I don’t know anyone who’s been writing who hasn’t had their moments of doubt. In my span of fourteen years , some writers have been so overwhelmed by doubts that they’ve stopped writing. While other writers have been newbies, a few have been successfully published authors that walked away.
So where do these doubts come from?
Mostly, they are a reflection of our internal fears, aided and abetted by a tight, subjective market and tough competition.
Enter the Rejection Letter.
If you’ve submitted, you’ve probably gotten one of these babies. You know the lines–Dear Author, Thank you for submitting your work. Unfortunately, I do not feel I’m an the right agent for this work… A few are kind enough to wish you the best and remind you that this is a subjective business and blah, blah, blah.
Frankly, most of us stop reading after the rejection part. And while we’re told this is a business, it’s hard not to take it personally when there are so many ‘yous’ embedded in the text, you’ve spent months polishing and putting your heart and soul into it and someone just called your baby ugly.
So get mad, cry into your soda, attach it to a voodoo doll and stab the effigy with pins or rant to your writing buddies. You’re entitled to your emotions. JUST DON’T VENT IN A PUBLIC FORUM!
But set the clock–you have ten minutes.
Time’s up! Now put the letter aside and pull yourself together. Done? Good. Congratulations! You’ve had the courage to put yourself and your writing out there.
Then come back in three days and reread the letter.
Is it a form letter with dear author and then somewhere apologize for being a form letter? If so, then feed it to the shredder. That lovely buzzing noise is the sound of you taking back control of your writing career and is immensely satisfying to boot.
But it if isn’t a form letter, then what?
That depends on what it says. If it pinpoints a specific area–such as your heroine is unsympathetic, I couldn’t believe she trained frogs for the ballet, etc. then find a person who reads the genre, have them read your manuscript then ask them about the area in question.
Why a reader and not a writer?
As writers we get hung up on rules. Readers just want to be entertained. And while grammar and craft are important, agents and editors are looking for the story that triggers their spidey sense.
It’s a small but significant difference.
And if there are no hints?
Then shred it. It’s served its purpose.
And while you may have dreamed about working with said agent/editor, they weren’t the right person for you.
The market is tough and jam-packed, you need as many cheerleaders as you can get in your corner raving about your latest story.
And you will find them. Because writers are readers too and many of us write the stories we want to read. But in the meantime, celebrate what you’ve accomplished–a finished manuscript, a toe-dip in the professional waters, and a few good friends that have bought a ticket for the same ship of dreams you’re on.
And if that’s not enough, I have a really loud shredder you can borrow to drown out your doubts.