A Flat Nose Leads To Better Writing

 I’m thrilled to have the following guest post by YA author S. G. Rogers. She tackles the painful subject of rejection with tips on how to get through it and ultimately improve your writing.

In her former lives, S.G. Rogers was a lawyer and an actress, but she’s now grown up and settled down as an author.  Drawn to fantasy literature, she’s lived in some of the most magical places in America, including La Jolla, California, Asheville, North Carolina, and currently Savannah, Georgia.  She resides with her son, husband, and two hairless cats—which look and act quite a bit like dragons.  When she’s not writing, she enjoys practicing martial arts.  You can find S.G. Rogers at http://childofyden.wordpress.com/ and Twitter: @suzannegrogers. And be sure to check out her new YA fantasy, The Last Great Wizard of Yden .

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Man, it hurts to be rejected as a writer.

When that golden door slams in your face, your nose gets squished to one side and your lower lip begins to tremble.   Then you go off into a corner, lick your wounds and wonder if you ever had any talent whatsoever.

I heard someone once talk about what makes a good salesperson.  The axiom was that a ‘no’ is only a request for more information.  I’m not a good salesperson, but my writing has improved from that advice.

If you truly believe you’ve got a good story, even though it may have been rejected for publication somewhere, approach it like a salesperson.  Make it better and submit it to another publication. Easy to say, than to do I grant you.  I’ve often had what I felt was a spanking great story rejected without explanation.  It made me mad.

But you know what they say – don’t get mad, get even.  Prove to the world that you’re a good writer.  After the pain ebbs a little, go back to the story and figure out how to improve it.

The most common reasons I was rejected were the following:  the story took too long to get going (no sense of change or tension), my concept was clichéd (ouch), the reader didn’t care about my characters, my points of view were wobbly, I was engaged in too much telling and not showing, and finally…my story didn’t have the right feel or wasn’t the right fit for the publication.

There’s no excuse for not learning the technical craft of writing (ie: good grammar, spelling, etc.).  But after that, the best piece of advice I can give to aspiring authors is to join a weekly critique group.  Be prepared to read a few pages from your work-in-progress and listen to the feedback with an open mind.  This feedback will help you determine what does or doesn’t work.  Some criticisms will be more valuable than others and sometimes you do have to consider the source.  But this weekly ‘trial by fire’ will thicken your skin like nothing else.

I’ve gone back to a manuscript and reworked the beginning to make it more compelling.  I’ve added details to characters to make the reader care (hint: Teflon-coated protagonists just don’t do the trick).  Instead of writing that my main character feels bad about something, I write that she swallowed hard and averted her eyes to hide the tears stinging the backs of her lids.  I try to MAKE you care enough to keep reading. Remember, your writing is only precious to you…until you draw someone else into the story long enough to become emotionally invested in the outcome.

Don’t quit.  Keep writing.  Remember, your next rejection is just a request for more information.  Pretty soon, the rejections will come fewer and fewer.  And when you get your first acceptance, go outside and yell, “Hello, World!  I knocked the door down with my nose!”

~  S.G. Rogers

14 thoughts on “A Flat Nose Leads To Better Writing

    • Erin November 3, 2011 / 5:15 am

      Glad to have you!

      Like

  1. Meg Mims (@megmims) November 2, 2011 / 7:37 pm

    Great advice, Suzanne!! All very true, too. I have the flat nose to prove it. ;-D

    Like

  2. Calisa Rhose November 2, 2011 / 10:25 pm

    Excellent advise S.G.! I think we’ve all been there who’ve dared to submit our babies to the world. It does hurt, but if you’re a strong writer, you grow with the pain. Learn from the mistakes. Succeed.

    Like

  3. Mac Crowne November 2, 2011 / 10:26 pm

    Great advice, Suzanne. I must have a tough nose, because rejection just makes me mad, hardly any lip quivering for me. And you’re right. Take those suggestions and build on them.

    Like

  4. Mary Ricksen November 3, 2011 / 1:36 pm

    The best advise ever! You just forgot the part about the crying! LOL! Never give up, or it will never happen!

    Like

    • childofyden November 3, 2011 / 2:23 pm

      I won’t say I’ve never cried from a rejection…but I’ve never given up and never given in.

      Like

  5. Katherine November 3, 2011 / 1:37 pm

    I’m with Mac. Rejection just spurs me on to try again. I look at it as it’s just one person’s opinion on any given day.

    Like

  6. Amaleen Ison November 3, 2011 / 1:57 pm

    This is a wonderful feel good post. Every writer has suffered rejection at some point, but the ones that keep learning, keep trying harder, are the ones that get published.

    Like

  7. Nancy Jardine November 3, 2011 / 2:53 pm

    Definitely take it on the nose! (anybody got a spare?) My current problem with rewrites(as in examples given) is that my word count goes up hugely, then I have to pare it all back down again. But isn’t that what this word work is all about? Thanks for a very thought stirring blog!

    Like

    • childofyden November 4, 2011 / 12:37 pm

      Thank you Nancy. I know what you mean about word count creep!

      Like

  8. LorMarie November 3, 2011 / 9:12 pm

    Wow, this is great! I received so many rejections with my first novel that I decided to self-publish it. I should add that I grew cold toward it. I’ve grown a lot as a writer and I’m confident that big improvements were made. Most of my rejections were regarding the theme. One agent actually said that it might be difficult to get it published because of what’s popular in the market. I see how that might be true in many cases.

    Like

    • childofyden November 4, 2011 / 12:46 pm

      Don’t let the rejection get you down! As you said, you’ll keep growing as a writer. If you like the theme you chose, perhaps you can find a way to “sell” it by adding in what I call “candy.” Find subtle and not-so-subtle moments to show the character’s weaknesses as well as his or her wants, wishes and desires. Put the “candy” up front to make your story irresistible.

      Like

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