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After you've sent out a few dozen queries to literary agents, and either not received a response from any of them, or gotten polite form rejections designed to soothe your pain while simultaneously increasing it, it's time to either hunker down or make a new plan.

(Frankly, it's better to get an email that says your work is "unreadable, unmarketable, and unpublishable," rather than a bland "Your story does not fit into our list, right now." At least you get to work up some righteous indignation.)

The other day I ran across an article on Writer's Digest by Kristi Belcamino - "Don’t Give Up Until You’ve Queried 80 Agents Or More." The article inspired me to get into my files and look up how many rejections I had received: 140. I clearly have a lot more work to do if I'm going to fulfill my New Year's resolution.

Kristi has given writers four pointers:

1. Perseverance. Be stubborn and refuse to ever give up.

2. Work. Cultivate a constant desire to improve as a writer. This means putting words, lots and lots of words, on paper. This also involves studying the craft of writing and reading as much as you can as often as possible. 

3. Teflon Mentality. Develop a force field to deflect ego-smashing rejections. It is crucial to have the ability to effectively handle rejection, letting them bounce off you, and not allowing them to stop you from plugging away. (See #2 Work.) 

4. Patience. Here’s a little secret — the world of publishing runs on a completely alternate universe concept of time. Tired of waiting to hear back from an agent or publisher or editor? Grab a beer and put your feet up.

If you keep all of the above in mind, and, in Ray Bradbury's words, "Write like hell!" I'm sure you can beat my record. (Although, you may not beat C. S. Lewis'. Click here for his truly astonishing number of rejections.)

That being said, you should keep in mind that the lines are increasingly becoming blurred between traditional publishing and self-publishing. Because of the dramatic success of Fifty Shades of Grey and Wool, publishers are beginning to accept works that have been previously epublished. Some agents are seeing the writing on the wall as well.

What this means for you, as a writer who does not want to go fifty shades of gray waiting for an agent to call, is that you can do both. If you've given it all you've got, don't grab a beer - design a cover, and publish.

 
 
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It's January 1st, and I can guess what you have resolved for 2014, because every writer makes the same New Year's resolutions.

I will finish my novel

I will start my novel

I will write more/better/faster

I will find an agent

I will get published

... and so on

Chances are, you will make the same resolutions next year. And they will be equally as futile.

The problem is that you are setting your sights too low. If you are going to make a resolution, make it big.

This is my New Year's Resolution:

This year I will get more rejections than C. S. Lewis.

(Click here if you don't know how many rejections he received.)

The reason I have chosen this for my resolution is that I can't get rejections if I don't send queries, and the number of queries I send reflects how committed I really am. (Of course, I can't send queries if I haven't finished my project. And I can't finish my project if I don't work on it every day. That goes without saying.)

The point is, if you aim for getting rejected more times than, say, F. Scott Fitzgerald, you just may end up writing The Great Gatsby.

And if C.S. Lewis and F. Scott Fitzgerald don't inspire you, try these rejections on for size:

Lord of the Flies by William Golding - 'an absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull.'

Gertrude Stein - 'I cannot read your M.S. three or four times. Not even one time. Only one look, only one look is enough. Hardly one copy would sell here. Hardly one. Hardly one.'

Rudyard Kipling - 'I'm sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don't know how to use the English language.'

And, my personal favorite:

The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum - 'unreadable'

These authors didn't quit, and neither should you. But, you can't quit if you don't start. So, join me this year.

Let's get rejected 800 times.



 
 
For all young - and old - writers, wherever you are, watch this. Neil Gaiman has it down.
"Whatever you do, you have one thing that is unique. You have the ability to make art.

When things get tough ... make good art.

Husband runs off with a politician ... make good art.

Leg crushed and then eaten by mutated boa constrictor ... make good art.

IRS on your trail ... make good art.

Cat exploded ... make good art.

Someone on the internet thinks what you are doing is stupid, or evil, or it's all  been done before ... make good art.

The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice. Your mind. Your story. Your vision."

 

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