Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Face of Rejection

This year I stepped onto a large branch and submitted the opening of my novel to the Emerald City Writer’s Conference sponsored by the Greater Seattle RWA chapter. Having never attempted this before, I did not know what to expect. However, at the end of April this year, I cleaned up my opening, got a lot of feedback, revised some more, took a deep breath, and submitted it. To say I was nervous and a little daunted was an understatement.

About two weeks ago, I received the feedback from the three judges who evaluated my opening. The kind of criticism I got was nothing I expected. For the first time, I felt the icy sting of rejection - the idea that my work was less-than-stellar and there were three professionals who had no qualms about informing me of this fact.

So I did what any self-respecting writer would do: I wept a lot and woke up the next morning with an emotional hangover; I spent the next few days trying not to take to heart everything that was said; I wondered if I would ever go back to writing again.

However, once I got through the emotion, my rational side began to process this experience. As a result, I have come away with a few things.
  1. Writing is subjective. What one person likes, another one loathes. That's the nature of anything creative. Based on several of the lengthy remarks one judge wrote, I would wager she didn't like the genre of my book.
  2. Just because a person is a published author, doesn't mean she knows how to critique. One set of comments in particular struck this chord hard. One judge's remarks bordered on sarcastic and condescending,which bothered me. Personally, I think a judge should try to leave personal bias aside, but that's easier said than done.
  3. I have a ways to go in my writing journey. While I know I have talent, I acknowledge there are aspects of writing that haven't clicked with me yet. Time, lots of reading, analyzing examples of good novels, and more writing and submitting experience will help me get over this hurdle.
Rejection is a hard pill to swallow, but my writing skin has grown a little thicker because of it. While I have not yet returned to those comments, part of me knows that I will eventually. Might be tomorrow, might be next year. The point is, I won't give up. If there's anything I have learned through my vast research into publishing, it's to never quit just because I run into the face of rejection.


Colleen M. said...

That's the thing about contests and why I'm starting to get more and more annoyed with how they are pushed as the "only way" to really get your work out there. They are very subjective and even the most experienced, honorable judge is going to have bias against something. As you said, the important thing is to keep working and never give up!

Andrea said...

You did an amazingly brave thing by submitting your work. I can't believe your entry wasn't treated with more respect but I am glad you are looking at the criticism with a new perspective. All you can keep doing is your best. You ARE a good writer and we're here to help you (and the rest of us) become even better.