How to Handle Rejection

Unfortunately, if your dream is to be traditionally published, there’s no way around rejections. Submitting your work and receiving rejections go hand in hand. Of course, there’s that one extremely rare instance where a writer was successful the first time they shoot their shot. Those are not the norm.

So if you have a polished manuscript and you’re in the process of querying agents or publishers, chances are you’re receiving rejections. Often times you’ll hear the saying: It only takes one yes. Which is true. But that also means you’ll receive a lot of no’s. I don’t know about you, but when I receive rejections on work I’ve poured my heart into, it hurts.

Here are some ways to quell the sting of rejection that have worked for me and my writing friends:

The first thing is answered in the prior sentence. Writing friends! Find them. And hold them tight. Other writers who are also querying or have queried can related to what you’re going through. You’re going to need people to commiserate with and your family and friends can only understand so much. If you can’t find a group of writers locally, (I found some of my local writing friends through the Shut Up and Write organization. They have chapters all over the US and even in other countries) you can reach out to writers on Twitter or Instagram. I know that can sound scary or intimidating, but believe me, most are thinking the same way and are relieved when you reach out to them.

The next thing you can do is something everyone in the publishing industry will tell you: Write your next project. Working on a new manuscript that you’re excited about can really lessen some of the heartache while you’re querying. It’s also a good distraction. Though to be honest, that hasn’t helped distract me from refreshing my inbox ha ha! But there’s something magical that usually happens when working on a new project that’s exciting you. You begin to see this new project as the fantastic work of art that it is, or will be. And when the rejections come, you will think, it’s ok because this next project is even better.

Have a consolation prize. Typically, when writers receive good news, we celebrate. We have a cupcake, a glass of champagne, order a new book, have coffee with a friend, whatever suits you. But when you receive a rejection, there’s something like a feeling of shame that comes with it. The last thing you want to do is celebrate that. In a way though, you can. I’ve heard some writers will eat chocolate, a bowl of ice cream, go for a walk or run, sob into a pillow, with each rejection. Some have a system, for every rejection on a query they receive, they send out two more queries. This is one of the best things I’ve heard of, like they’re going to really stick it to that agent who passed by sending out their work to other agents ha ha. I love the mindset here. Writers who do this are definitely determined. Whatever you decide, it’s a good idea to have a consolation prize in place. I typically do a mixture—send out more of my work, jump on my spin bike, and eat that cookie in the freezer I’ve been saving.

Set up a healthy schedule on how you receive rejections. Unfortunately, with email means rejections can come at you at any time of the day on any day of the week. Meaning you could receive an email with bad news while out to dinner with your favorite person, in the middle of your child’s birthday party, on a major holiday, (Yes, agents and publishers are always working it seems) during your workout or your workday. You can choose to turn the notifications off on your phone so these pings aren’t coming at you at random times you may not be mentally prepared for. You can also choose to only check your email at certain times and days. Believe me, if it’s good news, waiting to receive if for a few hours or even a few days is okay. Agents and publishers are busy, they’ll have plenty to occupy their time until you respond.

It’s important to keep your mental health and physical health a priority. Pay attention to what this means for you and your body. If you’re spending so much time pouring into your art, there won’t be much energy left to pour into the other parts of your life. It’s okay to step away and take a break. But if traditionally publishing is your dream, I encourage you to keep at it and don’t give up.

What are some ways you’ve learned to navigate rejections?

So You Wrote a Book—Now What?

*The topic of today’s blog is in regard to fiction. While I have learned quite a bit about the process of publishing nonfiction, I’m no expert.

First of all-Congratulations! You wrote a book! That’s amazing! You have accomplished something only 3% of people who’ve set out to write a book actually have. According to Google, 97% of people don’t even finish writing their book. So celebrate! It’s a big deal. And don’t let anyone tell you differently. Whether it took you four weeks to finish or four years, (or more or less or somewhere in between) YOU DID IT!

After you’ve celebrated, the real work begins. Oh, you thought writing the book was the hard part? Guess again haha! Writing the first draft is just the beginning. Because after the first draft comes, you guessed it, the second draft, and so on. However many drafts you decide to write is completely up to you. And something you’ll likely find takes less drafts to feel ready the more books you write. Ready for what you ask? Well, once your manuscript has been through as many drafts as you feel comfortable with, then you’ve got to revise it. And then edit it. How do I know when my manuscript is “ready”? I always know when mine is “ready” when I feel confident enough to send to beta readers and critique partners, (CPs). These peeps should read your manuscript before any publishing professional.

Beta Readers – Next, send to trusted beta readers. I wrote a blog post about beta readers here: https://starlawrites.com/2020/02/10/why-beta-readers-are-awesome/ I touched on what you should look for when choosing readers. They are valuable and the good ones will stick it out with you, even through the bad rough drafts, (Yes, someday, after you’ve grown in your craft, you’ll cringe and realize you sent them your manuscript before it was “ready” haha!). 

Critique Partners – They are invaluable as well. I love mine and I am so grateful. I have some who have critiqued several of my manuscripts and others who have only critiqued one. It’s fun to swap with another trusted writer friend for a book here and there. I also have a critique group. We typically meet once a month, each taking turns. It’s been an amazing experience.

Revise again based on feedback/critique – Compile all of the feedback and let it simmer for a few days. I like to process it before I dig into editing and implementing. You don’t have to agree. Or change your book. But you should keep an open mind and ask questions. And you should always be kind and respectful. I once had a critique partner tell me that I received my critique with grace. And that stuck with me. I always want to do that.

