Loree Lough

With nearly three million books sold, best-selling author Loree Lough’s titles have earned 4- and 5-star reviews and dozens of awards. Reviewers and readers alike call her “a gifted writer whose stories touch hearts and change lives.” Her 9/11 novel From Ashes to Honor (#1 in First Responders series, Abingdon) hits bookshelves to coordinate with the 10th anniversary of the tragedy. Loree lives near Baltimore and loves spending time at her teeny tiny cabin in the Allegheny Mountains, where she loves to show off her talent for correctly identifying critter tracks. Visit Loree at http://wwwloreelough.com.

Loree's Lough Down

The Bittersweet Scent of Rejection

Dear Author:

After careful review, our editorial committee is in agreement: The best use for your manuscript is as a doorstop.
John Q. Editor

Dear Author: We have changed our mailing address in the hope of avoiding future submissions from you.
The Editors

Dear Author: Thank you for your submission. Unfortunately, we are not in need of fertilizer at this time.
Agents to the Stars

Okay. So maybe I exaggerated. A tad. But even more pleasant (i.e. generic) rejections can leave us with the same “Ouch” generated by these examples.

We can lessen the sting by acknowledging that notables of yore, such as William Golding (Lord of the Flies), Joseph Heller (Catch-22), George Orwell (Animal Farm), and Anne Frank, all received numerous rejections before their manuscripts were snapped up by the right agent or editor at the right moment in time. Talk to any of today’s best-selling authors (Grisham, JK Rowling, Judy Blume, Stephen King, etc.) and they’ll recite their own rejection stories. On second thought? The old “misery loves company” doesn’t quite cut it here, does it?

It’d be so easy to blame “baby editors” whose college degrees prepared them for careers in psychology, marine biology, or Internet technology for not knowing the difference between a potential best-seller and a “wallbanger.” Or the long list of agents who only decided to become agents after coping with rejection themselves? Because really, how can either truly relate to a good story? Sadly, thoughts like that might lessen the sting of our own rejections, but only temporarily. Because when all is said and done, their decisions—however immature or off-target we tell ourselves they are—have a direct (and sometimes lasting) impact on our careers. Some of us take rejection in stride. Others need days (and days) to recover from the disappointment of hearing “Thanks, but no thanks.”

We’ve all heard about authors who, fresh out of high school, submit their first attempt at writing and presto-change-o, it’s an instant hit. Same goes for those one-book-wonder types whose first and only books become best-sellers and major motion pictures. When memories like that hit on the heels of a rejection letter, my advice is simple and straightforward: Get busy doing something—anything—else (preferably something related to your next submission), toot-sweet! Because comparisons like that breed discontent and resentment, which will spill onto the pages of your next story, and lead to yet another rejection.

If you (to quote a line from an old ’40s hit) “…pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again,” you will eventually earn those coveted contracts. Why? Because instead of taking the Charlie Brown approach (no, no…not that Charlie Brown; the one in the ’60s tune, who whimpered “Why’s ever’body always pickin’ on me?”), your energies will focus on why your story invited a rejection:

• Did I send it to the right editor at the right company?
• Did I overlook typos and misspellings?
• Did I properly motivate my characters, and were they believable?
• Did the agent/editor recently accept a project with a too-similar story line?
• Did I write the story too long or too short for the intended genre/line?

Sometimes, the answers to those questions can be found in the rejection, itself; on occasion, editors and agents sense enough potential in the story and/or the voice of the writer to inspire useful suggestions, such as “The main character wasn’t sympathetic enough” or “Too much narrative, not enough dialogue.” Even annoyingly vague explanations like “The story just didn’t ‘do it’ for me” or “Sorry, couldn’t get ‘into’ this one” have clues written between the lines. Getting to the bottom of the good advice and the hazy hints keep us focused on the story and writing, rather than on the rejection. In time, that “Got it!” moment will dawn, and as we incorporate those ideas into our manuscripts, we’re more confident about resubmitting—and re-resubmitting—until we land on that perfectly timed moment when editor/agent and story clicks.

Ah, but that’s a beautiful sound. And in the meantime . . .?

Years ago, after I’d groaned and moaned a rejection, a writer pal sent me a gift that put it all into perspective. On the front of the T-shirt, a fuzzy rendition of the Titanic. And on the back, in big bold letters: IT SANK. GET OVER IT. Laughing, I slipped it on and went straight to my office, where I gathered up all the rejection slips I’d earned over the years. There are between 400 and 500 of them in that fat manila folder. And you know what? The number doesn’t depress me. Rather, it inspires. Because it’s black-and-white evidence that I’m actively working toward publication . . . and have been for years! (Can’t get rejected if you don’t submit, right?)

So next time a rejection arrives in your inbox, take heart, and see it for what it is: a stepping stone toward the newspaper story featuring you, the publishing world’s next “overnight success.”


An Accidental Family