Saturday, 13 November 2010


(Recalling hearing I'd won the Scott Prize.)

As a writer, especially an emerging one, it’s important to befriend rejection. You’ll be spending a lot of time together, and, after an initial repulsion and incredulity at its presence, you begin, like an embarrassing illness or an annoying colleague, to accept it. Life would be strange without it. During low points you even expect it, some comfort drawn from its familiarity: Hello rejection, my old friend…

But occasionally, if you’re lucky, the cloud lifts and you remember why you started this in the first place. Not for fame or fortune (just as well). But because you believe you have something to say. That you want your work, your art, to affect others the way great fiction has affected/infected you. And so for this reason you continue to put yourself out there, to submit, to lay yourself open to terse, yet cordial responses: I’m sorry, we like your work but...

Competitions are the worst, because you’re aware of the numbers involved (sometimes thousands). And initially all you want to do is appear on the longlist. That would be enough. But then, once longlisted, if I could just make the shortlist, I would be happy. You keep busy. You self-deprecate. You’re told getting this far is an achievement in itself, just before you throttle the person who’s uttered this sagacious yet inane maxim.

And then, like Schrödinger's cat, you leave the email unopened in your inbox, fearful viewing it alone will alter the outcome. You almost ask someone else to open it, so blame can be shared. You dare to dream, but prepare for the worst.

But even friends as loyal and ubiquitous as rejection have days off.

(Keep going. Knock on enough doors...)


Francine said...


Oh absolutely! Writer rejection is forever the devil on the shoulder feeling, but there is away to combat the beasty. One has to play him off against himself, and to achieve that aspect of writer contentment, don't live in hope of great things to come from any entry to competition or from subs dispatched to a publisher: let your heart bask in the completion of work, mourn your characters passing if you must, but always, always think *I did it, I finished it*, that's all that matters.

Honestly, the devil will slide from your shoulders in defeat: all No thank you e-mails/letters/rejection slips/whatever will knock your confidence nor will you dread the reading of, for if it's good news it merely confirms what you knew all along: that you wrote a damn good read. ;)

Publishing and writing comps are much like a lottery: best to think Wow if ticket comes up, and if not, well, what the hell, If I hadn't bought the ticket I wouldn't have been in with chance of a win! :o


Kath said...

I think I'm reasonably okay at dealing with Mr Rejection but I did make myself a rejection playlist for those days when he's particularly mean. A good bop around to that really helps - and keeps me warm in winter!

TOM J VOWLER said...

(When did rejection become masculine?!)

Good stuff, Francine. Best try to forget about submissions, once they've flown - get on with the next.

Loving the idea of a rejection playlist, Kath.

Annalisa Crawford said...

I once put an envelope aside thinking it was junk mail, only to open it to find a 1st prize £100 cheque inside. I ALWAYS open post now!!

Jen Campbell said...

oh, absolutely. And then you generally feel most confident about what you've most recently submitted, so when a couple of months roll round and you hear back from that one and it's a rejection, then no worries because you sent something off yesterday that was even better - and so the circle repeats. But then those days when you get the letters/emails made of happy, it makes it all worth while ^_^ x

Rachel Fenton said...

That bar just gets higher and higher; still I jump.

eimearryan said...

What you say about shortlists is very true. John Boyne said something similar - when you're unpublished you think 'when I have a book, I'll be happy' but of course you just move on to bigger ambitions.