Yes, I tossed all night. I don’t remember what I dreamed, but I woke in a cold sweat, the muse whispering a line over again in my brain. A new first line for my novel. It was a simple sentence, yet the impact of those few words would set the trajectory of the novel into it’s rightful path. It encapsulated the spirit of my story. It was my “dark and stormy night” line. It was perfect.
Stumbling down the hallway with one eye shut, I made it to the kitchen to my phone. What the hay? Four in the morning? But I couldn’t forget that line. I had to write it down. And fast.
I changed the first line. From there, more lines had to be polished to fit the simple excellence of those first words. And so on. I worked until daylight and the hours beyond.
If you’re a writer like me, you well know that when these brilliant moments come, you hope it won’t ever stop. You keep writing, pounding away at the keyboard or scribbling words until your hand aches, because it’s such a beautiful thing you don’t want the magic to end.
But it does.
And this is the clincher: Some of those magic words, even the ones you couldn’t imagine parting ways with because they’re just that amazing, will eventually be erased, deleted, thrown in the scrap folder.
And it’s okay. It’s how we polish our craft.
Something else happened the morning the muse spoke to me. I had this epiphany of sorts. And believe me people, this is big.
As writers, when our work is rejected by editors and agents, it is not personal. Can you believe I just wrote that? Honestly, I’ve been adamant. I’ve always felt it was personal. But it’s not.
This is how I know: After writing all of the magic words, falling in love with them, and then realizing their destined for scrap, only to replace them with more wonderful, beautiful words, and not giving up, and not being defeated; only one thing will happen.
We become better writers.
So what does this mean? How does this relate to the rejection not being personal?
Because the editors and agents are looking at our work while we’re in the process of perfecting our craft. All of us are at different levels. True, some may have more natural talent than others and some may have invested more time and education into their art, but whatever the case, the final product we showcase to editors or agents is the best we can share at that given moment.
But still, it may not be finished. It may not be ready.
So once again, we toss the magic words, replace them, and so on. And we keep going. And eventually, someday, all of the elements will fall into place: plot arc, characterization, strong dialogue, rising action with good conflict, a strong climactic ending with lots of resolution in the denouement. And at last, I believe, someday someone will notice.
That’s why our rejection letters (for the most part) become more promising as we blossom at our craft. In this way, it’s not personal. It’s just a matter of finishing the job.
When we receive a rejection there are a plethora of reasons why. We’ve heard them all before. It’s a subjective business, the genre may be overdone, it won’t sell in today’s market, etc. and so on.
But if we keep working and exceling at our storytelling by making those magic words leap off the page in a glorious blaze of light, one day the ultimate goal of a shiny new publishing contract will happen.
And if that doesn’t happen, and there will never be a shiny new contract, the next time that muse wakes me up at four in the morning, I’ll have no choice but to kill it. (Tee,he!)
Update the next day: Okay so, I’m officially retracting everything I just said here. A few minutes ago, I had a one-on-one chat with an editor for a ten page critique. It was positive. In my opinion, mild in her feedback.
I asked, when I’m done with revisions and my agent subs out, can she send it for her review? And guess what she replied? NO. “I don’t want to waste anyone’s time.”
Ouch. Now, that felt personal. So I retract it all! It’s personal all right. I don’t care what anyone says.