Monday, December 10, 2012

Rejection Angst? Try my Rule of Ten!

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?

by Janet Fogg

Janet is the author of Soliloquy, an award-winning historical romance, and co-author of the military history bestseller, Fogg in the Cockpit.

Edited and reprinted from 2011.


Anonymous said...

I like the rule-- keeps wading in the muck of unproductive self-pity to a minimum. I find it helpful to remember that almost every author has rejection stores.

Vicki said...

This is similar to what I call "Jim's 24 hour rule." Jim is a fellow thespian friend of mine ... and in Jim's rule you are allowed to be disappointed and whine about not getting a role for 24 hours, then you must move on or re-evaluate why you are in theater. The codicil to this is you must be careful who you whine to as it could have long-ranging ramifications if your poor attitude is observed by someone in the business.

Ten minutes is a bit short, but prevents brooding and sets you right back on task immediately. I like that a lot.

Thanks for sharing.

Dean K Miller said...

Thirty years ago I sent out my first submission, a humorously horrible poem to a completely wrong market. That rejection letter did little to deter me. I was too young and stupid to follow up or know better.

Twenty-eight years later, more on whim than anyone I sent out a story. A year later it was accepted.

I can't explain it, just as I can't explain why a piece can get rejected so many times before it's accepted.

Now, with quite a few more rejections lining my email inbox, the acceptances shine a little brighter, while the naysayers of the rejected pieces might come to learn, they missed the boat.

But that's okay. Even that famous boat builder from long ago only took two of each species. Not everyone got to get on board.