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Just Do It: Overcoming the Fear of Rejection

Last week I posted my own New Year’s Writing Resolutions. During the discussion that followed on Facebook, author Hope Schultz told me about her resolution back in 2013. I found that the whole thing so inspiring, I asked her to write it up, so that you could be as inspired as I was. Here’s her tale:

Before 2013 I did a lot of writing. I wrote one novel, several articles, some short stories, and a bunch of beginnings that I never got around to finishing. I submitted…once…in 2012, and the inevitable rejection made me want to curl into a ball and never submit, never WRITE anything, ever again.

Fortunately, I had good friends going through the same thing. I knew two authors—TWO!—who had not yet been able to sell what was, in my mind, the best novel they had yet written, in spite of already being published. I knew people who had self published, people who had gone the “traditional” route, people who were still trying to break in. They had all survived this first rejection, and I became determined that I would, too.

In January of 2013 I entered the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest. Next I entered a SF short story contest, for which I actually wrote a short story—and finished it! Then, while I was waiting for those rejections, I started thinking about the picture book I had written, and in February I sent it off for its first rejection. By March the novel and short story had both been rejected, so I sent them out again to new markets. It still hurt, but not as much. By August my first thought at a rejection was “where can I send this out next?” I submitted something every single month, and it got…easier.

Over the course of 2013 I submitted 11 works to 20 different markets; two were stories I had made myself finish, six were entirely written this year. I submitted to contests, agents, and publishers. I got incredibly lucky, as submission #25 was actually accepted. (Famous authors have often been rejected literally hundreds of times before making their first sale. I was planning on 500, with moderate faith that I would sell SOMETHING by then.) But successes depend on these two things: keep writing, and keep submitting.

Wen Spencer (see her on Facebook) has said repeatedly that publishing is an extremely subjective process. Put ten authors, agents and editors in a room with a bunch of manuscripts, and they can pretty quickly agree on the top 50% of stories. Give them some time, and they’ll agree on the top 25%…but they will NEVER agree on which one is actually best. If you send your work out only to one agent or publisher, and they reject it, that tells you nothing.

On the other hand, the writer who sends out fifty works to ten markets has a much better shot than the writer who sends out ten works to fifty markets. The only way to get better at writing is to…write. Reading about writing is helpful, revising is crucial, but no matter how much you polish your first work…what you can write now that you’ve written that one is better.

So for 2014, try this: submit something. While you are waiting to hear, write something else, and submit that. Keep a file, so you know where each thing has gone and when. When it comes back, reread it for obvious problems, then submit it again. Write enough, and submit enough, that you need a spreadsheet to keep track.

I promise, it gets easier.

Author Hope Schultz is the author of