Traditional or Self-Publish – Again, I’m not an expert on self-publishing. I haven’t attempted it. I’m not writing it off. But for now, it’s not a route I’m prepared to take. Maybe someday I will. For now, I’m going the traditional route, and may self-publish in between. We shall see. I know a few very successful self-published romance authors, (shameless plug for my friends Savannah Hendricks and Rachael Bloome). Either way, I will say, you’ve got to have a polished manuscript. For self-publishing, it’s a good idea to pay an editor. There are some fantastic ones your Twitter or Instagram friends can recommend. If traditional, it’s not necessary to have it professionally edited. In fact, I’ve heard literary agents say it’s best if you don’t because then they can see how your future manuscripts will look if they should decide to offer you representation.

Speaking of literary agents, let’s move onto querying.

Query letters – Once your manuscript is all shiny and practically flawless, you need to write a query letter. There are so many amazing resources online for writing a query letter. It’s basically a 3-5 paragraph/1 page letter introducing your book, giving the details, (genre, age category, word count, comparative titles) a general summary of your characters, setting, and premise, (much like the back cover of a book, and without giving away the ending) and an author bio. Sounds simple right? It’s harder than it seems. But once you practice it enough, it gets easier. Send this out to critique partners as well.

Synopsis – People tend to think this is the hardest part of the process. But it all depends. Sometimes I find it grueling but other times, it’s fun. Sometimes I write the synopsis before I draft the book. Sometimes I write it after. There are fantastic resources online for this as well. Basically this is where you tell all of the details of the plot. This is where you give away all the twists and spoilers, including the ending. Typically, you want to keep your synopsis between 2-5 pages. I like to have two versions, one longer and one shorter. That way I have both because different agents/publishers have different requirements.

Literary Agents/Publishers open to unagented writers – Now comes research. Again, there are many resources online for this. But your most valuable resource is your writing community. Ask your writing friends, CPs, (usually in private) about agents. Who represents your genre and age category, who has a good reputation, are there any with red flags. There are sites like, manuscriptwhishlist.com and querytracker.com. Google agencies. You can also pay for a membership to publisher marketplace if you want to see the agents sales info. If you’d rather go straight to a publisher, these are sometimes smaller pub houses but not always, it just depends who is open to unagented writers. Google and research is your friend in this area as well.

Once you have a polished manuscript, (with the correct word count-Google!) a polished query letter, a synopsis, completed research, with a list of agents/publishers, you’re ready to begin querying and hopefully land an agent and/or a publishing deal.

It’s a long road for most. Having a supportive family helps. Having a writing community to commiserate with is ideal. Though the odds are low, (last I heard, there’s a 3% chance of landing an agent or 1 out of 1,000 gets an agent) if you never even try, they are impossible. If being a published author is your dream, like it’s been mine for many years, put in the work and at least try. It’s a roller-coaster ride of emotions but I’m thrilled to be on the ride!

2021-New Year New You-keeping it simple

New Year’s resolutions are fantastic for some. They can inspire positivity, hold someone accountable, provide hope, and build confidence. They can also induce stress, create doubt and despair, and make someone feel defeated or inadequate. Instead of putting more restrictions and pressure on myself this year, (after what was a trying 2020) I chose only a few aspects to focus on. Limiting your goals can help keep you focused and on track without overwhelming you.

I chose these four to concentrate on:

  • What is your word of the year? And why?
  • What are you most looking forward to this month? This year?
  • What’s one goal you hope to accomplish this year?
  • What is one off the wall-wild dream?

My word for 2021 is HOPE. After everything our world went through in 2020, the main thing that got me through was hope. I have to constantly remind myself I need to have hope that things will get better. Otherwise many things can feel pointless.

This month, (is almost over, so for February as well) I am looking forward to finding some me-time/self-care. This year, I am most looking forward to my book being published. It’s a dream I’ve been pursuing for years and hoping for even longer.

One goal I hope to accomplish this year is something I haven’t told many people about. But I’ve been doing a ton of research and have already began, so why not talk about it? My goal is to write a screenplay.

One off the wall-wild dream I have is for my #PaulRuddWIP, (my book Learning to Fly) to be published, have a movie adaption starring Paul Rudd, and maybe even get the chance to meet him 🙂 Wild right? But it’s fun to have a dream we can either shout about hold close to our hearts.

Let’s not look back but instead, look forward. I hope you can find a few things to focus on so 2021 is your very best year!

How Songs Inspire Writing

Have you ever had a song touch you in a way that you’ve been inspired to write how it made you feel? There’s a song by a country artist I continued to hear on the radio every time I was with my husband in the truck. I remember telling him, not only how much I loved the song, but how catchy it was and most important, it told a full length story in a matter of a few minutes.

I said, “How can a country song tell a story in a few minutes and sometimes I have a hard time doing it in 80,000 words?” His response, “I challenge you to write a novel based on one song.”

Within minutes, a story formed in my head–not fully detailed, but the basics–and that’s all I needed. I said, “Challenge accepted.”

That story turned out to be my 2018 Nanowrimo project I originally had titled as Eight Days of Christmas–an adult romcom, with a comp title of Sweet Home Alabama and the song Greatest Love Story by Lanco.

Because of the revisions needed for a different project I had on submission at the time, I had to set this one aside. At one point during Covid-19/quarantine, I picked it up again. I revised it, revised it again, sent it out to beta readers and CP’s, and edited the project again. It’s currently my secret project that has been bringing me joy during these, sometimes dark and uncertain times.

The Pitch: Isabella hasn’t celebrated her family’s tradition since she broke Leo’s heart six years ago. Now, she must return to her hometown in Colorado for her sister’s wedding and spend eight days completing holiday activities with the guy she still hates to love.

Here’s the song that inspired this story: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=aHl0tlUYDBI

Here’s the Pinterest board for this story: https://www.pinterest.com/starlawrites/book-lets-meet-in-between/

Have you been inspired by a particular song? In what way? Has it inspired your writing? Prompted a particular story? I’d love to hear about it!