Yesterday, I received my third rejection email on a manuscript. Actually, this project has had much more than just three rejections, but this was the third rejection on this draft. A draft I thought would be the final draft. However, the rejections were “good rejections,” in that they actually contained great feedback. I guess I’ll be working on at least one more version.
I didn’t feel like incorporate any of those edits yesterday though. I felt like throwing the stupid stack of pages across the room, hopefully hearing a satisfying thud as they hit the wall and fluttered all over the room. Before I lobbed the thing through the air, I opened one more message in my inbox. A non-writer friend had forwarded me a link to an article she thought I’d find inspirational.
I’m a sucker for inspirational quotes, photos, stories, and whatever. My friends forward a ton of them to me, bless their hearts. This one was an essay by the author of The Help and exactly what I needed for a little cheering up yesterday.
You should read the whole article Ms. Stocket wrote for More. It’s worth it. But for the CliffsNotes version, here are some passages that gives you the gist of her story:
It took me a year and a half to write my earliest version of The Help….Six weeks later, I received a rejection letter from the agent, stating, “Story did not sustain my interest.” I was thrilled! I called my friends and told them I’d gotten my first rejection!
…I opened my 40th rejection: “There is no market for this kind of tiring writing.” That one finally made me cry….After rejection number 40, I started lying to my friends about what I did on the weekends. They were amazed by how many times a person could repaint her apartment.
By rejection number 45, I was truly neurotic. It was all I could think about—revising the book, making it better, getting an agent, getting it published. I insisted on rewriting the last chapter an hour before I was due at the hospital to give birth to my daughter….the nurse looked at me like I wasn’t human and said in a New Jersey accent, “Put the book down, you nut job—you’re crowning.”
After my daughter was born, I began sneaking off to hotels on the weekends to get in a few hours of writing. I’m off to the Poconos! Off on a girls’ weekend! I’d say. Meanwhile, I’d be at the Comfort Inn around the corner.
In the end, I received 60 rejections for The Help. But letter number 61 was the one that accepted me. After my five years of writing and three and a half years of rejection, an agent named Susan Ramer took pity on me. What if I had given up at 15? Or 40? Or even 60? Three weeks later, Susan sold The Help to Amy Einhorn Books.
The point is, I can’t tell you how to succeed. But I can tell you how not to: Give in to the shame of being rejected and put your manuscript—or painting, song, voice, dance moves, [insert passion here]—in the coffin that is your bedside drawer and close it for good.
The Help is now a major movie with Emma Stone in the leading role. I might go see it, in between waiting for rejections, revising my pages, and sending the manuscript out again.