Thanking the Stars for Rejection

Do you ever get a great and overwhelming sense of… the only word for it has to be relief… to think your first novel didn’t get published?

I just felt it, undeniable relief sitting here in the café, skimming through pages I am happy to stay hidden for the rest of my life. Never publishing that novel is a good thing, not a sad thing. I should be grateful about that, not depressed.

Sometimes I peek back at the novel. Sometimes I have moments of doubt about having doubt in the first place. The book can’t be all dead, can it? I ask myself. Not after all that work? But it is. So far, I’ve published three stories that used to be pieces from it. I think I can dig out one more, maybe.

The novel I’m talking about was the first one I wrote. I started it when I was 22 or 23. I’ve talked about it here before: 500 pages long, written to graduate my writing program, and it did get me the MFA—at least there’s that. All told I spent five years on it.

Not too many people read the whole thing. E, of course. My thesis adviser. My two thesis readers—one who seemed to like it and one who said he was worried it would fail. My mom. My writing friend Erin. One agent. Is that really all?

How can you give up after one or two agents say no to you? Maybe because it was the right thing to do. Is it horrible to think that a whole novel was written for practice, for therapy? I feel better for having written it, but I want to burn parts of it too.

I just wish I’d learned enough from the experience to write a second novel that was publishable. Alas. I’m slow to learn, I guess. For now, I just want to thank the stars that the first novel wasn’t The One. Such relief, for real.

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4 responses to “Thanking the Stars for Rejection”

  1. I totally get this! That’s how I feel about my whole undergrad collection, and I was also about 23 when I wrote those. They were okay for what they were, which was practice. Somebody told me that once, that the first 20 stories you write are just for practice or something… not sure how that equates to novels?

    I scrapped the whole first six months (50,000 words) of work I did on my current novel and started over from scratch. This novel I’m working on now is about 95% different than that first draft, so maybe that first draft was my practice novel too 🙂

    It’s all for the better!


  2. I think all the novels I’ve written so far have been “practice” novels. At least, that’s what they look like to me after I’ve finished with them.

    Who knows, maybe my next one will be the real thing!


  3. Good for you for letting that first novel go. I’m STILL wondering about mine. In fact, I’m in the middle of yet another revision, trying to freshen it up! ARGH!


  4. My first, second and third novels were totally unpublishable. I sometimes wonder about the third one, though, whether I could turn it into some kind of comedy, but no, too insane! Do you think yours might be salvagable, if approached from a different angle?

    What I’ve been realising lately is that my fourth book and first presentable manuscript, which was recently rejected, has a major flaw to it and needs another redraft. I was disappointed by the rejection but the editor gave me the most amazing feedback, which led me to see exactly where I had been going wrong. I did consider firing it straight off again to another publisher before I sat down and thought, and realised the flaw, but I am so, so glad I didn’t now. I would so much rather wait, make this manuscript the very best it can be, than get published with something that is only halfway there. Not many people have understood why I’ve been so calm and almost happy about this experience but your post sums it up.


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