When it comes to submitting a query, article, manuscript or poem, I’ve broken every rule. My problem stems from my elementary school days. I was told by teachers and friends that I could write. I made my best friend, Josephine, weep over my love stories. My first grade teacher marched our whole class into the third and fourth grade classroom to read my story about the birthday party. (True, it was only a small international school with combined classes.)
I was so sure of my writing; I knew I’d be a world-famous author one day. Did I spend time perfecting my writing? Ha! Did I need to? Wasn’t I just born with the gift, the plots and dialogue pouring out of me with each breath?
This may all sound lofty and silly, but believe me, there are folks, adults even, who think that just because they like to write, or have a story in their heads, they are on their way to the Pulitzer.
When we see that we’ve messed up by sending the wrong article to the wrong editor, or overlooked a mass of typos, or read someone else’s terrific prose, we suddenly become quite humbled. I personally think that is the place to start. Once we see our need to perfect our work, even though our grandmother thinks it’s beautiful, then we can begin to soar to the acceptances we desire.
As a beginning author, being part of a writers’ critique group is key. In a group setting, you can receive much feedback that allows you to know what you’re doing right and what needs improvement.
One of the best things that happened to me on the way to getting my first two-book novel deal was to have an agent tell me she couldn’t relate to the main character. She passed on my manuscript, as countless other agents had done. Driven by passion and the certainty that I could do it, I continued to hone my writing skills. In the process, I realized that I wasn’t a natural story-teller; I had to work hard at just keeping up. At last, I found a narrative voice that I liked. Then one glorious day, an agent called to say she loved my novel and wanted to represent me.
So my success story boils down to this bit of ageless advice: You are cool, but not too cool to be rejected. Borrowing wisdom from author Karlyn Thayer, “Don’t assume that everything you write is going to be welcomed by the publishing industry.”
However, don’t give up either!
Alice J. Wisler is the author of RAIN SONG and just-released HOW SWEET IT IS. She designs remembrance cards, writes articles, speaks at conferences, bakes shortbread, and hopes RAIN SONG wins the Christy Award it was recently nominated for. Visit her website, http://www.alicewisler.com, and feel free to email her at info (at) alicewisler.com about your rejections that have led to successes.