The Success in the Failure

My Facebook friends and Twitter followers already know about this, but I thought that, considering the subject matter, it bore repeating as a blog post.

Yesterday morning, a little less than one month since I sent out my first real manuscript submission to a publisher, I received an email back from said publisher.

It was a big, fat rejection letter.

And it wasn’t even an overly impressive rejection. It basically read, “Ms Tobin, sorry, but your story isn’t for us, good luck in the future.”

Now, here’s the thing. I’ve been expecting this since the second I hit the “send” button on my submission. While I wanted to have a glimmer of hope, I had a dozen voices shouting pessimism (reason?) at me. I thought, “It’s my first submission, and who the hell ever gets published on their first submission?” and, “You don’t even read romance novels, so what makes you think you would be able to write a decent one?” I wasn’t terribly hard on myself, I was just trying to be reasonable. I didn’t want to get my hopes up when the chances are so terribly low of getting a deal with a publisher these days, particularly on your first try.

But, here’s the other thing: I’d be a dirty, dirty liar if I said the rejection didn’t sting. Despite my 99.99% certainty that nothing good would come of my submission, there was still that tiny little glimmer in the back of my mind, holding out hope. And that glimmer imploded in upon itself when I read the words “your project isn’t right for us”. I had a wave of disappointment, followed by a wave of anger, followed by a wave of almost physical pain – all this within a 30 second span.

But then something wonderful happened. It was over. After weeks of checking my email fifty times a day, wondering if I would get a response today or not for months, telling myself that it was going to be a rejection but also praying for it to be an acceptance, it was over. My story was rejected. Submission saga complete. Nothing left to worry about.

I learned several things about myself and about the system by submitting that manuscript…

For one thing, I learned that I hate the traditional publishing process, not because it rejected me, but because of the time and waiting required. I only had to wait a month to get that rejection letter, and the waiting drove me right up the wall. Most big publishers quote up to 6 months or more, and many of them make it very clear that they expect to be the only one looking at your manuscript at any given time (if they find out you’ve submitted to multiple publishers at once it’s an automatic rejection). So say for a moment that I start submitting my zombie apocalypse novel and that it takes 5 publishers before one says yes (which is generous, as some people submit to dozens of publishers before hitting pay dirt). Now say that each of those publishers requires that you can’t submit to anyone else until they’re done with you, and say that each one of them quotes a 6 month waiting period, which they dutifully use every second of. That means that it would be two and a half years before that fifth publisher decided to take a chance, and that’s before the long process of contracts, cover design, copyediting, etc that can also take years. In other words, by the time my zombie apocalypse novel was actually in print people might not give a flying rat’s tail about zombies anymore, and my sales might be abysmal. Alternately, I could self-publish the book by the end of this year if I put my heart in it…I’d have to do all the cover/editing/marketing work myself, but it would be out years earlier, during a time when there are tons of zombie movies and games around because zombies are in right now.

Another thing I learned is that I’m not nearly as delicate as I thought I was. Sure I had my moment of depression that sparked anger and frustration as well, but it was all over in less than a minute. I didn’t mope or tell myself that I got rejected because my story was crap. I didn’t turn into a miserable ball of self-loathing. I had a burst of emotion, and then it was over. I’ve moved on. Back on the road and heading into the great beyond. No turning back now.

And another thing that I learned is that I’ve gathered a great community of family, friends, and fellow writers around me over the past months. When I took to Facebook and Twitter to announce my first official rejection letter, the response I got was just wonderful. Amongst the messages I got were:

“Some day your writing will pay off for you. You love it too much for it not to!” – my father

“Just save it for when you do sell your book. You can frame it next to a glowing review.” – @writerreese

“Celebrate! It means you’re a dedicated, professional writer!” @SaraMThorn

There were many others, and it really gave me a burst of confidence, an invaluable thing to me. So I want to say thank you. Thank you to the people who rallied around me to make sure that I knew this wasn’t the end of the world (or, at least, my writing career), thank you to all the writers and references that have let me know what I can expect from both traditional publishing methods and self-publishing methods, and thank you to the editor who gave my manuscript a chance and was relatively quick in letting me know that it wasn’t what they were looking for. Now I can move forward, which is the direction that one definitely wants to be headed in.

