there’s nothing we, as the writer, can do about it. I’m often okay with this. In fact, I advocate listening to critics, because I’ve learned some of my best lessons by taking a step back and listening, but I still have my days, and I wanted to show an example.

As many of you know, I’m taking a Nonfiction Writing I course this semester. Honestly, I thought it’d be more memoir writing than essay writing, but, nevertheless, I am in the course, and we turned our first essay in to workshop awhile ago. We were supposed to write about something personal and riveting, so I chose, knowing it’s still a sensitive subject, to write about my roommate’s recent death and compare it to my mother’s.

Here’s the piece: In Memoriam.

And here are my top three negative comments:

1. I don’t want a guilt trip. It seemed too forced, the pity was weakening the audience. I don’t know. Not that complex.

2. Too pep-talky. Blase ending took me out of the story. Very self-centered.

3. This is a nice sentiment, but we’ve seen it so many times before that it’s lost its effect. It almost feels like your trying to establish your authority as a writer rather than just letting the essay stand on its own. The first and last paragraph had nothing to do with the essay, bragging.

I won’t lie. At some point during my drive home, I was in tears, because I couldn’t believe that fellow students would find my dedication to turning grievance into passion was selfish and/or bragging. I felt like they had attacked my personal growth and everything I have been striving for since my mother died when I was eleven. Furthermore, I was astounded by the fact that many of these students didn’t say this to my face, but remained silent in the classroom. I would’ve liked the opportunity to ask them why they felt that way (because you do get a chance at the end to speak), but I don’t know if I could’ve spoken. I was too emotional, and, when I took a step back, I realized why.

I wrote about something I was not ready to write about. Even more, I immediately allowed my emotions to react; not my thoughts. When I took a moment, I realized their “bragging” statements were more directed at the beginning when I listed off accomplishments, which I should’ve explained as a conclusion. I also needed to consider my audience. It’s entirely likely many of my fellow 20-year-old’s haven’t lost a loved one to death. It’s also (more) possible that they have a completely different reaction towards death than I do, which is completely understandable. Even though the essay was an assigned personal essay, I think I made it too personal by focusing on me instead of the audience, and, in the end, that was selfish, but I’d rather call it misdirected. I’ve never written nonfiction essays before, and I’m learning how to do so still. Of course I’d be critiqued at the beginning; even if I was a professional I’d be critiqued. And I had to remind myself that before I imploded with misunderstood emotions.

So how did I cheer myself up?

After a healthy dinner with my father, I looked over everything again, but, this time, I concentrated on the good comments. I realized there were more “Great job!” than I thought, and I really focused on appreciating the complements, rather than the hurt.

Here are my top three positive comments:

1. Thanks for sharing! I know it must be hard for you to carry these loses with you for the rest of your life. I know it’s hard, but I also know how inspiring it can be as a writer. Keep striving for the preservation and ultimately your understanding.

2. I loved the candor with which you spoke about their deaths. Your level-headed recounting of events is incredible. You’re not bemoaning your life, which actually gives me greater sympathy. Really strong ending.

3. This is such a brilliant outreach to the audience. And to be quite honest, I needed to hear this. This was a beautiful piece to read. Consider sharing the title of your YA sci-fi novel because I’d love to read it. Looking forward to your other essays!

Next time, when rejection gets you down, try to remind yourself that one rejection doesn’t define all of your success. In fact, it only furthers your range of success by pushing you to achieve more. I have moments where my emotions take over, and I think that’s perfectly normal. After all, we are human, and we’re very exposed humans when we throw our art out for all to see. But we must realize that judgement will come, and it’s up to us to decide what to make of it.

As I took grieving and created passion, I will focus more on taking rejection and making success.

This is how I will handle it, and I hope opening up about my experience will help others see they are not alone, along with encourage them to continue to follow their dreams, even when they are hurting.

Another thing I love to do when I'm feeling down is to return to those beautiful moments in life when everything seemed right. This is me in Puerto Rico in May, 2012. It was one of the best trips of my life, and I know it's only a memory away from reminding me what happiness is like.

