There’s a lot of things I like about writing. One of the things I don’t like, however, are rejection letters.
When I was new to the writing scene and finished my first novel, I researched certain publishing companies I thought my story would fit into and did what many writers who don’t have an agent do: I sent a query letter (or query email, for companies who went paperless.) I was so excited when I typed the letter up, explaining why my book was awesome for their company. I cheered and prayed when I stuck it in the mail, dreaming of the day I’d get the call of the company representative saying, “Yeah! We like your book and will publish it. Here’s your first check!”
Six weeks later, however, I got an email with a simple reply: Thanks for your interest, but we won’t publish your book.
I was disappointed at first. Rejection wasn’t really something I was expecting, being the optimistic new author I was. I shrugged my shoulders, trying to make the best of it. No matter, I thought as I deleted the email with a frown. Most authors are rejected with their first proposal. This is to be expected and isn’t anything new.
But after more queries were sent out, and most didn’t even bother with a response for the rejection, I began to wonder just how long of a road I was going to travel just to be published.
There are countless stories of authors who’ve experienced the rejection of a publishing company multiple times (in some cases, even up to thousands of times), but when it’s actually you, and your story, that’s being rejected, it does’t exactly feel the greatest. For me, it made me question everything I was doing. Was my letter not good enough? Maybe my story really was a dud. Was I being overlooked for not having an agent? With so many other writers trying to be published, maybe I was just getting lost in the shuffle?
For years I remained quiet, the queries no longer being sent and writing in my story becoming a thing to do whenever I felt like it. But after discovering the avenue of self-publishing, and after finding confidence in my writing skill, I decided to start over.
I’d take the novel I had finished, edit it, and self-publish. Publishing a book myself would be better than just leaving it on my computer, right?
But as I started editing, I noticed my writing style had changed. Over the years I had been writing more and refined my skill. I learned more about voice and grammar and how to create interesting dialogue. I also had better practice with creating stories. What started out as a simple edit for grammar turned into a complete re-write of the story as new ideas (and a few new characters) suddenly came to life.
That first query was sent about seven years ago. Back then, I thought my book was ready. But now after doing the re-write, I find myself feeling glad I wasn’t published. My story (seven years ago) was good, but not great. Had it been published, I would’ve premiered a mediocre story with a predictable plot line and boring characters. But after getting that rejection letter, and taking time to think and learn more about the process of writing, I found myself happier with the revised version. Had it not been for that rejection, the story I have now would never have existed.
I know a lot of people say “everything happens for a reason.” Whether that’s true or not is up to your own personal beliefs, but in this case, for me, I can’t help but think the rejection letter I received all those years ago was meant to happen. My novel’s rejection allowed me to create a better story in the long run and helped me gain experience that I didn’t have before. Though the rejection hurt when I received it, in the end, it helped me by giving me a better story. And for that reason alone, the rejection was worth it.