The 12 Posts of Christmas – Disappointment

9. Depressing, perhaps, but we don’t always get what we want for Christmas. Write about the present you’re still waiting for.

I can honestly say that when I consider this proposal, not much springs to mind. It’s not that I always got everything I wanted or anything like that, but I was always quite happy with what I got for Christmas, and as such I can’t really recall many specific things that I wanted and never got.

But if I had to pick one thing, I guess I’d go with a pet. Obviously these days I understand the (many) reasons why I couldn’t have one, but I spent a good bit of my childhood wishing for a kitten or a puppy, and I can recall several Christmases during which I was secretly hoping that one might be rolling around under the tree when I got up in the morning.

That’s all I can really say about this one. 😛

“Aim for the top-right corner!”

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

36. Goal setting

That’s a little hockey joke up in the title of the post, in case you missed it. 😛

If there’s something I think we can all agree on, it’s that goals are important. Without goals we cannot advance, we cannot attain. It could be something as simple as wanting to pay off a loan sooner. Without actively making the decision to set that goal for yourself, your loan will stay exactly where it is. By setting the goal, by choosing to want something better, you’re taking the first step in setting yourself up for attainable advancement.

The problem with goals is that most people don’t understand how to make a proper one. Most people set themselves up for failure by creating goals that aren’t well thought out. Common issues are creating a goal that is too broad, or too ambitious, or that neglect to take important personal factors into account. For example, take the common goal of weight loss:

Too Broad
“I want to lose weight.”
This goal is about as broad as you can get. Think about it for a moment…how are you going to lose weight? Are you going to eat less? Different kinds of foods? More vegetables? Less fats? Are you going to exercise? What kind of exercise? Running? Spinning class? P90X? And what about the fine details? How much weight do you want to lose? How fast? Neglecting to narrow down your goal leaves you open to far too many possible points of sabotage. You might exercise your ass off, but neglect to monitor your eating habits and thus fail to accomplish anything. You might lose weight, but not as fast as you had hoped and find yourself discouraged enough to give up. If you figure out all the details ahead of time, and stick to them, you’re much more likely to progress.

Too Ambitious
“I want to lose 15 lbs in a month!”
It should come as no surprise that setting goals that are too ambitious (in other words: damn near impossible) will also set you up for failure and disappointment. In this example you would have to do something very extreme, and probably very unhealthy, to reach your goal, since a healthy and plausible rate of weight loss is about 1 lb a week. If you set yourself a goal that is so ambitious that there’s no way it’s actually going to happen, you’re just going to end up frustrated that you can’t achieve it.

Neglect to Attend Important Factors
“I’m going to lose x-lbs by cutting out all sweets and soda.”
This is actually a half-decent plan at first glance. Most people take far too much sugar into their bodies, so cutting that out would almost definitely result in some form of weight loss. But in this example the goal neglects to consider the repercussions of the intended actions. Presumably the person who set the goal consumes a large amount of sugar, if they believe cutting it out will help them lose weight. What’s going to happen when that sugar stops being consumed? Many people don’t realize that sugar is no different that many drugs. It’s addictive, it gives you an artificial “high” in the form of short-term energy, and cutting it completely from your diet can cause withdrawal symptoms. No, I’m not kidding. Aside from all that, do you actually have the willpower to cut out all sugar? Is this plan going to succeed only in making you miserable? Because misery is absolutely not conducive to a successful goal. When determining the details of your goal you have to take into account the consequences that may occur and your own personal ability (really, really take a good look at yourself here) to deal with the limitations you’ve set for yourself.

These three factors can be applied to a goal of any type. If we’re looking at a writing goal, they definitely apply. You can’t be too broad (“I want to be a writer even though I have absolutely no plan and don’t know what I want to write!”), you can’t be too ambitious (“I just got an idea for a novel and I’m totally going to have it written and published within two months!”), and you can’t forget to consider possible consequences and personal ability (“I’m going to get up an hour early every morning to write, even though I already only get about four hours of sleep a night!”). Ignoring these factors will set you on the path to failure, and failure will set you on the path to disappointment, depression, and a little thing I like to call “I Give UP!” syndrome.

Set goals for yourself…just remember that not all goals are equal and very few are easy to attain.