I am so excited to welcome my friend Lara Schiffbauer for my first-ever guest post here on Seeking the Inner Ancient. It’s so appropriate, as Lara and I have a growing history of shared firsts. She was this blog’s first-ever commenter. Then she conducted an interview of this humble writer for her wonderful blog, Motivation for Creation–a first for both interviewer and subject.
Lara is a talented writer I first met via Writer Unboxed. She and I bonded over our mutual love of Star Wars, and we have since been sharing the road toward publication together, which leads me to her topic for the day. It’s one I’m all too familiar with, and I couldn’t be more delighted by her views and advice on a subject we, as writers, all face.
Take it away, Lara:
This summer I entered the dubious country of Queryland. I finished my manuscript on May 30th, and crossed the threshold into the world of query letters, synopses and rejections, oh my!
Queryland isn’t exactly a warm, fuzzy place. Nor is it totally unknown to me. I started submitting short stories about two years ago, and amassed quite a few rejections before I got some acceptances. I’ve been querying my novel for a month, and now have four or five rejections under my belt.
Over time, I’ve realized certain rejections are preferable to me, and certain rejections aren’t. I also realized I’m only at the start of Rejection Trail for my novel, and I better come up with a method to handle all the stress without becoming suicidal (joking!)
Three Ways I Like My Rejections
Quick – The first rejection I ever got, I received less than twenty-four hours after I submitted my story, Bear Hug. I later submitted to an audio short story book publication which took eight months to reject it . I learned that quick is better. A quick rejection allows me to move on, and hopefully get the story to a person who thinks it’s as cool as I do. The only downside is that you can rack up the rejections faster, too!
Friendly –This is where I like the magazine rejections better. I don’t know if they had any less submissions than the agents I’ve sent my query to, but three of the rejections for Bear Hug wrote back really nice, encouraging (albeit short) comments. It was like using a doe-skin glove to slap my face rather than a chain mail gauntlet.
Do No Harm – At the very least, I prefer my rejections in the form of a form letter. I know that sounds odd, but the alternative can be evil. I’ve read stories of scathing rejections. That kind of nonsense is cruel and unhelpful.
Three Ways I Don’t Like My Rejections
Ganging Up – It doesn’t matter if I’ve sent queries/submissions out months apart, they will inevitably end up back in my e-mail box on the same day, or insanely close to each other. This has happened frequently enough that last week when I got one rejection on Tuesday, I asked my husband if he wanted to take bets on which day the second would come in. I was surprised it waited until Thursday.
Well-intentioned Mean Stuff – I have a friend who received a rejection from an agent who, after telling my friend what she liked about the story, told her to “bone up on your grammar.” My friend does not have a grammar problem. I believe the agent was trying to be helpful, but it didn’t end up helpful at all. The upside? If nothing else, the whole interaction let my friend know that she didn’t want to work with that agent, anyway.
Bad Timing – No, there is no good time to receive a rejection, but there are definitely times that are worse than others. Remember that rejection I received on Thursday? It came about ten minutes after I had just had a fabulous plotting session for my next novel. I was flying high on creativity, and thinking “Yes! I can do this writing thing.” I didn’t even get a full evening of feeling competent before the rejection came in. Please, please, please, gentle rejection, give me a chance to feel some pleasure before the pain!
So What’s a Writer to Do?
I have identified three things I do that help me get my brain straightened around and remember a rejection is not the end of the world. Really.
Exercise – There are two reasons why I think exercise helps. The first is the endorphins, as well as the serotonin, dopamine and adrenaline, which are released and work together to make us feel happy and have happy, creative thoughts. The other reason is because by exercising we can burn off the frustration we feel with each and every rejection. Or, am I the only one who gets frustrated?
Chocolate (or some coma inducing junk food of your choice) – I have long reacted to stress by eating. When my date for the senior prom ditched me a week before the event, I ate a half-gallon of cherry nut ice cream in about a half-hour flat. What I have learned over the years is moderation. Put a limit on how much you can indulge yourself, and then go for it, if you want. It’s called comfort food for a reason. Sometimes we just need Hersheys to kiss the boo-boo on our writer egos.
Write, damn it! – There is no substitute. Kurt Vonnegut says it best. “You must stay drunk on writing so reality can’t bite you in the ass.” That’s the version I live by. Reality, and rejection, can be a nasty you-know-what. Writing is a magic pill that takes me out of myself and my insecure feelings, and plops me into a place full of witches, angels and happy endings. It’s a much more preferable place to be.
Lara Schiffbauer is a writer, licensed clinical social worker, mother of two, wife of one, and a stubborn optimist. She loves Star Wars, Lego people, science, everyday magic and to laugh. You can find Lara on Twitter at @LASbauer, or at her blog, Motivation for Creation.