Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Five Stages of Writerly Grief

You all probably know about the stages of grief, but if you don't here's a good article on the typical Five Stages of Grief and Loss. Today, I'm going to use those to illustrate what happens when a writer gets rejected - because hey, we all grieve those losses like any other.  Sure, no one died, but it's a loss and it's painful.

First a little backstory - because I do love me some backstory*...

So anyway, after waiting a little over 16 months for this publisher who shall remain nameless** to make a decision one way or the other about Djinnocide, I received my lovely form rejection in the email yesterday afternoon.  And the rest of the afternoon went something like this:

Stage One: Denial and Isolation.  Okay, so I didn't hit the denial.  I got rejected and that was that.  The isolation part, though, went into full swing.  After shooting off a few emails to those people who've been waiting with me for this, I grabbed my trusty limb saw and headed out into the woods to be by myself.  Hubs later joined me, which didn't help with the isolation, but he got some of the bigger limbs, so it's all good.  And then when he'd had enough, I isolated myself some more.

Stage Two: Anger.  Yeah, I recognized this morning, I'm smack in the middle of this phase.  Honestly, I thought Anger was farther down the ladder, so I would almost be done with this grieving thing, but I'm not.  I'm still just pissed.

Stage Three: Bargaining.  I think I've been jumping around on the stages because I'm pretty sure I hit the whole bargaining thing in my head while I was hacking away at the deadwood.  Mostly, for me, this phase means I'm trying to figure out in my head what I could've done to make my work more publishable.  "I'll rewrite the beginning.  I can change it!  Just give me a chance!"  But no, the bargaining never really works.  If they thought that some minor change would've made the manuscript something they'd buy, they would've suggested it. 

Stage Four: Depression.  Yep, I went through this one last night for a brief period.  (Which is why I thought Anger was farther down the list.)  Know what I did to stop it?  I wrote a thousand words, ate a chocolate-chip peanut butter bar sundae with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce, then wrote another fifteen hundred words.  Fuck the depression phase.  Pointless and unproductive wad of crap that it is.  I got work to do.

Stage Five:  Acceptance.  I accepted as soon as I got the rejection that it was over.  I refuse to accept that Djinnocide will never sell.  Fuck that and fuck them.  (I told you I was still in Anger, didn't I?)  I will not be bowed by this.  It's a setback.  It sucks - hard.  But I will not accept that this book or any others I've written are unpublishable.  I will be published.  Even if I have to do it my own goddamn self.

(Anger is the most fun stage of grief.  Really it is.)

Right now, other than the anger - which is slowly petering out - I'm over it.  Like I said, I got work to do.  I'm smack in the middle of a rewrite, plus, now that my book is unencumbered, I can query with wild abandon again - with a new title and new query letter.  To that end, I renewed my premium subscription to QueryTracker.  

I will not be held down or held back.  I'm going out into the world to kick some ass.  Who's with me?

:Cue scene from Animal House where Bluto gives a thoroughly confusing pep-talk and runs from the frat house:

"Let's do it!!!"

*Which could conceivably be why I'm not published, but screw it.  I like my stories and that's all there is to it.

** Really.  Those of you who know the name, keep it to yourselves.  They're just doing their jobs and shouldn't be berated publicly for not wanting to publish my awesomeness.


  1. I think I went through that with my first book. Thought I'd have to bury it forever, which was sad because I loved it soooo much. But when I finally got published and then was asked what else did I have...I handed them my first book. So don't despair. It's just waiting its turn.

    So don't stop writing! Your book is waiting for another to lead the way!!

  2. OKAY, time for a pep talk from someone who has more rejections that any one person should ever have. You are letting some other person deem your work unpublishable, unsuitable, un whatever. Not sure. Often we have to find the right person to read our work. I worked five solid years on one novel. Then proceeded to spend the next few years (still writing) but diligently sending out that novel. Spend months of waiting which turned into more years. Never again. I had an agent five years for my novel VADA FAITH. Elaine English, Literary agent and attorney. She loved the story. Could not sell to any of the big publishers or any of the small. We parted friends forever. Then I tried a few more places and went directly to Createspace - Amazon. Created a paperback and kindle version. It's worked for me all the way. Then published Ezra and Other Stories the same way. I'm not that young and I can't wait years to hope some publisher will give me a break. I'm please with what I've done. I have to say my stories have been edited and re edited. There is work on Amazon that shouldn't have been published but that's in the minority. If you have an audience out there they will find you. Good luck and God bless. Barb

  3. I know the rejection sucks. I know the anger takes the edge off, but really, it's not going to help you reach your goal. Writing a bunch may though, so good for you!

  4. After 16 months, I would've forgotten I'd even sent it off to that publisher.

    There's a coping curve with queries and manuscripts. My first year--long before I was ready for my closeup--it used to crush me.

    It's been a while since I've queried anything, but towards the end, I can promise you, you won't even bat an eye regardless of acceptance or rejection. It's just another part of doing business.

    If you get accepted, you negotiate contracts and if you get rejected you go on to the next publisher.

    It sounds blasé but believe me, it'll get to that point. In publishing it's all about the product and whether they can sell it.

    Self-publishing works on a different paradigm where storytelling and visibility are your goal posts.

  5. I am so darned impressed that you wrote through that anger/depression/bargaining/eating/rejection day, B.E.! Good for you for keeping your eye on your goal (to write) and for steadfastly moving toward your ultimate goal (to publish) even when the going gets tough!

    As for that anger - let it out, much better than being bottled (yes, BIG reference to Djinnocide) up and left to fester!

  6. I feel ya, hon. Trust me. In a week or so, I may come back to revisit this blog or rant on my own. Or not. Waiting sucks. Rejection hurts. But dammit, you ARE talented. Right place, right time, right story. When that happens, you'll hit. I have absolute faith in you even when you're going through the five stages.

    Maria is right. It's business. It just so happens that our "products" are so near and dear to our hearts that it's like having a child rejected. Once you can compartmentalize, it gets a little easier. It never completely goes away, but it gets easier. :hugs: