Friday, May 9, 2014

Writing Competitons, or In which rejection isn't as bad as it seems

With my time in The Writer's Voice at a close, I felt it time to write a normal blog post. Okay, so I'm not the best blogger in the world. I tend to forget, or don't feel comfortable enough to write blogs often, but these last couple of contests have bothered me. Not because of the contests themselves, I love the contests and the opportunity they present, but how people are feeling after they get rejected. The posts from people who don't make it break my heart. Not getting picked for these contests doesn't mean you aren't good enough. I'm bothered that a lot of people seem to feel this way.

You're asking what I know about the rejection and contests, right?

I've entered seven or eight contests in the last year since discovering twitter and my first pitch contest back in October. It was a fluke that I happened to find it. I stumbled across a blog post that led me to Brenda Drake and some of the contests that she puts on. I got rejected my first time. At first I was bothered. What did it mean? Was I not good enough? Did I not follow all of the directions? Why did I fail? Then Hubby pointed something out to me. Being a numbers guy, he saw it for what it was. There were over 150 entries. I had a 32 in 150+ chance of getting picked because there were four mentors or so and they had to pick so many entries per team. My odds really weren't all that good.
In seven or eight contest entries, I've only made it into one contest.

I know that doesn't sound like a lot, but that doesn't include all the twitter pitch parties I've participated in and not received anything from agents. All in all, there has been a lot of rejection. At first I wondered why. It hurt that I couldn't seem to get my writing right. There was something that I was failing at and no one would tell me what, but good things also came from these contests. I met one of my CPs, Janet Wrenn, through twitter and pitch parties. I got my internship with the literary agent I read slush for through twitter pitch parties. She wrote a tweet looking for someone to slush read. I answered the tweet and have been reading for her since.

It also means I get to see all sides of rejection, objectively. I've been rejected. I started seriously writing five years ago. Back then I wrote fan fiction for fun, because I was too afraid to try getting published. I was afraid to get rejected. So I posted to and never gave thought to the many ideas of my own that were floating around. I already knew what would happen once I did. I'd get rejected and everyone would give me a big fat I told you so.

And then we had a family crisis. I was forced to move myself, my hubby and my two younger kids into my parents home and we lived in a small bedroom in the back of the house for six months. Halfway through Hubby had to leave and I moved into a three bedroom house with a three year old and a three month old, on my own. While living with my parents I witnessed something that changed how I thought. I got married at nineteen and had my son three days before I turned 21. I always assumed that one day, after the kids were grown and no longer needing mommy, I'd have time to go to school, get a degree and start a career. Ha! Funny, right? Because:
1. You never stop being Mom. The kids may move away and start families of their own, but they will still call with their problems and stop by and visit whenever. It's fact.

And 2. Lets face it. I'm lazy. I would never go back to school. I'd find myself too old and too afraid to return. Helping the Oldest with his homework brought that thought home. I can't even keep up with his homework.

At the same time, while I was living with my parents again, I watched my mom lose everything she'd known. My three siblings and I were moving out and moving on and Mom didn't know who she was outside of Mom. She'd spent years caring for us, putting our needs before her own, taking us to games and practices, band camps and various other things. Now, she didn't have that. What was she outside of Mom? I'm not convinced she knows, even after five years. I don't want that to be my future. I began to write with the intent of getting published. As a result, I've received a lot of rejections. Lots of query letter rejections.

At the same time, I also give rejections. Sorting through slush means I have that ability. I know the agent's tastes. I know what she's looking for. I've been tested and tried and found worthy. So, I get to send the rejections. It's hard. Sometimes I hate doing it, but it's necessary. Some things just aren't the agent's tastes.

Let me repeat that: Some things are just not this particular agent's tastes.

Why is that important to remember? Because these contests are the same as sending a query letter, in a way. The mentors have their own tastes. They also have the tastes of the playing agents in mind. It wouldn't do anyone any good if they picked a manuscript just to pick a manuscript just so it could get rejected. That wastes your time and the agent's.

Everyone always says the same thing about these rejections. It's all subjective and it is. Let my give you a non-writing example.
See that female twig of a human being? That's my sister. She's always looked that way while I looked like I popped out of the pear shaping mold. She's never had to worry about what she eats and I'm pretty sure she's thinner now, after 2 kids, than she was in high school. Meanwhile, I've always struggled with my weight, watched what I ate, and will never see my high school body again.
Why am I telling you about her?
When I was fifteen or sixteen, a modeling agency came to my tiny home town and held tryouts of a sort. My sister, being eleven and a half months younger than me, decided that is what she wanted to do with her life. As a result, Mom drug both of us to the try outs. Modeling really isn't my thing. I'm no where near tall enough, nor do I have the body shape for modeling and I love food.
My sister, on the other hand, couldn't wait for the opportunity. So, we went. She'd dressed up in her nicest outfit, fixed her hair until it was perfect and made sure her makeup was just so. At the same time I threw on a t-shirt, pink and purple polka-dotted skirt and flip flops, pulled my hair into a pony tail, ran some eyeliner and mascara over my eyes and followed along behind.
My sister did everything perfectly. She walked the America's Next Top Model walk, answered the questions honestly and seemed flawless. I didn't. I walked normally. I sighed while waiting in line. When asked how long I've wanted to model, I gave my best Marilyn Monroe impression as I breathily answered All my life. It wasn't something I really wanted to do, and as a result, I didn't care what their answer would be. Somehow, I managed a call back. My sister didn't.
This happened a few times before I told my Mom I wasn't interested.
My point in this story is everything in this life really is subjective. My sister did everything perfectly and I got picked. My parents really didn't like my husband when we were dating, but they adored my sister's fiancé. She's been divorced once and I'm going on nine years of marriage to a man they've had to apologize to. I've seen a few manuscripts that I would have loved to read more of that the agent I work for didn't agree with.
We're all different. We all have differing opinions on what's right and what's wrong. What's good and what isn't. A rejection doesn't necessarily mean that you aren't good enough. It means you aren't right for those particular people. It's frustrating to get rejected. I know. I'm still looking for that one person who will say yes, but it doesn't mean your aren't good at your craft. It means try harder, research more, and stay strong. 
The journey for me is just starting. The road goes ever on an on, out from the door where it began. I'm being chased by wraiths who are telling me no at every turn.
I've made it to the safety of Rivendell where I'm being guided and directed. I'm learning. I'm growing. I've found my flaws and have been told where I need to go from here.

  I have a long journey ahead of me. I have to find the Fellowship that will follow me into the depths of Mount Doom. These contests are just another trail in the road. A test until I get there. The same is for everyone. There may be people further in the process, but they're still struggling with rejection, whether it be from their editor, agent or readers. It's easy to forget that they're getting rejected too.
My journey isn't over just because I got rejected from this last contest. My precious hasn't made it to its journeys end and that's okay. There is still a long road ahead.
(Sorry. I had a Hobbit/Lord of the Rings marathon.)

1 comment:

  1. Awwww, thanks for the mention!! Chin up girlie, you've only just begun. Your darlings will see the light of day. Publishing is a rejection business. One day you'll break those walls and the success will be sweeter because of it.