Let’s face it. The world is a harsh place that’s full of disappointment. Sometimes, that means that you suffer a heartbreak or you hear back from your top agent, but it’s a form rejection letter. Or, after months of revising, your agent says that you didn’t understand what he/she wanted and that you’re still not a good fit. Sometimes, it’s a much simpler disappointment: you hate how one of your favorite authors wrapped up his/her latest book. Whatever disappointments you’ve suffered or are suffering, you can get though them.
Identify What You’ve Learned
As long as you’re breathing, you should be learning. If you’ve received a rejection letter from an agent, it means they’re not right for you. They don’t want to represent you. Maybe you learned something about yourself through the process – that you’re targeting agents who represent middle grade stories, when really, yours is young adult. Or you’re targeting adult literature agents when your novel is a romance. Or maybe you’ve realized that your dream agent didn’t like your changes because the changes she was envisioning were changing the story or sending it in a direction you didn’t want to go.
If you’re reading someone else’s work and it’s disappointed you, try to identify why it did. Was it the characters? Did it feel rushed? Did the end not fit the rest of the book or series?
How can you apply that knowledge to your own writing?
Apply What You’ve Learned
Just like after a bad breakup you need to take a break instead of becoming serious with the next person you meet (otherwise, it’s called a rebound and you can end up married to a person whom you really don’t enjoy spending time with), you need to take a step back after you suffer any other disappointment. Think about the agent who wasn’t the best fit. What did you like about him/her? Can you find other agents with those qualities? If you realized you’re targeting an agent who represents something you don’t write, can you come up with a list of agents who DO represent your work?
When you suffer a disappointment, you need to evaluate what’s happened so that you can try to keep that particular disappointment from happening again. If you’re dating someone and he/she dumps you because you’re constantly getting annoyed because they like to be out late, look for someone who also likes a quiet night at home. Put your manuscript on a shelf for a couple of months and then read through it and see if, perhaps, you’ve missed the point of your story yourself, you don’t have a strong enough plot or your characters are two-dimensional.
That doesn’t mean you’ll never have another bad date or rejection letter. It does mean that you can whittle your way down to finding the right agent for you who loves your book as much as you do and can’t wait to help you put it on the shelves.
People often say that, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” They have a point. If you give up, the lessons you’ve learned will have been pointless. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. When my dad first went to get his license, when he was 16, he backed out too widely and side-swiped the car on his right. The examiner said, “Short test,” and got out. My dad went back, eventually, to get his license. But it took him a few weeks. That’s okay. As long as you try again, it’s okay to wait a little. It’s even healthy to figure out what went wrong and learn how to improve it.
But once you’ve identified what you’ve learned and figured out how you can improve it, get back out there. Instead of admitting defeat, wait until you’ve had a few months and try dating again. Send your manuscript to another agent. Have a writing friend read through your novel, see if they have anything to say, and then send it back out again.
Grow a Thicker Skin
If you want to be a writer, you’re going to have to develop a thicker skin and a sense of humor about receiving rejections, or you’ll never get anything done. People will reject you. Agents will reject you. You’ll have fights and arguments. It doesn’t help to mope. But, if you keep writing and keep trying, the disappointment will be worthwhile, because you’ll become a better writer and you’ll being to see the fruits of your labor.