When I asked Clare London to guest blog and she told me that she was going to post naked I thought she was a crazy Brit. Well she is a crazy Brit but not that crazy. After I calmed down she said she was talking about looking good naked and while she would love to strip down for you folks she wasn’t sure I would allow naked women on the website, which is true! However, she was really talking about rejection in all its different forms. So if you can relate she would love for you to talk about how you coped (or are still coping) with rejection.
Here’s Clare’s post on Looking Good Naked?
No, that’s not to say I’m going to expose myself on (or off) line, even with Gok Wan’s help. I’m talking today about emotional nakedness – about facing personal attack, about coping with humiliation, about bearing the deepest cut of all…REJECTION… and then attempting to look good again. Eventually.
I’ve suffered romantic rejection (lots), I’ve seen my work bypassed and my tax claims refused. No one wanted me on their school hockey team (well, I wouldn’t either, to be honest, I was crap), the new clothes store doesn’t stock up to my size, I once lost a job to someone younger, more smartly-dressed and (btw) male. And then OMG I’ve had my fiction rejected. Often.
But guess what? I lived! I can’t say my house was Fun Palace Inc. during that period, but the Goddesses Sense and Perspective ruled again in the end. We all suffer rejection at some stage, and we have to deal with it.
Just for fun, let’s take a run through the Seven Stages of my process. Where I try to face up to it and face it down: suck it up and spit it out: ride the wave of horror and maybe work my way through. Or at least – this is how it MIGHT go.
The following work is copyrighted to the author, and represents her cynical and navel-gazing opinion ONLY. It intends no reference to specific works, authors, publishers, branded painkillers or hot showers. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. No fried chickens were harmed in the making of this post. Oh, and it’s all totally Without Prejudice.
“Regretfully, we don’t feel your story is right for us at this time. …it could have benefited from deeper characterization… there is quite a bit of telling as opposed to letting the story unfold through the actions of the characters… frequent changes of point of view that leaves the reader feeling confused as to what is going on.”
ANGER or: How dare they!
I mean, I sweated cobs of blood on this, right? What do they know?
It was created, a new life from the rich soil of my experience, a blossoming treasure spawned of my emotional depths. I nursed it, I birthed it (without epidural), I spent hours of my hard-earned leisure time on it, waking up in the small hours of a morning because it cried to me, staying alert long after everyone else had gone to bed because it NEEDED me. I drank too much coffee, I gave myself eyestrain headaches. And I made it the best I could, with such personal suffering. I cut chapters, I killed my fictional babies, I wore the E and O out on my keyboard. I ripped out my exposition, I culled my commas, I destroyed dialogue tags and eviscerated the ellipses.
Yeah, okay, I know. Don’t grimace at me like that, I tried to purge the purple prose, too. And yet still they REJECTED it?!
JEALOUSY or: How come THEY made it?
It’s not a pretty feeling, of course.
But I mean, THEY got accepted. THEY’VE been published. This huge population of successful authors who smile in their pictures, sparkle wittily in their bios and produce entertaining fiction on a regular basis whilst sipping cocktails, promo-ing regularly and effectively, and probably sewing ballroom frocks in their spare time.
My work is just as good, surely? Are we saying mine is less witty, thoughtful, sexy, not crafted as well, less rewarding, yadda yadda. Obviously I’ve read plenty of poor, published fiction. Plenty of two-dimensional characters, plots as holey as Gruyere, Mammoth Misunderstandings, Cringe-making Coincidences and enough Saccharined Sentiment to rot what teeth I have left.
So how come? Do they have some magic key to acceptance? Have they sold their author’s soul to the Devil of Publishing? Who do I have to sleep with? Or who SHOULDN’T I have slept with?
And no, you don’t need to state the obvious, that I should have used that sleeping time to edit my manuscript one more round
HUMILIATION or: Red is so not my colour.
So. Okay, the dust is settling. Let’s face the cruel facts. It’s nothing to do with them. It’s all ME, right? I used the wrong font: I sent the wrong chapters: I was too obsequious in my query letter. I don’t fit the mold: my story has too little sex. Too much sex. Too cough unusual sex. I didn’t fit the HEA, the HFN or – one of our favourites – the Don’t-Know-About-Happy-But-You-Look-Good-In-My-Shower genre. I didn’t edit enough: I didn’t refine it within an inch of its life. I missed something. Many things, obviously. I launched myself like a professional, but there were far too many leaks in my hull. In a manner of speaking.