Another thing I love to do when I’m feeling down is to return to those beautiful moments in life when everything seemed right. This is me in Puerto Rico in May, 2012. It was one of the best trips of my life, and I know it’s only a memory away from reminding me what happiness is like.

~SAT

March 25: Shannon Summary: Six Months In

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Writing Tips: Being an Author: Pros & Cons

18 Jan

Yesterday would’ve been my mother’s 54th birthday if she hadn’t passed away on March 16, 2003.

My mother and I in 1992.

My mother and I in 1992.

Today, I’m dedicating this post to her, because she is the reason I have become so passionate about my writing dream. Her memory has pushed me forward, time and time again, ever since 2003, and my passion is very much driven by my inability to give up (as I want to succeed for myself and her) even when my career was looking nonexistent.

As a writer, you’ll have pros and cons, even after publishing. (In fact, this list will increase.) Some days, one outweighs the other, and that’s perfectly okay—temporarily—but don’t allow one to destroy the other.

So I’m going to share how I manage my pros and cons.

Writer’s Block: It happens. In this case, I truly believe there’s something wrong with your writing piece. It’s a matter of finding it. The best way I’ve solved it is to have conversations with my characters (or even the setting.) Figure out why they’d be unhappy, because your characters are very much your stream of subconscious, so if you’re unwilling—they probably are too.

Finding the Time: YOU CAN. I manage two websites. I’m a full-time college student, and I have family, friends, relationships, life, and my kitten to take care of on a regular basis. However, I still find time to write (a lot) and you can too. It takes sacrifice. You have to be willing to give up that Friday night every once in a while.

Overwhelming Passion: I’ve literally worked so hard on editing, writing, and organizing my vision was blurred. I’ve forgotten to eat, because I was so focused on writing (or too busy managing schoolwork with writing business), so it’s sometimes an art to put necessity before your passion (although you will learn quickly when you can’t see after staring at a computer screen for a week.)

Rejections/Criticism: Love it. I’m serious. There’s a difference between a “hater” and a “critic.” If someone doesn’t like YOU, they probably won’t EVER like your work. Don’t pay them any attention. However, a CRITIC is someone who gives you a fair chance. Even if you don’t like what they have to say, mentally take their side for a moment. Put yourself in their shoes to see if you can understand where they’re coming from. Chances are, you will, and you’ll learn SO much. Don’t feel hurt, because they’re essentially building you up to succeed in a better place.

Writing/Editing: Writing a novel isn’t easy. Writing an intelligible novel isn’t any easier. Writing will take a rigorous amount of passion. If you don’t have that, don’t write, because you’re writing for the wrong reasons. In regards to editing, it’s NECESSARY. End of story. A publisher won’t look at an unedited piece. It’s unprofessional and gives them a heavier workload. Edit to the best of your ability, have friends/family help you, and if you have money, consider hiring an editor.

Money: Not every piece of your writing will get published or make you money (Even if you’re already published.) In fact, you might write a 125,000 word novel, and your publisher doesn’t think there’s an audience. That’s OKAY. Concentrate on what you learned from writing it. Did you realize your characters aren’t differing much? Did your descriptions become more magical? If you can’t figure it out, give it time before returning. You’ll learn what that novel taught you.

Fellow Authors/Fans: This is MY FAVORITE PRO. You will meet so many bright and inspiring writers and readers to push you forward in your dream. The saddest part, for me, is running out of time to speak with all of you individually, but I try very hard (especially by e-mail), and I always will! By publishing, I’ve met authors: Elizabeth C. Bunce, Stephanie Meyer, Jodi Reamer, Greg Kincaid, Rosemary-Clement Moore, T.L. McCown, and more. I couldn’t be more thankful.

Writing Again: Have you ever read a book that was so good you almost couldn’t move on to the next one? This happens to writers too, except with their own work. You’ll get attached to your characters so much that it’ll be hard to let them go (whether you’re moving on to another piece or the next in a series.) Don’t be too hard on yourself. Write a small fun-piece in between. Give yourself a “writer’s vacation.”

If you have any others you’d like me to address, let me know!

~SAT

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