Monday, June 14, 2010

Rejection as a Stepping Stone

On a recent forum post on an aspiring writer wrote about her feelings and view on rejections. I thought I would share my response to her in hopes that it will encourage those of you that are in the doldrums.

Dear Cowgirl Poet,

As I read your post, my heart went out to you. I've been in that exact same place where rejections seemed an endless circle. Please be encouraged, and know that the piece on rejection that you wrote may only be temporary. There are two things a Christian writer must have in order to succeed besides a tough skin --- persistence and patience. Persistence is continuing to write, improve the craft, send out queries. Patience comes out of humility to God --- turning over your writing career into His hands.

You wrote that rejection is a 'non-stop part of a writer's life'. It is true for the moment. You will face rejections. However, the day you land your first publishing contract, rejections will fall to the wayside. Oh, you might get a rejection from your editor on a new proposal, but you can ask what you can do to make the manuscript better, what can you change to meet her expectations. As you grow as a writer you'll begin to view rejections as stepping stones to something make you a better writer, to make your manuscript the best it can be, and to put your work into the right hands.

I had been writing for several years and found a print on demand company to publish my first three novels. Easy. They'll accept any book that comes their way. There were downsides to pod, and they almost, if I had allowed them, defeated my career. I refused to give in, and prayed that God would release the works of my hands out of the hands of ungodly men. A few weeks later I had my contracts canceled, and it was one of the best things to happen to me.

I started a new historical, and thought I had finished it. So I started sending out queries. One Christian agent who I highly respect told me 'In my opinion, this is not finished'. Those were all the words he gave me. Of course I wished he had said more, but I had to revisit the manuscript.

Then one July day, a year later, I sat down at my desk and asked the Lord to show me what He wanted me to do with this book and with my career. I have a little verse sitting in a frame on my desk that says ' Commit your work to the Lord'. And so, that is what I did. If He wanted this novel published, it would be and I had to be patient for the right door to open.

Fifteen minutes later I saw on Brandilyn Collins' blog that her friend Barbara Scott had been hired as the new acquisitions editor at Abingdon Press, and that they were starting a fiction line. Barbara was only announcing it on Brandilyn's blog at the time. Historical fiction was one of the genres she was looking for. I sent her a query and she requested the manuscript.

I was offered a contract and 'Surrender the Wind' came out in August 09. In November I was offered representation. Last week I signed again with Abingdon for a three-book series. Oh, and one of the books I had began writing as a stand-alone Barbara rejected initially, not because the writing was bad but because of how it would not fit in their line. I asked her if I could make changes and resend. She said yes. In the shower one morning (I pray a lot in the shower) the Lord showed me I needed to tell the story in three novels. Thus the series. Barbara looked at the proposals and loved them.

I'm not posting this to toot my own horn. I am nobody special. I just want to share my testimony and hope it encourages you to look at rejection in a different light. Rejections are stepping stones to something better. When an agent or publisher turns you down, tell yourself they were not the right fit for you and move on. Commit your work to the Lord and He will direct your path.

Rita Gerlach


Jessica Nelson said...

This is really a huge encouragement for me, Rita. Thank you so much. I'm in the midst of querying and it's really hard to wait, wait, wait.
I am working on something new, but I'm still checking my e-mail constantly. lol
Congrats on the series deal!

Deborah said...

Wonderfully encouraging response!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Rita -

I'm still trying to find that "right fit." I'd like an agent and publishing house that will be enthusiastic about my story.

Susan :)

Jan Cline said...

Nobody special??? Not so. You are such an encouragement to those of us who are waiting for that contract. Actually, Im waiting for my first rejection! It's in God's hands and I have much to learn. Thank you for the reminder to surrender my writing and my manuscripts to Him.
Blessings Rita.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Rita for your encouragement. If I didn't believe God would help me through this craft, I would have given up long ago. And as I look back, He has blessed me through people like you and so many others. In God's time, I shall be published...
But nevertheless...rejection is tough

Carrie Fancett Pagels, Ph.D. said...

Yay Rita! Congrats on your new contracts. That is awesome! Love this post

Bonnie Toews said...

Rita, I thank God every day for the time He introduced us. You helped me refind my faith. God's words flow through your writing to give directed inspiration to those who need it. So, from our eyes, you are very special indeed.

Rita Gerlach said...

Thanks for all the kind words. I am very touched. You gals are such a blessing, and I know God will bless you in your careers for your faithfulness to Him.