Basically, I put myself out there and they spat in my eye. I offered up my Precious: they laughed themselves silly (virtually speaking, of course, because no, I never actually heard it): and I was totally, comprehensively mortified.
Kick me while I’m down, why dontcha?
DESPAIR or: It was only a matter of time.
…before I was unmasked as the inferior hack I really am.
What the hell was I thinking? It was inevitable, of course. I’m crap. A mere dabbler. What possessed me to think I could ever compete with the great stuff that’s out there? The books that are polished, well-researched, evocative, empathetic and deliciously provocative – and whose authors are charming human beings, too. I’ll never match that quality.
No, I’m MORE than crap. I’m pretentious. My plot is as transparent as the living room window and the sex not half as dirty. My characters talk like subtitles on a dodgy Japanese anime series and are as three dimensional as my weekly shopping list.
No, no, I am BEYOND crap. And so much more than that – they rejected ME. It’s personal – oh so very personal. They rejected my ideas, my dreams. My characters, my style, my quaint use of flashback and my (probably too) subtle humour. My BABY. The time I spent on that book has been lost to me for ever. I’m no further forward. I wasted my pretension on an abortive career in fiction.
And yeah, you said it, the time would have been so much better used on cleaning the windows.
RESIGNATION or: Helloooo Again, Day Job.
There’s no other conclusion. It must all go back into the ‘Nice to Have’ folder. My aspirations, my career, my creative genius cough.
I mean, what kind of idiot was I? I can’t expect success, just like that. I’m a newbie, I reached too far, too soon. It’s going to take 20 years, I’ll be like Mary Wesley, first publishing in my old(er) age. I haven’t found my right genre, I haven’t discovered my ‘voice’. It might never happen AT ALL. I might wander for ever, buffeted on all sides by rejection letters, the sound of pitying laughter in my ears, my fingers cramped with desperation over those worn E and O keys, the pages of my immature manuscript put to no better use than kindling in winter in my tiny, uncomfortable garret…
Okay, okay, and maybe I’ve still left in too many traces of that purple prose.
But why bother trying again?
I must learn to be satisfied with existing creative outlets such as my son’s school essays, some grotesquely long weekly shopping lists, and complaint letters to those spammers who claim my life will be better with 9 inches, kept at a permanent full tilt ahead, and preferably paid for by the $18m they hold in trust for me in an overseas bank account.
Who needs more? We all know to what better use I can put my time. Yes, the windows, thanks for the reminder.
REALISM or: Get Over Yourself!
Well, okay. So time passes, right?
Perspective nudges back into the picture. Sense prevails. The kids are no longer terrified of leaving me alone with sharp implements.
You know, maybe it’s not totally about ME. Having re-read the email, it’s not all bad. In fact, it’s very constructively written. In fact, I think I should probably see this as a definite step forward.
And of course, who’d be so arrogant as to think their MS couldn’t be improved? (stop rolling your virtual eyes). Maybe I can see their point. Points. Maybe it does need some more work. Maybe it’s not ‘right for them at this time’. But it isn’t without potential.
After all, the comments are about the MS, not ME personally. Funny how that seems much clearer now.
What do you mean, told you so?
RECOVERY or: The KFC effect
Well, that’s what I call it.
That story that goes around motivational seminars, how Colonel Sanders hawked his recipe around for about 100 years before someone accepted it. I used to think – what would have happened if it really was a crap recipe? – but obviously the moral is to embrace Persistence and Determination and Self-Belief.
Yeah, I can do that. I have new enthusiasm, new resilience. After all, I have ideas that will not be ignored. Stories that want to be told: abiding love for my craft. And I have white paint to trace back in my E and O.
some time later ….
Seriously, I love writing: I look forward to returning to it every time. Each day I learn new techniques and continue mastering a better creative style. And to be honest, I always knew chapter#4 wasn’t strong enough. There’s that crashing continuity error in chapter#6. Character #3 has always been crying out for more of the action. And the dog was probably a poor idea.
My fingers are itching.
The chocolate helped a lot, too.
Sorry, did you say something? No, I can’t chat right now, I’m editing. You understand, right?
So that’s me :).
Have you had a similar experience? And what strategies do you have to cope with it? Feel free to share with us all!