Welcome our Guest Blogger: Angela Ackerman from The Bookshelf Muse!!!!!!!!


I’ll never make it.
I should just quit.
I am a total loser.

Bleak words, aren’t they? Still, a familiar echo to anyone receiving the soul-consuming rejection letter.

A perfectly good day can go sour at seeing, ‘Dear Author’. Our breath cuts off, our chest tightens, the shoulders sag and despair slams us down. We ask ourselves why we put ourselves through this, why we can’t just catch a break.

Unfortunately being rejected (or e-jected) is just another part of the writing gig, like metaphors and modifiers. Rejection is out there, it will come for us at some point. Some letters hurt, others can devastate. All of them challenge our self belief.

Staying positive in the face of rejection is tough. Each time our confidence is scraped, the rejection a message that our writing isn’t good enough to take on, which we translate into meaning WE are not good enough.

Sometimes moving past rejection is as simple as firing out a few more queries, tightening a synopsis or revising that first chapter for the 900th time. Other times, rejection can cause our foundation of determination and self-belief to quake. We feel like we’re letting everyone around us down, including ourselves. Maybe we should face facts and pack it in.

During these black moments, it’s important to find a way to shift our thoughts out of the self-critical mode. This is difficult, but it can be done if we look at the rejection in a different light: as opportunity.

I know what you’re thinking—rejections are closed doors. What opportunity could their possibly be from a ‘sorry, not for me’ type rejection?

There are always things to learn, even from form rejections to queries. The trick is shifting the way you think from the negative to the positive. When a rejection pulls you down, consider these questions:

What does the agent/editor need?
What is my responsibility to them?
What can I learn from this?
How can I see this rejection differently?

Let’s look at each one of these for a sec.

What does the agent/editor need?

The sarcastic answer to this is, ‘Not my work, obviously.’ But if you can set aside the hurt and place yourself in their shoes, there’s insight to be had on their side of the desk. Pretend you are the agent or editor opening this query—what do they need from you? What will make them successful?

They need to see a compelling query, well written with a character and voice that calls to them. They want to find something different, something that peaks their interest & makes it a no-brainer to scribble a note telling you to please forward the book. At the end of the day, this person wants to sign great writers, and they’d like nothing better for this query to make them tingle in anticipation! They need a strong story and polished writing. They want to see a query from someone who has targeted them specifically because of who they represent/publish.

What is my responsibility to them?

It is the writer’s responsibility to write a strong, inviting query that offers enough information to make the agent/editor NEED to know what happens next–not too little, not too much. Give them the shape of it, a strong sense of the character, voice and style. Your best work shows them you are dedicated to this story being published. You do this by slaving over the query, polishing it until it shines as brightly as your belief in the book itself. You also show that you chose them specifically because they are a great fit, not that you spammed them with your query, hoping for the best.

What can I learn from this?

Once again, turn an honest eye to the query. Evaluate whether you satisfied the editor/agent’s needs and fulfilled your responsibilities. Is there something you can do better, or did this query simply hit your ‘good enough’ meter at the time you sent it out? Have you done all the research on the market that you can, do you feel a niggle of guilt over a corner you may have cut somewhere? Did you edit enough, critique enough, tweak enough? Have you done all you can to make this query a success, as well as any materials you sent with it (synopsis, bio, first chapter, etc?)

How can I see this rejection differently?

Of all the questions above, this one is the most important. When depression hits over a rejection, asking yourself this will lead you to a balanced perspective again. Because a rejection is in essence a negative, this question challenges you to find the positive.

Think of the positive things this rejection symbolizes for you, or write them down if you like. First, it shows you had the courage to send out your work. It proves you believed in your story enough to get it published. This leads you to think about how far your writing has come, how your talent has grown, how many stories you’ve written or how long you’ve worked to perfect this one.

Seeing the rejection differently sets you on a path that allows you to re-appreciate your own growth as a writer and your determination to reach your publication goal. How many writers have you helped along the way? How many writers believe in you, cheer you on and know you can succeed? Focus on your strengths and your accomplishments.

Finding the positive in any circumstance can revive confidence, lighten mood and bolster determination. Too, your body responds to positive thinking, helping to slough off despair and doubt. Breathing is easier, tension leaks from the muscles. Posture straightens as thoughts return to moving forward, and what can be done to ensure success. Suddenly the rejection is put back into perspective–one person’s opinion, not a career-ender.

Try this for yourself the next time a rejection hits you hard–it really does work!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Angela Ackerman

Angela Ackerman is a Canadian who writes on the darker side of Middle Grade and Young Adult and is a strong believer in writers helping writers. She blogs at the award winning resource, The Bookshelf Muse and is co-author of The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression, a writing tool which helps writers navigate the challenging terrain of showing character emotion. Covering seventy-five emotions, this brainstorming aid provides a large selection of body language, internal sensations, actions and thoughts associated with any emotional moment.

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17 thoughts on “Welcome our Guest Blogger: Angela Ackerman from The Bookshelf Muse!!!!!!!!

  1. Additional thoughts to a great chin-up post:
    1) There’s no such thing as a perfect query. Agents and editors are not interchangeable parts: even ones with similar tastes may react differently to the same text. Personally, I would prefer to craft a query that put off half the agents who read it and thrilled the other half to one everyone merely liked.
    2) That last applies to everything I write, now that I think about it.
    3) Sometimes the best project gets to someone at the wrong moment. An agent who just took on a client who writes Martian werewolf alternate histories is more likely to pass on your Venusian shapeshifter alternate history, *even if it’s better*. There are aspects of this process beyond your control. Accept this and move on.
    4) If you doubt your query in any way–consider limited release to test it, on agents you would be happy to have but who may not be at the top of your list. However, I think it’s ethically dubious to send to anyone you wouldn’t say “yes” to if they made an offer, so plan accordingly.

    • Hi Jeff! Personal taste is why we should try not to take rejection personally. It is absolutely true–what one person loves, another may not. What one house needs may be not what another house wants. It is hard to find the right magic that leads to a yes, and this is why it is so important we stay positive and worry about what is within our own control, and let go of what isn’t. :)

    • Yes, sometimes the rejection doesn’t offer a lot of food for thought, but we can still research a bit and make sure we are following guidelines and doing the best we can to make a good agent or editor to Manuscript match. :)

  2. I downloaded this book to my Kindle several months ago but have found that I needed to have a better way to access it for reference purposes while writing, so have just downloaded it again to my PC. Hope that will work better. Good tips for writing!

    • I hope it works well too. :) I know a lot of writers who bought a digital copy and then the Paper so no matter where they were writing, they could have it handy. I like having it on my computer as well. :)

    • I found that things started to change for me once I started asking these questions of myself, and shifting my thinking from the negative to the positive. I focused myself on what I had control over, and my energy no longer was sapped when a rejection came in. I think positive thinking really can help! :)

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