How to Survive a Manuscript’s Rejection (a.k.a. It’s Just a House Plant, Silly)

Denise Miller Holmes, Director

They say to get back on the horse and ride because you’ll get desensitized to the risk. I can see that, but what if there were some mistakes that caused them to fall off that horse in the first place? Won’t that mean that the person will just be re-traumatized because they’ll fall off that horse again and again because they don’t know the cause of the fall?

I think it’s wiser to do a few things first, then get back on that horse (resubmit your manuscripts). Mainly, you’ve got to get your head and emotions straight before you resubmit, and you have to get your manuscript corrected before you resubmit as well.

There are a couple techniques you can use to get both your head and your heart settled, but before you use those, you have to come to a realization: Your Manuscript is Neither You nor Your Child.

I’ve heard so many writers say their manuscripts are their babies. So, what happens when a writer’s baby gets rejected? Eek!

Rejection is brutal, so you have to reframe what it means to you. It can’t continue to mean that you or your child is ugly and unwanted. If you’re going to be a professional writer, your skin must toughen. Stop thinking your manuscript is your child. It’s a project. That’s what professional writers think—this is business. The manuscript is important, but only about as important as a houseplant. You nurture it, water it, you may even talk to it. But still, you know it’s not your child. It’s just a houseplant.

Before You Risk Again, Do These Two Things
After you allow yourself to think of a manuscript as a project, then you need to nurture the wounds to your self-confidence that the rejection caused.

Start with doing something you know you do well and get praise for. Go do that. One example of this is a meal your family loves. It’s their favorite. Go make that. Soak in the praises. Let it seep in far, far, into your soul. See, you ARE competent. Stop thinking you’re not.

The next thing to do is to activate a Self-Talk campaign. Every hour on the hour, you say things such as, “I am welcomed and appreciated in many places. My manuscript is not me.” And, “I am capable of learning and improving my writing.” And my favorite, “My manuscript is not my child. It is a houseplant.” Have a chuckle over the last one. It will lift your spirits.

Now You Take Action
When you feel a distance forming between you and the rejection, it’s time to get back on the horse and ride. And you do that by first getting your manuscript reviewed and critiqued.

There are services out there that will review and critique your story. Just google “manuscript critique services” and see what comes up. You can use the word “review” if you don’t like the results for “critique.” What you’re looking for is a person or company that will read your story and analyze it according to certain categories. The typical categories are aligned to the elements of fiction such as “plot,” “dialogue,” “setting,” etc. Specifically look for that. You may be good at plotting, but weak at dialogue. You need to know what to fix.

If you are a new writer, you may not know yet that editors don’t typically give you pointers on what to fix or say why they didn’t want your manuscript. Thus, the professional review is necessary.

Once the results come back, go back to school and learn what you have to do to improve your area of weakness. Don’t balk about the expense. Architects and doctors go into debt and lose sleep in order to become professionals. Have enough pride in what you do to shell out a few bucks to improve. It will be worth it in the long term. And, already-published authors, I’m talking to you, too. Always seek to improve. Just because you’re published does not mean you’re good. It just means you’re adequate enough to be published. Ouch! I know. But it’s true. Keep learning and growing, and you’ll never be out of work.

Send that Houseplant Out Again
Okay, you’ve got your head and heart straight, now it’s time to grab that houseplant, get back on that swayback horse, and ride directly into town. (Oh my cow, I’m mixing my metaphors. I really am tired.)

If your manuscript was not originally submitted to a contest or anthology that has a hard deadline, then, after you’ve made your improvements, resubmit the improved story. You can resubmit to the same publisher (you’ve made improvements, so the odds are better this time), or submit to a different publisher. It doesn’t matter, just act.

Become Prolific
Keep improving and keep practicing both writing and marketing. Keep improving, keep submitting.  Keep yourself detached, with a professional distance.

As you improve, you’ll find the quality of your work increases and that you get less and less rejections. This is a great time to become prolific. If you increase the amount of projects you embark on and increase the number of manuscripts you submit (or self-publish on Amazon), you begin to see that this is a business.  You will weep less when a manuscript is refused (or, not understood by an audience). Did “the old woman who lived in a shoe who had so many children she didn’t know what to do” cry because one of her twenty children decided not to go to college? No. When you have lots of anything, you gain perspective. No one’s going to die, especially you, because one manuscript in thirty wasn’t well-received.

So, I think I’ve made my point. ‘Nuff said.

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