Hello, inklings! I hope your week has been blessed and that you’ve been busy enjoying, creating, and honing your art!
Last week, I left off talking about how receiving copious amounts of rejection letters proved more of a blessing than a curse. In reading and re-reading (probably wasn’t healthy to re-read, but ya know…) publishers’ polite and surprisingly lengthy paragraphs – all of which led up to the heartbreaking words, “No, thanks,” or to the less concise yet no less heartbreaking phrase, “We’re sorry, but it’s a pass for us,” – I discovered a common theme connecting each of their reasons for rejecting: my main character felt distant.
With this realization, I was presented with two options. Option A was to let hubris win the day by ignoring the insights of top industry professionals and self-publishing the book as it was. Option B was to take their comments seriously and use them as a learning experience. I chose the latter.
As I mentioned last week, I decided it would be well worth the investment to hire an editor who could show me specifically where, why, and how my main character, Iris, was failing to impress. After a week, I received my edit letter and concluded I’d rather watch reruns of The Nanny for three days straight while chugging gallons of milk than proceed with revising my manuscript (and I really, really can’t stand Fran Drescher’s voice, nor do I tolerate lactose with any reasonable ladylikeness). A few days after that, I drank some coffee, put on some gangster rap, and handled it, as the t-shirt says (except for the fact that I listened to the Gladiator soundtrack, not gangster rap, but what’s the difference?).
At the end of it all, I couldn’t have been more grateful for the learning experience this particular bout with rejection proved to be. It not only gave me critical, practical knowledge on how to build strong protagonists, but also an invaluable, ineffable satisfaction as I had proven to myself just how dedicated I am to this exciting, enraging, rewarding, demoralizing, one-of-a-kind world of writing (it’s as wild and unpredictable as a writer’s emotions!).
But there’s another kind of rejection I want to address in this post, one completely unrelated to agents and publishers, one that comes from the most unlikely of places: our friends and family.
Before I continue, I want to say that I am very fortunate to have parents who’ve always supported my dream of becoming a writer. My husband is my biggest source of encouragement, and not once has he ever suggested that I rethink this career path. Friends and extended family have also been nothing but uplifting, always expressing interest in my books and works-in-progress. However, despite my friends’ and family’s excitement when it comes to talking about my work, I’ve found that when it comes to actually reading it, their enthusiasm often falls short. Here’s an example of an inner monologue I’ve had when friends don’t scramble to the nearest electronic device to buy my latest book the second it’s released:
Some friends! If they spent four months of their lives researching, outlining, writing, revising, and editing a book, by golly I would read it! And I wouldn’t wait ‘til they were giving it away for free or running a Kindle promotion – I would purchase it at full price. And I wouldn’t take six months to read it – I would read it ASAP. And I wouldn’t procrastinate posting my review on Amazon – I would do it as soon as I finished reading!
Pretty nauseating, right? I mean how obnoxious, needy, selfish and self-righteous can a person be!? Do you know how many times I’ve received invitations to host a Younique party and declined, or how many times I’ve deleted Amazon emails that asked me to rate the latest book I read? (Those authors need love, too!) The truth is, the world doesn’t revolve around me, or you, or anyone, no matter how amazing their job, their company, or their book.
We all lead busy lives, and people can’t be expected to drop everything just because you gave birth to a fast-paced thriller or YA fantasy. The second I let that fact sink in, the feeling of rejection lifted once again, and I felt free. Free from bitterness. Free from disappointment. Free from fear that my writing wasn’t interesting enough to read. This form of rejection further reinforced the reasons for why I write.
It isn’t to try to win fans, nor is it to make boatloads of money. It’s because it’s what gives me the most joy in the world, and even if every publisher, family member and friend hated my work with the fire of a thousand suns (I stole that line from 10 Things I Hate About You, which has been on my mind since I saw the meme below on Instagram), I would still do it.
I believe each and every one of us has such a passion, something that makes our eyes light up when we talk about it and makes us twitch when we’re without it too long (not unlike a drug! :-P). This passion is intoxicating, addicting, inextricably linked to our being. We could no sooner give it up than the ocean could relinquish its waves to the sky.
Assuming you’re a writer like me, I encourage you to reflect on all the frustration, rejection, fear, and doubt you’ve encountered, and then take a few minutes to consider how all of it has shaped and strengthened you. Looking back at all the trials in your life that at the time seemed devastating and destructive, and seeing the good that came from them, might very well change the way you write, not to mention, the way you live.
PS: Here’s the link to my debut YA fantasy novel, Moonbow: The Colors of Iris. I promise I won’t be bitter if you don’t read it 😉
 Please correct me if that’s an exaggeration ;-).
 I don’t really say “by golly” in real life, but it flowed so nicely as I was typing.