Developing a Thick Skin

You know that part of the submission process where you send in your work and sit back, fingers and toes crossed, and wait and hope? If you’ve ever submitted your work, chances are pretty good you also know the part where your work comes back with a rejection. All the weeks and months of waiting and hoping come crashing down with the intensity of a kidney punch.

You have two ways of dealing with such a blow. You can curl up in the fetal position and swear to never do it again. Sometimes this means you give up on writing completely and sometimes you simply refuse to send your work out again. I call this the “I will never love again” reaction because, if you truly are a writer, you have a NEED to write. Chances are that need includes wanting to see your work get into print. Giving up is giving up a dream. You are, in essence, severing a key part of yourself to avoid feeling the hurt again.

Then there is the other way to react. You can shrug off the rejection, climb back up to your keyboard and start writing and submitting again. Remember, one publisher’s junk may be another’s treasure. If you were fortunate enough to get feedback on your work you might want to scrutinize said feedback closely to either fix what’s broken or avoid making the same mistakes again.

This year I have now had two rejections. Each was for a different book and in each case I had VERY high hopes that the books would be picked up. You know that saying the higher you go the further you fall? Yeah, it applies to how high your hopes are too. I’ll admit I did the fetal thing for a day or so in each case. I needed to pull my wits back around me and heal the wounds (that may sound dramatic, but it’s true none the less).

In both rejections I received something that many rejectees don’t get. I got personal feedback (in one case a face-to-face Skype call) to tell me why my book wasn’t accepted. In one case the press was focusing on a different age group than my book addressed. In the other, the book was too weak to publish without additional work. In both cases I know that the person delivering the bad news did it at personal cost to themselves.

That didn’t make the news any easier to take, but, and I want to make this point very clear, the person delivering the bad news did not do it without thought or cost. I think we, as writers, often forget that the publishers and editors out there are people too. They are people who do not take joy in saying no. Writing is a business and sometimes the hard decisions must be made.

Often the bad news comes in the form of a form letter with little to no feedback. I know that such a method is largely due to the volumes of submissions most publishers receive, but I’ve also got to think that if a face-to-face rejection was required for each and every submission, there would be fewer publishers out there. It would just get too hard. With that in mind, I want to thank the people who provided me with my last rejections. Thank you for taking the time to be personal and put yourself out there. I appreciate it.

I want to stress that, in both cases, I am able (and willing) to submit future work to the respective presses. I submitted to them in the first place because I respect them and the quality of the work they produce.

So, how do I plan to proceed from here?

Well, the book that didn’t fit the age group is going to be entered in a contest next month. I am writing the second book in the series for my NaNoProject and the third is already written. Books two and three both need extensive editing, which I will do in the new year.

The book that is still a bit weak is going into the drawer for a while. The last time I did a major edit on it, it had sat for eight months and I could finally see some of the warts when I picked it back up. I’m hoping that it won’t be permanently in the drawer (no doubt the characters will try to claw their way out at some point) but we will see.

I also started work on my next piece of adult fiction. It is something I’ve been wanting to write for quite a while and is a major departure from my fantasy novel. I know I’m going to have lots of fun writing it and I think you will enjoy reading it too. It is a Science Fiction/Humor story that could be the start of a new series.

I guess you could say that I’m dealing with my rejection by setting myself up for more. Masochistic, ain’t I?

It’s like I’ve said many (MANY) times in the past: persistence and perseverance are the hallmarks of a published writer. If you don’t get back up after your rejection, you’ll never succeed. And make no mistake, I’m going to succeed.

Have a good week and good luck.

NaNoWriMo Update

I won’t call it a personal update this week as I’ve given you the crux of what’s gone on in the past few days. I do want to give you a word count update for NaNoWriMo though. I am delighted to report that I have passed the 35,000-word mark. It does not put me on the path to hitting 50K in 20 days like I had originally planned but I have had three days where I couldn’t actually write so I’m actually on track. I won’t have any trouble hitting the 50K target in the 30-days.



  1. Great comments Mike. I look forward to the day when I can be in your shoes and have my manuscripts edited to the point where I think they’re ready to send out. I look forward to hearing about how your persistence has paid off and you’ve sold a manuscript to someone!

  2. I can much relate to this post, when I started writing, (blog mostly) I never expected to receive a bad comment about an article I wrote. This person really dug deep, and quoted a two word metaphor I used and ripped it apart like I was back in high school on a test. I know for books, it is a bit different, I have finished my book, and well I got my proof (I am self publishing) and I was disappointed that after really paying attention to all my spelling, and editing I still have many faults in it. I think it is because I was very emotional when writing. However, I got back in the sattle yesterday, edited again and resubmitted for approval. I was approved, so now I will reorder my proof and again review with a fine tooth comb.
    I want to be able to publish early December.
    So I too wish you the best and keep up the great writing. Look forward to interacting.

  3. Thanks for the great comment, Cathy. I’m afraid no matter how hard you try you can’t please everyone. All you can do is your best and let the negative comments roll off. Learn what you can from them and keep working. Good luck with your book.

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