Rejection is such a foul, nasty word. Rejection. It even tastes bad when you say it. I remember my first rejection when Brad What's-his-name turned me down to the movies in the 8th grade. Oh, I was heartbroken. I remember my first rejection letter to a college I applied to. I was devastated they didn't want me. I remember my first rejection email where I interviewed for my first real job. How could they not sense my fabulousness?
No one wants to be rejected, but it's a part of life. Sure it stings for a few moments, creates some self-doubt, and churns the emotions but we pick ourselves up and move on. We grow stronger. Smarter. Sassier. I didn't marry my eighth grade crush, go to my first choice college or get that first job, but life has a funny way of working out just the way it
should. I married my best friend, graduated with an MBA in Business Administration and Marketing, and I've had a fantastic professional career. Not bad for being rejected, right?
This past week I received my first rejection from an Agent. I’ll be honest. I was hesitant to open the email when it came through. Did she love it? Hate it? The rejection she wrote was so nice, but it was still an ego blow and a little emotional. After reading the email - oh 9 or 10 times - I appreciate the time she took in reading my book and providing feedback. I've decided to take her comments to heart and consider them carefully.
Was I disappointed she didn't want to sign me as a client and help me make gobs of money? Well, sure. Who wouldn't be? But I look at it this way - she is giving me the opportunity to improve my craft, grow as a writer, and push myself toward bigger and better things. This is a tough industry, and as a writer you have to be willing to do what it takes to make your book stand out.
In the writing world, rejection is common. That's not to say it makes me feel any better, but a major part of the process. This was my first book rejection, but it probably won't be my last either. I simply hope to look back at this first book rejection when I am a published author and know it was for the best.
I was cleaning a bookshelf in my office and discovered a book on etiquette. I’m not sure where or when I picked up this little gem, but there it was sitting on the shelf just minding its business. Naturally I flipped through the book to see what silly things I was doing right or wrong, and I was surprised to find some interesting stuff.
The majority of etiquette is common sense (I hope), but using proper etiquette is a balancing act of being polite, displaying a welcoming attitude, and making others feel comfortable. Sounds simple enough, right?
One section in particular grabbed my interest in reference to introductions. In the business world, writer’s groups, and other professional groups I meet a lot of people. I have always been under the impression “Hello, I’m Lisa Heartman” was my introduction, but discovered it is so much more than that.
A proper introduction, according this is book, should include your name and a brief description of what you do or services you offer to entice people into a conversation. Equally as important are your handshake and body language. She goes on to recommend having a few different introductions for different situations. I thought with the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Annual Conference quickly approaching I should hone my introduction skills.
“Hello, my name is Lisa Heartman, a contemporary romance writer that likes to get to the heart of a story.”
“Hello, I’m contemporary romance writer Lisa Heartman.”
“Hello, I’m Lisa Heartman, contemporary romance writer and vice president of programs for the Desert Rose RWA chapter.”
"Hi, I'm Lisa Heartman. I write contemporary romance novels about the everyday side of romance."
“Hi, I’m Lisa Heartman, if you buy my contemporary romance novel I’ll bake you fudge brownies.”
Well none of these are perfect, but I have a few weeks to work on it. We all know the importance of a good first impression, and using proper etiquette is a great way to do that. It’s just a little something extra to help agents and editors remember me, and I’m okay with that.
As an unpublished writer, I often get questions like who do you write like? As badly as I would like to tack my name on to a few of my favorite authors out there, the question is difficult to answer. Who would I choose? There are so many wonderful writers that have helped to shape me over my lifetime.
I would love to say, I have a similar style to this author or my voice is like that writer, but really, I am Lisa Heartman. I’m not “just like” any of my favorite authors, and they aren’t just like their favorites either. Everything we experience in life shapes us, and since we all have different experiences, we are truly different even if we have a few similarities. That’s what makes each and every one of us special, different, and great in our own ways.
Why would I want to be the next Author So-and-So, when I can be the first me? Sure, I would like to have the success and name recognition of them, but it takes time and hard work. I’ll get there eventually. The truth is readers, editors, publishers, and agents are going to find my similar traits to other writers, and that’s perfectly fine, but I don’t want to pigeon-hole myself so early in my career by saying I’m just like anyone.
There have been thousands of great writers before me, and there will be thousands after me, but there is only one me.
This morning I was reminded of a quote from Demosthenes
(384 BC - 322 BC), a Greek orator & politician in Athens, Small opportunities are often the beginning of great enterprises and it got me thinking about the small opportunities which are presented to each and every one of us. These opportunities come to us in many different ways, shapes, and forms, but they mean nothing unless we take action.
Almost a year ago I had a funny, I should write a book, thought come to me. At first I laughed it off and even joked about it with a friend because I know nothing about writing a book. The thought came back to me several times within the week, and I spent plenty of time thinking countless defeatist thoughts about my abilities (or lack thereof) in writing a book; that’s a lot of work, I probably don’t have a chance at being published, I would never be as good as this author, just because I like to read doesn’t mean I would be a good writer, and (my absolute favorite) I have nothing to write about.
While I was busy thinking these negative thoughts I happened upon an idea for a book, and almost instantly my thoughts went from I can’t write a book to why not write a book. Without a clue of how to write a book or where to even start I jotted down notes, pages and pages of notes, until a story started to form in front of my eyes. Now I’ll admit that it wasn’t a great story when I started, but I found that I really enjoyed writing it so I kept at it. I took classes at the local community college, I attended writing seminars, joined writers groups, signed up for online workshops, and picked up several books on writing; anything I could do to get immersed in the writer’s sphere.
A little creativity and a whole lot of initiative developed a small opportunity into a great enterprise. No my book is not finished yet, but I continue working at it and I can’t wait for the day I can share it with others. I encourage each of you to take advantage of the small opportunities that come before you and don’t be afraid to challenge yourself to do something new or different.
Lisa Heartman writes contemporary romance and romantic suspense novels.