After years of receiving rejections in response to my writing submissions, I received acceptances from three different publishers within one week in August 2015. One offer was for Dodging Eros, Through Past, Present and Pleasure, which had been accepted, then rejected by agents, editors, and publishers multiple times since 2011. The two other offers were for a novella I’d written earlier in the year for an anthology that was later cancelled.
How To Not Give Up on Your Dreams After Years Of Rejection
Here are my lessons learned:
1. There’s joy in the doing of an activity.
Keep studying, training, practicing, rehearsing, refining. Skills and talents improve with diligent pursuit of study and practice.
2. After some swear words, tears, a ménage a trois with Ben & Jerry, and meditation seriously consider the elements of truth in constructive criticism and negative feedback.
When I entered the first five pages of Dodging Eros in a contest one of the judges scolded me for beginning the story during the 1920s while classifying it as contemporary erotica. Her lecture led me to identify the prologue as “the past” and to add a subtitle of “Through Past, Present and Pleasure” to avoid confusion for future readers.
A prestigious literary agent offered me representation based on my query letter, then rescinded the offer after reading the full manuscript (twice!) because it referenced more than one genre, making it difficult to pitch to editors. That response led to my adding “mashup” and “cheeky spoof” to my description of Dodging Eros in subsequent queries.
The first time DE was accepted by an independent publisher the editor-in-chief asked me to consider expanding it into a trilogy instead of one story in three parts like a braid or a layered cake. Creating prologues for the second and third parts, titles for each chapter, and adding 12k words strengthened DE overall. It also refined and clarified the story structure, the characters, and overlapping thematic threads. The deal still collapsed.
Finally, in August 2014, on the day after I quietly decided to stop submitting my work to anyone for at least the next six months, another independent publisher seemed to accept Dodging Eros because of its quirkiness, not in spite of it. Almost immediately it became clear that we were a mismatch in creative writing philosophy, but the editor spotted a small, pivotal continuity gap that I never would have seen. When we amicably parted in January 2015 I was relieved (and so were they, most probably).
3. Consider other approaches.
By January 2015 Dodging Eros was clean, strong, experimental-concept prose as upbeat erotic social commentary about grown-ups in love. There was an ARC, and positive feedback from a couple of reviewers. Should I self-publish? became the question. I’d done it before with my first title, Seducing the Burks: Five Erotic Tales. That experience had been positive, stressful, and exhausting. Doing it again wasn’t my first choice, but I decided to solicit more reviews and generate cover art while submitting DE to other independent publishers.
Meanwhile, a novella contest for entries in an anthology inspired me to write about the politics of pleasure when the woman is the rich and powerful one in a hetero monogamous relationship. “This Mark Changes the Game” by C. X Brooks (my edgier writing persona) was the result. My idea was to use inclusion in the anthology for exposure to generate interest in my other work. The anthology was cancelled due to an insufficient number of entries, but “This Mark Changes the Game” grew into a series of four short stories and received offers from two different publishers.
4. Look beyond familiar niches for encouragement and inspiration.
The #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign validated my feelings as a non-Anglo reader and writer. Following the campaign on social media reminds me that a diverse population of children, teens, young and new adults who read will likely become grown-ups who read. Keeping that fact in mind helps me to focus on constantly moving forward with my writing. Every story may have already been told, but they haven’t all been told from every point of view.
Another public debate reignited with serendipitous timing for the launch of Dodging Eros: #OscarsSoWhite. This topic offered me opportunities to link this conversation about the insularity of the movie industry with similar patterns of Anglo-centric focus in mainstream contemporary fiction publishing. Making that connection expanded my debate about the politics of pleasure into deeper issues of the intersection of ethnicity, gender, and social class with traditions of institutionalized exclusion.
5. Live life fully.
The act of creating makes a person an artist; writing makes a writer. Being paid to write makes an author.
Spending time with family and friends, pursuing interesting hobbies, meditation, church, exercise, work, play, restful sleep, etc. automatically enrich every day. These activities also infuse an artist’s work with a variety of experiential references and offer opportunities for discoveries that inform an artist’s sensibilities to engage others with countless variations in details and perspectives.
Keep creating yourself. Doing so sustains and evolves dreams. It enriches life and strengthens the tapestry of the universe whether you get paid for it, or not, in fame, money or awards.