Stage One: Rejection

August 21, 2007 at 5:22 am (Uncategorized)

Have you heard of the 5 stages of grieving? I think stage one is denial, but if we were talking about the 5 stages of publishing, it wouldn’t be called denial. It would be called rejection. And maybe there aren’t five stages. Maybe there’s just one, which the unpublished author is forced to relive over and over and over again.

Something to look forward to, I guess, because I have officially entered stage one. Yes, I have my first official rejection. I’m on the board. The dartboard, that is. It took a full ten weeks to get it, but yesterday I received the long-anticipated, form rejection note from my dream literary agency. It’s five lines long, and it’s on a ‘With compliments’ slip, despite the rather ironic fact that there’s really nothing complimentary about it.

Llew took one look at it and said “It’s not very big,” to which I replied, “It doesn’t take very long to say no.” There’s no need to waste a whole sheet of paper on it, that’s for sure. This slip format is not only economical, it’s good for the environment to boot. Three cheers for brevity.

It’s one of Australia’s biggest agencies, so I knew this was almost certainly going to be the outcome. It was always a one in a million chance that the first agency I approached with my unpublished manuscript (MS) would do anything other than reject it. I knew that. I prepared for it. I expected it. And yet somehow it was still disappointing, even knowing everything I already know about this process. There’s a weird, highly schizophrenic aspect to all this, whereby I am supposed to remain “optimistic” even as I’m “realistic.” In this context, I really feel they are mutually exclusive terms. In reality, there is no cause for optimism. My MS has virtually no chance of getting published. Trying to be optimistic about my chances whilst being realistic about my chances is, as I emailed Tim this morning, somewhat akin to watching a midair collision. The two kind of cancel each other out.

Sigh. Since receiving my rejection slip, I’ve taken another long, hard, “realistic” look at my MS, and I am left with the uncomfortable premonition that I’m going to bomb right out of the competition, too. I’ve always known that was the likeliest outcome, but until yesterday I’d focused more on being “optimistic” about my chances. Now I’ve decided to trade my optimism for realism. It ain’t gonna happen. I’ve read extracts from the books of the previous two winners, and I can confidently say mine is nothing at all like either of them. If I were feeling optimistic, I’d say that was a good thing. Since I’m feeling realistic, I know it’s not.

In the interests of trying to salvage some kind of vision for my writing future that is both realistic and optimistic, I will just say again that I do know, I really do, that many authors have to write several manuscripts before they manage to get one published. Most authors have their first MS rejected; many of these are rejected many, many times. I do understand that this first MS of mine will, in all probability, never see the light of day. I accept that likelihood as part of the whole sick enterprise. So where is the optimism, you ask? Well, it’s in the fact that I’m going to keep trying. I’m going to keep working on my new MS. I’m going to keep writing, because I know it’s the only way I will improve as a writer. It’s the only way I will ever get published. And I’m going to send a sample of the first MS to another agency, and then wait for my second rejection slip to arrive. See? Optimistic and realistic.

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