Writer’s block and rejection may be constant companions when you are writing or selling a book. Seven tips on how to cope – and maybe turn challenges into opportunities.
‘You’ve been rejected!”
You click open your e-mails. Your heart leaps.
The agent to whom you sent your cherished work in progress has replied to your letter pitching your story ideas.
Could it be that she liked your work? With trepidation, you click on the e-mail.
She has rejected you.
Many authors long to see their book in a bookshop
What should you do next?
Here is my seven-stage plan for dealing with rejection.
A seven-stage plan for tackling writer’s block
First up, I know a lot about rejection. Every writer does. Stephen King had a lot of rejections. So did J K Rowling. How do you beat writer’s block when you are facing these hurdles? How do you stay motivated when things are looking bleak? Here is my seven stage plan.
- Perhaps most important: make sure you have lots of projects on the go. If you have many irons in the fire, one of them will always be getting warm. For example, at the moment I am writing my next novel, Palladium. I am also working to find a German distributor for my Berlin thriller, Blood Summit (links in bold italics are to other posts on this blog). A TV producer is looking at Seven Hotel Stories. I have a couple of readings lined up. And every week I produce a new blog, which I hope will attract an audience. All this helps me remain optimistic – perhaps one of these projects will bear fruit. If I get stuck on one thing, I turn to another.
- Make sure that whatever you are sending out – whether to your agent, a publisher, or via direct publication on-line – is as good as you can possibly make it. That way you know you are really giving it your best shot. My own tips are in my Writing: about writing category. Have a browse.
- Keep submitting to agents or publishers. But take a balanced approach. It is quite reasonable for you to write to more than one person at once – say, five to ten. But don’t blanket-bomb dozens or hundreds at a time. The risk is that if you approach too many people at once, you won’t craft your submissions as carefully as if you contact a smaller number. The chances of rejection will rise.
- Many rejections sadly, give you no useful feedback. But some may do so. Study these carefully. You should take seriously any advice a professional gives you. Reflect on how you can make your work, or your next submission, better. I plan a future blog about how to write a good pitch letter.
- Talking to other writers, whether published or unpublished, is a top way to beat writer’s block. Mixing with other people, exchanging tips, and maybe commiserating, is one of the most motivating things you can do. It will also help you get things in perspective. You might want to join a writing group, or go on a writing course such as Skyros or Arvon, or find an open mic night for would-be authors. I have consistently found writing courses and groups an invaluable source of stimulation, inspiration and encouragement. In fact, the idea for this post came from a reading I attended recently.
- Carry on writing, and enjoy it. Remember the thrill of creating new worlds, ideas, and characters. Of course we all want writing success. But the act of writing itself gives most writers pleasure. Don’t let your efforts to sell or market your works diminish that joy.
- Finally, remember: no-one is happy all the time. I have written quite a bit about happiness on this blog – Have a look at my post The one with the links to happiness. Without being unhappy sometimes, you can never know happiness. If you are miserable about a rejection, don’t beat yourself up about it – that’s normal. Just be ready to get writing, and look at items 1-6 above to see what else you can do to build up your motivation. Good luck!
More writing resources
If you want to know more about my thoughts on writing, you might like to look at my posts:
- How to write a novel: plan in advance, or not?
- How to write gripping fiction: scenes, sequels and cliff-hangers
- How to write a novel: five ways to get in the habit of writing.
- How to write a novel: edit as you go along, or not? (“How to edit your novel part 1”)
- 7 ways to improve your manuscript (“How to edit your novel part 2”)