Last week we announced our top 50 finalists in our SO YOU THINK YOU CAN WRITE 2013 contest, and while there was a lot of joy, there was also some sadness for the 600+ chapters that didn’t advance. USA TODAY bestselling author Maisey Yates, who writes for Harlequin Presents, HQN, Cosmo and more, shared her sympathies for those who didn’t make the cut in a wonderful, supportive, encouraging post. And she’s agreed to reposting it here, because of the terrific advice for all authors.
Taking a small break from writing about my Aussie workshop (heh, I’ve taken a large break from that…writing stuff in the way!!) to write about bumps in the road on your path to publication…or on your path post-publication.
I’m specifically writing this in response to So You Think You Can Write. Because so many of my twitter friends entered and because…I’ve been there. Oh, not to the heady final rounds of a writing competition…I’ve been the entrant who got the form email. Twice.
“Thanks but no thanks. Not enough conflict to sustain. Not right for us at this time…or ever.” (or something like that)
Rejections, whether they be from a contest, an editor or an agent, suck. But the amount of rejections don’t really matter. It’s what you continue to do after that matters.
I’m going to write up a handy list for Handling Bumps. Here we go.
1. Learn from the rejection – you’ll always have to take criticism concerning your work. Always. From editors, from readers, from agents. I get revisions on every manuscript I send, with very few exceptions. I’ve had to learn to take constructive feedback – or no feedback in some cases – and figure out what to do with it and how to apply it. Don’t feel like it’s meant to discourage you, rather figure out how you can use it to make your MS better.
2. Step on Rejection’s head – and keep submitting. As I mentioned, I didn’t make it past the first round of two M&B contests (rightly so in my opinion…) but by the time announcements were made I was writing another MS, and I felt too committed to it not to submit. So I did. And I got revisions. And a full request. And more revisions. And ultimately, I sold that MS I submitted via slush. Because…
3. There are different paths to success – In any stage of this business, you will see people getting things in a different manner than you do. More money, faster response times, better sales, whatever. Some people will sell via contest and have amazing careers (Lynn Raye Harris, Leah Ashton, Jennifer Hayward) and some…don’t. I myself didn’t have contest love and have now sold some 35 books. Some people final in contests, then have to continue to work after that because it doesn’t quite come through for them (Dani Collins, who now writes for Harlequin Presents and Jackie Ashenden who recently signed a major deal with St. Martin’s Press.) Some people sell their first book. Some people sell their 50th. Just because things don’t come together here and now, or just because your path isn’t lining up with someone else’s, doesn’t mean it won’t happen for you.
4. Complain in private to friends – disappointment is normal. Sadness is one thing, saying someone else doesn’t deserve what they got is another. Just don’t do that in public. Feel free to say it to your friends. We’ve all had to do that. Just keep it in the proper place. Disappointment is fine, anger is fine. I recommend not airing it in public where editors, agents, other writers, etc can see.
5. Be willing to change what you’re doing – It’s easy to get so focused on a set goal that you can’t see you should be aiming for another one. Sometimes it doesn’t work out with a specific publisher, agent, sub-genre….but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be writing, or that you’ll never be published. You have to find the right house, the right editor, the right MS for you. If you’ve been submitting the same book forever and getting no love, and you’re consistently hearing your voice isn’t right for a line, then maybe you need to rethink your strategy. Because you should….
6. Play to your strengths – don’t fight your voice. I personally LOVE Historical romance. LOVE. And because I know you should write what you love to read I used to think I might write historical. And may other people have asked me if I will one day! I’ll never say never, BUT I have no plans to do that at this point. Because feedback from editors concerning my voice is consistent. That my voice is modern is a common word used, in feedback I get. It’s a strong point, and contemporary helps me play up the natural strengths in my voice. It’s easier and more fun for me to write, even though conventional wisdom might say I should write historical. Do you follow me? Your strengths. Don’t fight em. Play with em.
So that’s some advice to you SYTYCWers who didn’t make it in. Or to anyone, really. Because even on this side of the publishing wall we have disappointments. We get rejections. We get bad reviews and sometimes our editor hates our book. It’s a constant learning experience, a constant readjusting of expectations, a constant battle to improve and to do better. And none of that is bad. If you’re struggling with disappointment, readjust your sails, and power on.
It’s a skill that will serve you well in this business, no matter where you’re at.
Thank you, Maisey (and for those why haven’t met her, it’s pronounced more like Macy than Mazey). No wonder your legions of fans adore you! You can follow more of Maisey’s work on her website, on Facebook, or on Twitter @MaiseyYates. And of course, with all her fantastic titles!