Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Rejection? Rejection? We don't need no stinking rejection!

"We don't need no stinking rejection!"

Rejection Short Form:

Jurassic Park - "Dinosaurs? You sent us a book about dinosaurs?"

The Firm - "Nobody is going to root for the lawyer - there just going to want him to get killed."

Harry Potter - "we might be interested if the kid didn't wear these stupid glasses all the time. And what the hell is quiddich?"

So here's my theory on rejection. Who needs it?

At least that's what I felt like when the first bunch of rejection letters came in. Actually I don't know if they were letters, they could have been e-mails or phone calls or smoke signals for all I know. Come to think of it - how do I know I was even rejected - it could have just been a conspiracy between my agent and covert network that reaches into the highest levels of government to keep me... Whoa - I really have to get working on the next book - the fiction world is starting to invade my reality (or is it the other way around?).

Back to the topic. I loved Becky's post, she is almost like the little angel on our shoulders - speaking positive thoughts. I'm not going to take the opposite tack, because I actually agree with her completely, but to make this interesting ponder this thought: Where would we be without rejection?

To some extent I can trace most of my failures in life (and there have been alot of them) to thinking things were easy. To having success at some project or task too early on. If a sport comes easy and you're better than your peer group than why practice? If your making money in the stock market by throwing darts at the Wall Street Journal and buying the stocks you hit, then why learn about balance sheets or worry when your dart hits Bear Sterns or Enron, just go with it.

And if writing comes easy and everybody around you lives for the golden words you will soon scrawl in calligraphy like swirls across the page then why even study the classics or near classics or the even a Stan Lee comic (Also classic by the way). Why look to see what else is out there - and not necessarily just what is successful but what moves you, successful or not, and why? Why bother? Early success will do that too you - it makes you lazy. Fear of rejection makes you work.

The thing we don't like to admit is that this profession/calling/obsession is as much craftsmanship as it is art and inspiration. Without the fear of rejection we could all just ramble - stream of consciousness style. (Yes I see the irony - I'm doing that right now, I know - but you see, no one can reject me - I am author, editor and publisher. Muhuhahaha - the POWER makes me giddy!)

And yet even here - I would hate to let my fellow bloggers and readers of this blog down. I'm okay with it if they disagree with me, I'm okay with it if they don't like the angle I take on a certain question. What I'm not okay with is if they thought my effort was lacking.

And maybe that's the trick with rejection - use the fear of it to force yourself to do your best work. Don't get rejected because the threads of your story didn't quite come together - get rejected because they came together fantastically but in a way that that particular reader did not like. Get rejected because your hero was too much of an ass, or too much of a lover, or too much of something, instead of being too little. Get rejected because of what your story is instead of what it isn't. That way you can look at rejection and take something from it.

After receiving this first round of rejections -my agent came to me and told me what these letters said. There five - and one editor who just never spoke to us again after receiving the manuscript (Either it was so bad he quit the industry or he's still deciding - not sure which) but out of the five there was a consistent thread - all of them loved the story, most of them loved the characters, four of the five thought it just took too long to get going.

After I got done ranting about how these fools should be locked up and sedated at the very least - I realized they were maybe...okay probably... okay definitely right. So I dove back into the book - rewrote it again and shortened the first half by 5,000 words. (And its still a little long - good for building character - bad for pacing.)

So who needs rejection? Well, maybe we all do, as long as we can learn something from it. On the other hand we also need to be able to REJECT the rejection if it is unhelpful or repugnant to what we are trying to do.

Can you imagine Jurassic Park without Dinos, The Firm being about an Ice Cream Vendor, and Harry Potter looking like some kid from Saved by the Bell. Or Carrie - having a happy "Utopian" ending.

VIVA REJECTION - it works both ways.


Meredith Cole said...

It's so great that you learned something from the rejections you got, Graham. And hopefully the book was better for it. I think it's common for people to get mad and do something crazy like quit. I always say if two or more people have the same criticism, it's worth looking at it again to see if it's a problem you can solve.

Graham Brown said...

Thats a good point Meredith. I can be real easy to get too close to something and not be able to see the forest for the trees.

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Good post, Graham! I agree that rejection and criticism can teach us loads, whether we like it or not.

Now: If I'm an angel, I want some wrath of god powers! Not just a cartoon harp and robe. Power of flight. Power to smite. The good stuff.

Terry Stonecrop said...

Great post,lots of insight!

I relate to you on the part about things coming easy. It makes you expect easy all the time. And well, writing a novel is not easy.

Kelli Stanley said...

Face forward, true believer! ;)
Let's hear it for Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, still a classic duo ...

Loved the post. Am reminded of a favorite Churchill quote:

"I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught."



Julie Musil said...

A great reminder! I'm passing this along to my crit group.

Jennifer Lane said...

Thanks for the great post! Constructive criticism is like "good" stress--we all need it in order to get better at life. That's great that you were able to edit the beginning of your novel to improve your pacing. Thanks for the laugh about The Firm getting rejected because nobody would root for a lawyer as the protagonist. Ha! But the truth is that The Firm did NOT get rejected because the bad guys were lawyers too? ;)

Shane Gericke said...

Love the bunny!

I think your points are excellent, Graham. But, I'd rather get a rejection ... from an editor ... about some specific wording I committed ... AFTER he or she signs that big fat advance check. Rejection is so much useful to writers when it's about specifics rather than, Thy Book Sucketh, Now Go On With Thee.

Graham Brown said...

Rebecca - I would grant you smiting powers in a heartbeat. Just don't use them on me.

Awesome quote Kelli - absolutely one of the truest things ever said.

Graham Brown said...

Hope the crit group like it, Julie.

Good point Jennifer - must always make the bad guys worse than the good guys.

Graham Brown said...

Thanks Shane - "Thy Book Sucketh, Now Go On With Thee." - I believe that was said to the Bard was it not?

Sophie Littlefield said...

awww Graham, i can't imagine *anyone* rejecting your book! Or you for that matter. But I still get rejected all the time. Now people have to work a lot harder to get under my skin, though.