I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

What Do You Do With A No?

I almost didn't write this post. After all, who wants to read about not getting the call...or not being asked for the rest of the manuscript after sending in a proposal...or not winning the contest after reaching the finals?

As I tried to think of something else to blog about, I kept coming back to this subject, because it's not a matter of if your manuscript gets reject, but a matter of when. The only way to keep from being rejected is to put your stories away in a drawer.

I've never been afraid to submit. Guess I'm a lot like Mazie, the kitten who adopted me. Life is a new experience for him (Newsflash!! Mazie is a HE, not a she). In his zest for exploring, he rushes headlong on my slippery floors into each experience, often colliding with the wall or sofa. But his collisions don't stop him from doing it again. Like him, I embrace writing to the fullest, sending out my work and often getting it back by return mail. Sooo, as you can imagine, I have a lot of experience with rejection.

How do you deal with the I'm sorry this doesn't meet our needs letter? You could start a new style of wall paper (I could paper a room), or line the litter box, or build a bonfire...this list could get long. Personally, I allow myself about a day and half to wallow in self-pity. Any longer and it might take root. Any less keeps me from working through the depression. And it is depression because I had pinned my hopes on the agent or editor loving my manuscript.

Once I get through the what's the use phase, I evaluate any comments on the letter or contest entry critique. When Blood Kin was initially rejected from Woman's World, the editor had complimented me on the ending but said the story wasn't plausible. I looked at the story once more, saw where I could fix the problem and sent it in again. This time Woman's World bought it. Wooo-Hooo!

What if there's no clear cut reason for the rejection? Or you get mixed signals? In one contest I entered, I received 3 scores. One was a 95. Wooo-Hooo! One was a 75-but accompanied by very insightful comments-Wooo! One was a 63. No wooo. The judge who gave me the 95 loved the story, thought it was ready to be submitted and published. I'm not saying the judge who gave me the 63 hated it, but from her comments, I gathered she didn't like my writing style.

And that's okay. Not everyone is going to like what you write or how you write it. Get use to it. It's not personal. When you get through kicking and screaming, submit your manuscript to another editor, agent, or contest.

What do you do if there aren't any comments or suggestions? Several things:
  • Pray. Ask God to show you what, if anything, needs to be changed.
  • Read your manuscript aloud, not just to yourself but to someone. Or download a program like Free Natural Reader (or purchase the upgrade for a better quality voice). You will be amazed at how stilted sentences and bad dialogue will jump out at you.
  • Check out My Book Therapy articles and Forum
  • Find a critique partner you trust and ask for an honest evaluation.
  • If you can afford it, get a professional critique from a fiction editing service. There are many out there, but I have personally found Susan May Warren's My Book Therapy has changed my writing life.
One last thing:

Whatever you do, don't let a rejection letter stop you from writing and submitting. If you do, that critical editor looking over your shoulder wins. Christie Craig received over 3000 rejections for her novels, and then in one day sold four books. What if she'd quit at rejection #2999?

Pat Trainum

P.S. Does Mazie need a new name? Thought about calling him Mr. Mazie. Any suggestions would be appreciated!


  1. I'm fairly new to blogging. Some days I wonder about what I post and get no responses.I don't know what I'd do if I were in your shoes. But if God is for us who can be against us..I tend to be hard on myself but on the other hand I have much to learn about writing. He might want a new name..

  2. Pat, I sincerely appreciate that you've offered realistic personal experiences, and practical "how to move forward tips" without remaining in depression, etc.
    Also I love kitty's saga and his adopting of you. Not sure about name for him, but hope it includes some form of ponder.

  3. Pat, Thank you so much for your honesty. Its a-mazi-ng (did you catch the reference to mazie? LOL) the impact those letters have on us. How could they not like it? It's my baby!

    But alas, I have gone back and reviewed, with new eyes, some of my earlier work and wonder if they aren't still standing around the water cooler saying "Remember that awful manuscript?"

    After the rejection last year I decided to jump in and learn as much as I can and that is where MBT came in. Instead of having a pity party, we have to sometimes say "Gee, maybe they are right." and try to improve what we can.

