Rejection of Writer’s Manuscripts

Diana Gabaldon at SIWC 2009

At the SIWC last fall, one of the presenters, Jeff Arch, shared that a movie producer, agent or a publisher, by rejecting a screen play or manuscript, minimizes risk to their professional career if they have doubts about the success of the project.   It took eight years of rejection before a producer bought his screenplay Sleepless in Seattle.

He reminded us that if they stick their neck out and say yes, their career can be put on the line if the project fails.  At the very least, they have taken on an expensive and time consuming task, especially if revisions are needed.

I try to put myself in their shoes, and do understand that the number of submissions in the US and Canada  is very high. The number of hours in a day are limited for agents and publishers as well. We are all human, and if a manuscript hits them on a bad day, (we all have them) or when they are overwhelmed by their own “do list”—already two months plus long—they might sigh with relief, as they say no.

Awarding a contest prize at SIWC 2009

Rejection always feels personal, but rejection  may not reflect the quality/talent in the story or the writing.  Many other factors are involved, like timing, statistics on what is selling, budgets in publishing houses, quotas, and so on. I don’t think Jane Austen would get published today, along with many other classics. We are a society frenetically busy with all of our time saving (?) devices and a high percentage of readers prefer a book to move along quickly, engaging them with every word.

Donald Maass at SIWC 2009

Rejection is one of the things on my do list. I hope to get something submitted before the end of this year.  After I lick my wounds, I hope I can mark it as a milestone on the ladder of my writing career.

When it happens, however, I will need the solace of my writing buddies who have made it through the gauntlet of rejection.

Writing is a career—and  like a teaching career—it can take years before a student … or one of our manuscripts … emerges as testament to our talent and efforts.

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