August 15, 2011
Tracy Krauss - How Rejection Transformed My Writing Life
I'm a compulsive writer. It's just something I do. I've been writing for over a quarter century, and in those early years, I was happy to just pound away at my typewriter while my kids were taking their nap, dreaming that someday I'd get published, but not really believing it could ever happen. It was enough to just 'get the words out' and I figured if it ended up being nothing more than personal therapy, so be it.
Then, at one point (and I'm not exactly sure when that shift took place) I started to think that maybe - just maybe - somebody might actually like to read what I'd written. I took my first tentative steps toward sharing, starting with one of my daughters who was a voracious reader. She came back, manuscript in hand, with a semi-detached, 'bored' expression, saying, "It was okay."
Hm. Not exactly what I had hoped for, but I took it as a sign that a 14 year old really wasn't my best critique option, or I needed to go back and change things. In the end I slashed that manuscript to pieces and totally revamped it, sure that NOW it was worthy of someone's attention. I went online, (we had now entered the personal computer era) and started researching publishers.
To my surprise, most publishers did not take unsolicited manuscripts. I needed an agent. WHAT? Nobody ever told me that!! (You're getting the picture how really, really GREEN I was ...) I was imagining how I'd ship the finished book off to Tyndale or Zondervan and they'd just jump on it - grab it up and publish it as the next break out best seller.
Instead, what did end up happening totally transformed my writing life. I send my manuscript to an agency that offered critiquing services. If things weren't too bad, they'd go on to post your work on their site for potential agents and publishers to see. If it wasn't up to standard, they'd at least offer a critique. Sure that I would be a shoe in, I waited with anticipation for their response.
Ouch, ouch, ouch. I got three different perspectives on my work, and all three were brutal. All the classic 'Show not tell', awkward phrasing, not moving the story forward, POV head hopping ... on and on it went. Once each and every one of these problems was pointed out, I couldn't believe I had missed it. It just seemed so obvious. I had spent so much time in my own head, that I literally did not see the forest for the trees.
I have since had the wonderful opportunity to be the recipient of many, many more such rejections! I've taken to embracing criticism, because I realize that in most cases, it will make me a better writer. The trick is, you have to detach yourself emotionally and see negative comments as roads to improvement. Actually applying what is suggested helps, too!
I now have two books in print, one in production, several more in various stages, and I'm currently in negotiations with an agent. Without that early wake up call, I'd still be in my own little world, writing for an audience of one. (And I don't mean God! He wants our BEST, and that's not what I was doing.)
How has rejection transformed your writing?