Is this tacky? Or is it therapy? I'm going with the latter. If you've been in the query game for any amount of time you've received emails stating things like this:
"After careful consideration I am sorry to say I do not think I am the right agent for your work."
"I’m sorry for the impersonal nature of this letter; please know we read each query we receive.
Unfortunately, we don’t feel we are the right agency for your project. We wish you all the best of luck in finding a home for your work."
"Unfortunately, your project is not right for us at this time."
"While your project isn't right for my list at this time, I appreciate the chance to consider it and wish you the best in finding the right agency home."
"I’m afraid I’m not the right agent for it. The concept just didn’t grab me, and you deserve an enthusiastic agent who can champion your work."
It's all very polite and honest. I don't begrudge the agents AT ALL. They are doing their job. What I want to address is how this feels. (and then I'll get on with picking myself, dusting off, and honing that MS. But first...) Cue sound effects.
I've been on the receiving end of hundreds (truly) of emails just like these over the years. I've also been lucky enough to receive some kind feedback, partial requests, and fulls. It is a glorious feeling that makes me all heady and forget which end is up. I do ALL the cliche things. But then when there's a no or many no's. It stings. Just a little. Sometimes a lot.
Here is what I do to mend a broken heart and soothe a bruised ego when the rejections trickle (or pour) in:
Regroup. It is a good idea to a great idea to do something that isn't writing, tweeting, checking email, etc. Pursue another hobby for a few hours, meet a friend, do something (legal) to take your mind off things—sleep is always a winner. A good distraction gives me a bit of distance from how I felt in that moment (of crushing rejection) and provides renewed perspective.
Step away. Sometimes the best thing to do is take regrouping a step further and actually step away from the project, queries, etc. for a time. A day, week, month. Ditto renewed perspective from above and also time. It's a miracle worker.
Answer. Why do I want to write tell stories? What is my driving motivation? What is my intention with this endeavor? Write it down. This has helped me get back on track and reminds me why I do what I do day after day.
Edit. Sometimes it is hard to see the forest for the trees. You've read your ms. going on a dozen times. You printed it out, read it aloud, gone at it with the red pen...but there may still be errors, holes, parts that need professional TLC. Hire editing services, but do your due diligence and be sure they're reputable.
Enter contest(s). This is a great way to not only to potentially win a request, partial, or query, but a decent way to receive critiques and connect with writers and folks in the biz.
Be active. Pick your social media
Find support. Find support, give it, receive it with other like-minded writers, the kind who offer the proverbial chocolate and a hug when necessary as well as cheer-lead you through all the ups and downs. Do the same. Also keep in mind that although it may seem there are few available opportunities for publication, there's actually an abundance. And an open mentality will bring them to you. And to me. Ya?
Explore. So say I've had my heart set on a big publishing deal with one of the big six, my name on billboards, a VIP spot at ComiCON, and my name in the NYT. Okay, actually I have never aspired to any of those things. I mean it would be cool, but really my goal is to connect my story-telling to readers, role model what it is to be disciplined in pursuing your dream for my children, and therefore provide for them (food and all that.) So however that spells itself out, cool. I'm happy to sit at my lappy with my slippers on and write my heart out. Whatever you've been hoping for, if it isn't quite happening explore alternatives from small presses to self publishing. There are options folks.
Patience. My husband has pointed out that when I want something done or to happen, I want it like right now. By product of generation-instant-gratification? I actually have no idea what generation I hail from, but I am sometimes accused of not having the most patience. This process—seeking representation for going on ten books, an EPIC lesson in patience, which I hear is way important when you're actually in the race, traditional publication is like a marathon, pace yourself, when you see the finish line it may just be a dehydration induced mirage. But keep at it, fingers to the keyboard.
Find. A critique partner or better yet a group of them is often crucial, it is the lucky few who write something that's nearly perfection on the first pass. CP's can provide feedback, ideas for adding polish, shine, and of course a well of emotional support. Be as selective as you would in finding any kind of life (experience ) partner. Crit-Love-Connections can be made via contests (similar writing style genre or you are just stoked to read what they have written and hope they feel the same) or find them from blogs, social media, and the innumerable writing resources available...see this post.
Shelve. Is that a word? Suddenly it doesn't look like a word. There are times when we just need to leave an ms or query alone for a month. Then reopen it. Likely we'll find things to tighten and polish after we've forgotten about it. The best litmus for this is when you finally do reread it, if you love the characters, story line, and world even more than you did before, you know it is something to stand by.
And then. Keep at it. Keep writing.
One of the best things I read recently:
"So, I'm going to keep the faith, and even if I don't get another agent with this MS or even the next. I write because I love it. I will keep writing because I love it.
I will not reject myself too. That's just lame. And stupid." Thank you Erica Chapman.
You are relevant. So is your voice and the story you have to tell. I also sometimes tell myself a "no" is merely a delay. Not a denial.
(self pep talk over.)