I read about rejection from other bloggers in the past week. I like to know what other writers and editors have to say. Rejection is a hard topic for many writers to face, but it is a challenge for authors, poets, or lyricists.
I have listened to other authors talk about how to face rejection through the years. At the tender age of fourteen, I wrote songs. I met a song plugger at RCA thanks to a Nashville songwriter I met at one of my talent workshops. Before I wrote fiction, I composed songs. I was no Taylor Swift, but the song plugger and the songwriter saw something in me.
The song plugger said, “Take every critique you are given. Remember it is not criticism. It is meant to help you grow as an artist.”
My grandmother is a great writer. She will not come out and share her work with too many people. Mimi has told me she fears critique. I’ve grown used to it throughout the years because I started young. Somehow I would use advice to transform the sharp edges of my work into polished beauty.
None of the stories about rejection touched me as much as the one I’ve reblogged. Story aside, I want to go out and buy his work. I accept him now as one of my many teachers. He had to overcome more than just rejection and revision.
Originally posted on FicFaq:
A writer’s life is one of rejection. In 2002, on a whim and an afterthought, I started writing Where the Rain Falls. It was a tedious process, full of self-doubts much like the peace that was never final in Assam. I finished WTRF in 2006 and spent another year editing and rewriting. At the end of it, the book was shining like a beacon in the literary world. So I thought. How wrong I was.
I started querying. In batches of five or six I sent out queries and to only those agents accepting electronic submissions. Can you imagine the cost of couriering a letter to London or New York? And the normal post? I was better off throwing my query in a bottle into the Brahmaputra. The first agency I queried requested a partial, and a week later, the full manuscript. There were more requests for partials and fulls. In the meantime, I kept working on the manuscript, so that every time a partial or full was requested, I had something better to send. And every time I finished editing, it felt like it was the best I could do. Then the rejections started coming in. Brief letters dropping subtle hints. They were pointing out deficiencies in the story, problems with the plot, dialogue, where I could improve. ‘The story takes too long to take off’, ‘Over repetition of some words’, ‘Can you please cut down on the prose?’ They said I could write. They liked the idea of an old widowed illiterate woman as the protagonist, someone who rose above her inadequacies to lead the protests against the atrocities of the soldiers. They liked the idea of a rebel assassin whose father was a pacifist and a Gandhian. They said it would not sell. They wished me luck. I wrote back thanking them for their time. Their inputs were invaluable. Every little pointer was like a mini-critique for free. These were people who have been in the trade for years. I took heart from the fact that the book was improving. I was learning. I had hope.
I left India for a few years in 2007. England was cold and dreary. I had little time to spare. I was working from eight in the morning. Patients, papers, presentations. Not to speak of the cold. And the infernal rain. Does it ever stop? But I still found time to write and revise. And the rejections, they kept pouring in, much like the rain. My writing was all right. The time, not at all. The publishing industry, I was told, was going through its worst period. One day, an agent wrote back. Yes, we like it, she said. We are not saying we would like to represent you, but we would like to work on it. It was one of the few agencies in London with their own editor. The editor sent her own letter. She wrote: ‘Many thanks for sending us your full typescript, which we have read with interest. We think this story is an astonishing undertaking. It is written with terrific commitment and fervour and we like the fact that the main character is an elderly widow. However, we do feel it needs some polishing. Firstly, the story takes too long to get going and the narrative voice takes a while to get into its stride. You can, occasionally, be too wordy with your prose – especially at the start – and this over-writing needs to be toned down. Do you think you could have a go at making the writing leaner and, perhaps, by doing this cut about 10,000 words from the story?’