By Ian Long
All writers fear rejection.
But it's an unavoidable part of the writing process - a side-effect of putting your work out there.
Even so, it doesn't feel good. We need to find ways to soften its psychological and emotional impacts, and prevent it from affecting us and our work.
And maybe we can even find something useful in it.
This article suggests some coping strategies.
1. There are different kinds of rejection.
In fact, the word itself is a bit of a misnomer. “Rejection” is really just the information that a particular producer or publisher can’t realise a certain film or book at a specific time. And there could be many reasons for this.
ACTION PLAN: Get analytical. It’s important to be detached when dealing with bad news, not to let your emotions dominate, and to work out just what's happening in the situation you're dealing with.
2. You aren’t your work.
No matter how much time, effort and emotion you’ve poured into that pile of A4, it isn’t actually you. You are a human being, hopefully quite functional, with friends, family and a future that isn’t entirely bound up with a single manuscript.
ACTION PLAN: Remember that in a short time you’ll be working on a new, possibly better idea, and this current story won’t be as central to your self-image as it is now.
3. Unnecessary fears?
If someone’s commissioned a script from you, they’re unlikely to reject it. Even if they feel your draft isn’t quite there, they’ll want to work with you to improve it. Worst-case scenario: if they have real problems, they may ask you to do an unpaid draft to get it back in shape.
ACTION PLAN: Don’t waste energy worrying about something that’s unlikely to happen.
4. Shooting yourself in the foot.
Did you research the destination of your script or novel in detail? Or maybe you posted your romcom to a production company that only makes horror films? Perhaps you sent a script to a company which doesn’t accept unsolicited work? If so, you’ve effectively rejected yourself.
ACTION PLAN: Make sure you send your work where it has a chance of being appreciated.
If the company your're targeting doesn’t read unsolicited material, ask a contact to recommend you, OR try to meet or otherwise contact an insider - and pitch your idea to them. If they're interested, the script is no longer unsolicited.
5. “We can’t make this, but …”
Production companies and publishers have to assess projects from many angles. Creativity is important, but so are financial considerations - particularly in cinema. Many livelihoods hang on the success or failure of a film, and every screenplay is essentially a proposal to set up a medium-sized business.
So some rejections aren’t really rejections at all. Maybe the small company you're dealing with really would love to make your biblical epic, and really does like the way you've rewritten the Sermon on the Mount, but just doesn't have the funds to produce it.
ACTION PLAN: Start by assuming that most replies will be negative. But look at them carefully. Does the response contain positive comments about your story, or your writing? There’s no reason for a producer to sugar the pill, so if they say it, they probably mean it!
Don’t mistake a reponse that endorses your abilities for a blanket rejection. It could be the start of a conversation which will lead to future collaborations.
6. Learn from constructive criticism
Equally, be prepared to take criticism on the chin. If someone's taken the time to think about your writing and assess it honestly, they deserve thanks. Decide whether the points they make are accurate, or useful. They may contain valuable clues to improve your work.
ACTION PLAN: Give yourself time to think through criticisms of your work. There may be nuggets of gold in them, even if you feel a little stung at first.
And don’t get bitter about people who critique your work, or go around denouncing them. As with the instance above, they may also turn out to be future colleagues.
7. Downright nastiness
I’ve said you shouldn’t bad-mouth people, but there are a few people out there who will unload a ton of vitriol on you for no apparent reason. Don’t take it personally. If they do it to you, they'll almost certainly be doing it to others.
Personal attacks are unacceptable, and they reflect on the perpetrator, not the recipient. Maybe the individual in question is facing some profound problem in life, maybe they were having a bad day - or maybe they're simply a deeply unpleasant person.
ACTION PLAN: Have a really good day, just to spite them!
If you have any other ideas about dealing with rejection, please add them in the Comments section.
MY UPCOMING WORKSHOPS
Both these workshops aim to help writers avoid rejection by making their work as good as it can possibly be!
DEEP NARRATIVE DESIGN - June 12th
For writers in all genres - how to design stories which communicate the ideas and emotions you intend in the most effective ways.
For more details about Deep Narrative Design, click here.
WRITING HORROR - July 12th
Work through the many possibilities offered by horror to create cinematic stories with powerful personal, emotional, social and political themes.
For more details about Writing Horror, click here.
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