Monday, March 14, 2011

Rejection angst? Try my Rule of Ten!

From the (very messy) desk of Janet Fogg.

Years ago, after struggling with repeated rejection angst, I developed my Rule of Ten (Minutes). At first it was a Rule of One (Day). But as my skin thickened, I started to believe agents when they explained that they repeatedly reject worthy books simply because those books “just aren’t right for them.” So I shortened my one day to one hour, and ultimately, to ten minutes.

Here’s the rule: If I receive a rejection, I can wallow in self pity, pull my hair, wail, rip the rejection to shreds, burn it, whatever soothes my soul, but only for ten minutes. Then I’m done. Fini. Minute eleven finds me pressing the “send” button on a new query.

This does require some preparation. I have to know who is next on my list. (Heh!) I have to be certain they’re currently accepting queries and passionate about my genre. I have to keep my query letter fresh. Plus, if I’m away from my “home” computer, I have to have the discipline to not open an email from an agent or editor until I’m poised for action and ready to react at minute eleven.

While this might sound like a game, and perhaps it is, the Rule of Ten works. On minute eleven, optimism reigns yet again. My new query is off and this new agent or editor might love my work. I might receive a great offer!

But let’s get back to coping with a potential rejection. Yes, when a writer offers their beloved novel to an agent or editor, we are handing them part of our soul and rejection is painful. But remind yourself, a query is a business letter, as is the dreaded rejection letter. Sure, a standard “form” rejection that’s been used thousands of times might feel more like a kick in the gut than business as usual, but if we had to read and respond to 500 queries a week, every week, it might seem more logical and less hurtful.

With the Rule of Ten firmly in place, and after numerous rejections, what ultimately evolved was that I no longer needed even ten minutes to wallow and mope. Yes, I often experienced a pang or two, but my Rule of Ten kept me positive and enthusiastic about getting published. And it worked!

While I’m not blasé about receiving rejection letters, by sending another query at minute eleven, I know I’ll have new hope. I then type happily onward rather than beating my breast for weeks and vowing never to send another query. Or worse yet, vowing to abandon all hope and never write again. In the next few weeks, when I again begin to send out queries, I shall apply my Rule of Ten. Who’s with me?

(This time next week? Join me for: Don't edit yet! Take nine!)


lesleylsmith said...

Yeah, Janet! I love this idea.
I'm going to try it. ;)
Of course, another problem with querying is it can take weeks or months to hear back--if you ever do. ;(
How does the Rule of Ten stack up here?

Anonymous said...

What would the skeptics say about a writer who has a -10 minute rule? Ten minutes before sending something out the Jaded-Monster comes out and whacks me on the head asking, "Why do you think this is ready? Why do you think this is wanted? Why do you think this is the right producer, agent, or publisher?" And said writer's skin is 4 inches thick, just enough to allow her the strength to slap the Jaded-Monster around, push him out of the way, and get back to the keyboard.

I'm just saying! Karen Lin :)

Janet Fogg said...

Thanks, Lesley! You're right, sometimes a response either never appears or arrives many months later, though I believe most agents now say in their submittal guidelines "if you don't hear from me in X number of weeks, assume I'm not interested." If there's no reference on their web site regarding their response time, at either six or eight weeks I would assume they're not interested and get my next query out.

Jenny said...

My rule now stands at about 1/2 day, which really is too much time spent wallowing. I'm now officially adopting your Rule of 10.

Janet Fogg said...

Ah, Karen, that darn Jaded-Monster! We're our own worst critics, aren't we, and repeated rejections do take their toll. But that's one of the reasons the Rule of Ten works. As we've discussed, if you faithfully hit the send button on minute eleven, the poor, sad monster does slither back under the bed.

Janet Fogg said...

Way to go, Jenny!

L.G.Smith said...

I'm with you. I stepped off the query go round a couple of months ago to do some revising, but I'm getting back on in a few weeks. Sounds like a positive strategy, and I'm all for that.

N. R. Williams said...

Good idea. I will continue to self publish however, applying the rule of, "get it done."
N. R. Williams, The Treasures of Carmelidrium, Special .99 through April 30

Rosemary Carstens said...

Thanks for the reminder--it's useful not only for writers submitting query letters for books, but for us freelance writers submitting to magazine editors as well!

Janet Fogg said...

L.G., I love your phrase, "query go round." That sums it up so well! Hope your next ride is brief!

Nancy, there's a lot to be said for getting it done!

Rosemary you're absolutely right, thanks for the reminder!

Thank you all for your comments!

Anonymous said...

Great post, Janet! And also adopt the "Rule of Pen"--keep writing! :-]

Shannon said...

I love "query-go-round!" Your rule is not only appropriate to writing but to other life issues as well. Timed disappointment (in what ever form it takes--tears, tantrums, beaten pillows) is a great way to keep moving ahead. Nice advice, oh wise one.