Friday, August 08, 2008

Rejection Frustration

As a writer, I was sure my story idea held fascination--yet I could not find any magazine to publish it. I had worked carefully on my pitch or query letter and sent it out to the major magazines in the category of the article. All I received in response to my efforts were form rejections. With the arrival of each response, my frustration increased. I was certain the story had an audience and my only question was where.

I was not asking the right question or looking at it from the right perspective. I needed help and insight beyond my own resources. I had shown the story to my local critique group. They thought my writing was good and they liked the story. Why couldn't I get a printed magazine editor to like it?

My query was well-written and pitched my idea in a precise manner and then I sent it to multiple magazines at the same time so I could get varied responses from the editors. Some times a publication will only want 1,000 words while other times they will only want 500 words on the topic--no matter how long you've proposed in your query letter.

At the time, I was writing many articles for the magazines I was pitching so I was a known writer yet the only response from my pitches were these printed letters which essentially said, "Thank you but no thank you." There was no information or insight about the real reasons behind the rejection and with each response my frustration increased.

I was pitching the story of a transformed (changed) life. A former pastor had two fronts to his marriage relationship--one that showed in public which was kind and gentle, then another one in private which was locked into consistent verbal combat with his wife. This couple would be verbal sparring on the way to Sunday morning church, then arrive and he would deliver a dynamic message to his large congregation.

One night he insisted on climbing on his roof in the rain to fix his television antenna. It doesn't take much common sense to see the foolishness of such an action. He fell off his roof and hit his concrete patio on his head. In the hospital the doctors told him that he would never walk again. This pastor pleaded with God that if he was healed, he would spend the rest of his life loving his wife and change his behavior. God responded and while medically it could not be explained, the pastor's health was restored and he changed his life. Together with his wife, they formed a marriage ministry which has transformed thousands of couples.

I called my story, Shocked Into Service, and searched for a magazine to publish it yet I was getting repeatedly rejected with no answer about the reasons.

That spring I attended a writers' conference and signed up for a brief meeting with one editor who had rejected my pitch. My agenda during the meeting was simple: I wanted to understand the reasons why I could not find a publication for my story.

During my meeting with the editor, I asked for honest feedback. Even face to face, the editors are often trying to be gentle and diplomatic because people have paid in time and money to be able to attend these writers' conferences. The editor leveled with me. At that time, the PTL scandal with Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker had predominated the press.

"People do not want to know their pastor fights with their wife, then arrives at the church like nothing is wrong and delivers their sermon," he explained. "While the changes in his life are admirable, this duality in his life is keeping your story from getting published."

With this editor's insight, my frustration was erased and I understood why my idea had been rejected. Unless I had met with this long-time editor and asked for his specific feedback, I would have never understood the reasons.

Editors and literary agents do not give such specific feedback when they reject writer's ideas, queries, book proposals and other submissions. Why? That is not their role. Instead they are tasked to see if the idea is a fit for their publication or publishing house which is a yes or a no decision. They don't critique the idea or give detailed feedback. Yes, there are critique services where you can pay for such feedback but one of the best places to get it is in a one on one session with an experienced professional at a writer's conference.

There are many other reasons to attend a writers' conference. Your attendance can cut years off the learning curve to getting published.

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1 Comment:

At 8:56 PM, Blogger Krista Phillips Left a note...

What a timely subject!

I went to my first writer's conference in May and what an experience! It was a small one, but if all I got out of it was the encouragement I received, it was well worth the money. I had the privilege of working with Dennis Hensley, who critiqued my first chapter and offered a heap full of valuable advice! He said, "I like your style, I didn't mess with any of that..." then went on to show me my technical errors. I felt like God in heaven was coming down and using his words to whisper in my ear, "I am well pleased with you, Krista". Ok, so Dennis isn't quite God, but he was certainly God's instrument that day, and wow, I was encouraged.

If you are in a slump in your writing, a writer's conference will most certainly help lift you up!

I plan on attending the ACFW annual conference in September for the first time as well. I am nervous and excited all at the same time!

You didn't plug your website in your post, so I'll do it for you. The info on attending conferences on right-writing.com is invaluable! I've learned a lot reviewing it, and appreciate your time to help us writers learn the ropes of a difficult profession.


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