Reflections on Rejection

23 Jul

Rejection. It sounds like being given the brush-off from someone you’ve chatted up at a party or being turned down for military service on health grounds. Like anyone who’s been writing for a while, I have a fair collection of rejection letters from publishers and agents. I’ve related before how the tale of one rejection helped me land a non-fiction deal. I even followed a fellow writer on Twitter just because she’d declared that she was decorating her bedroom wall with rejection letters. Like writing those first million words of rubbish, the acquisition of a file of rejection letters seems to me yet another stage on that journey from would-be to committed writer.

I mentioned in my previous post that William Golding failed to find a publisher for the first three novels that he wrote, before finding success with Lord of the Flies. By all accounts, he was on the point of giving up and Lord of the Flies was his last shot. The first reader at Faber (his eventual publisher) rejected it. And yet Golding would eventually be awarded the Nobel Prize.

I’m currently reading Andrey Kurkov, the Ukrainian writer most widely read in the Western world. I read his ‘Penguin’ novels, Death and the Penguin and Penguin Lost, morose and witty yarns that I thoroughly enjoyed. I didn’t get on with The President’s Last Love but The Good Angel of Death, the book that I’m reading at present, seems to be a return to form. And it turns out that Kurkov is another of those writers whose story provides inspiration to the unpublished novelist. Apparently, Kurkov received over 500 rejections before being given a publishing deal, during which time he wrote eight novels.

22-04-2013 20;29;22

Death and some crows – image from my unpublished first novella – I didn’t have any penguins

This summer, I resolved to step up the effort to find a publisher for my war novel. After all, I put six years of my life into creating it. It’s currently out there for consideration with six publishers. In all probability, I shall receive a few more entries for my collection. But there’s a clear message from Golding and Kurkov for all writers who are struggling to get their work into print. Keep on working and don’t give up. Rejection needn’t mean dejection. You never know what may be around the corner…

Last of all, I’d like to extend my congratulations to the maker of the 3000th hit on this blog, who stumbled upon it from Algeria, the fiftieth nationality to visit.

All text and image © PSR 2013

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7 Responses to “Reflections on Rejection”

  1. Mari Biella July 24, 2013 at 12:47 pm #

    It’s hard not to become dejected when those rejection slips are piling up, isn’t it? It’s a little like receiving a lukewarm or unfavourable review; you try not to let it get to you, but you can’t help but be slightly upset. Writing, it seems to me, is just one of those pursuits that generally involves a greater than average amount of rejection and disappointment.

    One of the simplest, but best, pieces of advice I’ve received was from an actor friend, who said, ‘Just don’t take it personally.’ It sounds obvious, but up until then I think I did tend to take it personally to a degree – it’s hard not to when you’ve put your heart and soul into a novel, only to have it dismissed in a couple of sentences (if you’re lucky!). Now, I prefer to think that it’s just not what that particular person was looking for at that particular time. (That’s my excuse, anyway … 🙂 )

  2. Paul Sutton Reeves July 24, 2013 at 3:08 pm #

    Hi Mari and thanks for your comments.

    That sounds like some sound advice.

    Rejection letters used to get to me. I suppose that you could say I’ve become inured to them. Since I don’t really hold out much expectation, I tend to find them slightly disappointing, at most. I have quite a strong belief in what I do so they don’t really affect my confidence. I just carry on writing because that’s what I do, attempting to write books that I’d want to read!

    Following on from what you were saying, it seems to me that writing isn’t about gratification. It challenges and makes demands on you, but it nourishes the mind also. There’s a satisfaction to be had when a passage turns out as you’d intended. And ultimately, if successful, it may bring satisfaction to others.

  3. Paul Sutton Reeves July 26, 2013 at 10:51 am #

    And this morning, I received another one for the collection! It was just a compliment slip, a quarter of A4 size. I’m expecting to receive the next one on the back of a bus ticket…

  4. Lisa July 27, 2013 at 10:32 am #

    I’ve never heard of this Ukranian writer, but I like his story, and yours as well. I’m sure your hard work will pay off soon. Something’s gotta give, right?

  5. Paul Sutton Reeves July 27, 2013 at 12:50 pm #

    Hi Lisa and thanks for your positivity! Yes, one just has to keep plugging away and hope something turns up…

  6. Gunmetal Geisha September 4, 2013 at 4:55 pm #

    In addition to your post, I admire that image in which there are no penguins…

    • Paul Sutton Reeves September 4, 2013 at 5:18 pm #

      Hi GG. Welcome to my blog and thanks for your comments. That was just something that I knocked out with a fibre-tipped pen.

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