Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Why you suck, and why it won't doom your writing career

And so, dear readers, the time has come for us to discuss an important and inevitable part of writing.

Not death. A close second: rejection.

Every writer has to deal with it. In fact, I have a book around here someplace, probably buried under all my KU championship newspaper clippings, that's nothing but a collection of rejection slips sent to now-famous authors. It's humbling, and also a little gratifying, in a double-barreled Schadenfreude kind of way: Would YOU want to be the editor who rejected John Grisham's first manuscript?

A manuscript returns from the publisher (shipping is cheaper than airmail).

But back to the narrative. No matter how good your writing is, someone is guaranteed to dislike it. That means that if you've sent your book to an agent or editor who happens to be one of those someones, you're in for a soul-crushing response letter.

If you're lucky, they'll tell you what they didn't like. If you're not lucky, you'll get some kind of a form letter. If you're hit-by-a-meteor unlucky, you won't get anything back but your manuscript.

I've never gotten a hostile rejection slip. Once I got a form letter that was literally a slip of paper: One sentence typed on a strip about the depth of a fortune cookie message. It didn't even tell me what my lucky numbers would be.

So what is one to do about all this? Well, if one is a writer, one keeps writing. As I said before, rejection is guaranteed. But failure is only guaranteed if you listen to the voices (even the ones in your head) that tell you you're a hack. Perserverence will bring success.

And your lucky numbers are 8-16-12-9-2.

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