    Great post! It appears the woman-who-would-not-have-a-cat . . . has one! Mazie is adorable.

  4. Yes Jennie, our manuscripts are our babies and we don't like being told our babies are ugly! lol I know what you mean about the water cooler. I still shudder when I go back and look at some of my ealier work. As for Mazie, we go back to the d-o-c-t-o-r today for vaccinations, etc.

  5. Pat, I really like the "sound of your voice" as you share practical ways to work through a "no." :) What you shared gave me some good insight and helped me to ralize I need to ponder ahead of time how I will respond when I receive my first "no" (whenever I finally get to submit a manuscript!). Thanks for offering your transparency and for sharing sound wisdom. :) Still thinking on a new name for "Mazie!" :)

  6. That word NO is so annoying isn't it?

    One thing I do to turn that NO into a positive is to collect NOs. My initial goal is to reach 100. And maybe along the way, I'll finally hear the word YES.

    I also get inspiration from a not-so-well-known Disney movie, "Meet the Robinsons." It's about a young inventor who just can't get his inventions right. He thinks he's a failure. But his family celebrates his failures and encourages him to "Keep moving forward ..." That movie spurs me on when those NOs threaten to stop me.

    But perhaps the greatest motivator is this verse I have on a Post-it Note above my monitor: "Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me Heavenward in Christ Jesus." Phil 3:13-14

  7. Pat, phew, good thing we know Mr. Mazie is a boy so we can stop talking about how cute "she" is. Thank you for sharing so honestly. You are clearly an excellent writer, and I can't wait for things to take off for you, lady!

    Brenda, great ideas, and awesome Post-it Note! Wink!

  8. I vote we keep Mazie as a name. It's too special. We'll start a new trend where it's a name for guys and gals.

    What do you do with a "no"? For one thing you can save it for the IRS because it's proof you're pursuing a career as a writer and you can therefore deduct writing expenses such as MBT retreats! Besides, it can be a little fun to stuff a rejection in a file and say, "Take that, you ole IRS."

    Lets off a little steam.

    But, yes, it hurts for a while.

  9. A lovely post, Pat, that every writer needs to read. No one likes to hear no. I work with toddlers who do not appreciate no, but sometimes it's for our own good.

    Giving up is so easy to do. Writing through the depression is so much harder, but it makes us stronger. Thanks for sharing!

  10. When I receive a "no," it helps me to remember that sometimes it's about the timing.

    Several years ago, I submitted a proposal for a series of children's picture books that was rejected by several publishers. Since then, I've teamed up with a co-author who took a good idea and made it a great idea. One of those same publishers acquired the first two books in the series and they will be released in January, 2011!

  11. Wonderful post, Pat. My favorite part was: "When you get through kicking and screaming..." I appreciate that your post gives us permission to have those "kicking and screaming" moments. But then you offer the "after," and that's great, too. Cute kitty. I like cats about as much as mosquito bites, but kittens are fun. It's just too bad they have to grow up...:)

  12. Oh Pat, that was so the right words to say today! I'm encouraged. Thanks lady:)

  13. Oh and Maze sounds like a tough kitty name.

  14. Pat, Thanks for the wonderful post. I just love your voice and needed to hear those words today. Oh my goodness, can't believe Christie Craig persevered through 3,000 rejections, then sold. Amazing. I agree with Ginger, Maze sounds like a winner.

  15. I used to have a Wall of Shame before I redecorated--a corkboard with a bunch of rejection letters stuck to it. It was cool to see how the rejections letters got nicer over time. lol.
    Rejection can mean it's not the right time, it's not the right place, or the ms isn't quite ready. It's important to have the right editor to make the story shine, the right people to believe in and promote it, and of course, to have a story you're not going to be ashamed to promote yourself.

  16. Pat, I have to admit one of my guilty pleasures is Woman's World...and I especially love the romance and the mystery stories each week. I actually remember reading Blood Kin! I am glad they accepted it, it was a great story! I love the twist at the end. I would never have guessed that it was ever rejected, and I appreciate your willingness to write about it. Since it something we will all face (if we haven't already) it was the perfect topic!