An agent has rejected you.
Your CPs and beta readers have given back mixed feedback and a bunch of edits.
Maybe you didn’t get chosen by a Pitch Wars mentor or into another writing contest.
Now what do you do with the manuscript?
Well, in my opinion, there are several essential steps that every author post-rejection or those hesitating outside the gates of revision hell should take before they even consider diving in. Of course, if you’re on some kind of deadline then some of these steps might need fast-forwarding, and, to be honest, the more developed your writing and techniques become, or with certain manuscripts, not all will need to be tackled. And, it just might be the time to find your manuscript a resting place upon that high, dusty shelf, but that's a blog for another day.
So, check out my (slightly tongue-in-cheek) eight step plan before diving into edits...
One: try calling the manuscript a name. Something nasty, evil, cutting. Attack that stupid, nasty, garbage bit of work. She’s let you down, for goodness sake. Ruined your only chance, your whole career. Call her Butt-Stink or Total Loser or WOS (Waste of Space) or F**ked-Up A**hole *C**t. Too much? OK, sorry. Let’s run with Vomit Pile for now.
Two: it’s perfectly OK to feel down in the dumps and overwhelmed. In fact, it’s completely normal and totally deserved. Every writer spits a little piece of soul into their Vomit Pile, and when she gets knocked back, skinned alive, and ripped to shreds, it’s a total punch in the gut. So, by all means:
1) wallow in a little misery
2) pour a small (MASSIVE) glass of cheap plonk – or that Jamaican coconut rum 90% proof you brought back from holiday 10 years ago
3) eat dessert-spoonfuls of sugar straight from the packet whilst those hot tears drip drip drip
4) blame everyone else (because it’s totally someone else at fault)
5) create a pillow and blanket fort and hunker down with the rum and sugar
6) forget the housework and family (sorry, who?)
7) scream into the mirror
8) shrivel up in the tub
9) tell yourself you should never write again and you were an utter fool to think you could ever be a writer
10) have imaginary conversations, with whomever, in which you convince the world that you obviously write as well as Patrick Ness and this book should definitely go to auction where six-figure bids bounce around the room from all the big publishing houses
11) Cope however you must, will, and can
Three: give yourself a sharp, stingy slap round the face because that’s where the depression has to end. No more misery, no more sugar, no more alcohol. A couple of days, maybe even a week or two is enough then take back control and end it. Pull on the boxing gloves and get back to work. You can and will become a brilliant writer if you’re prepared to scramble out this angry pit of despair. No famous author became famous for the giving up. No bestseller got to the top of the charts because revisions came to an abrupt end.
Four: take a week or two off from writing, or at least from prodding and poking Vomit Pile. Go to the bookstore (physical or virtual) or library and load up on books – preferably bestsellers or new releases in the same category and genre as Vomit Pile. AND READ THEM. Read, digest, analyse.
1) Write down everything you know about the characters in the book to analyse the amount of work gone into characterisation
2) Write or draw a picture of the world/town/house/room in which the character lives to analyse the amount of work gone into world-building
3) Note down what and when you smell, hear and feel something, then study how the words evoked this
4) Highlight when you are overwhelmed with emotion then note down exactly what you felt and what words, what moment set you off
It might be that you don’t have issues with some of these aspects in your own writing, but it doesn’t mean you can’t improve upon what you have or you should stop studying how other authors succeed in creating their magic.
Five: Write some other stuff. Blogs or magazine articles about anything – maybe rejection, short stories, plot outlines for new novels, character profiles. Absolutely anything and everything but not Vomit Pile.
Six: Crack on with some CPing or beta reading. This will always be one of the most awesome and effective ways to learn how to accept criticism because dishing out feedback and advice is a whole different ball game when you’ve been on the receiving end. Plus, it teaches you how to ‘see’ your manuscript, your sentences, and your structuring critically.
Seven: After all the reading, critiquing, and studying, and the all important time away from her, go to that toxic, green-glowing folder and whip out Vomit Pile. There she is. In all her hideous, rejected ugliness. Now, if you can, send her to your e-reader or print her in a different font than you're used to. Then read her. Uninterrupted. Aloud, if you like. No pauses for analysis, no time-out to ask questions, no note-taking or stunning and elaborate rainbow-effect highlighting. Just indulge that poor, neglected beast for a moment and treat her like the book she is.
Then, write critically and in detail about Vomit Pile. Really go for it. Cover all the elements of the manuscript as if you were writing a book review for Goodreads or Amazon. How did it make you feel? Was the writing smooth and the voice clear? Were there any areas you lost interest or where you skipped sections? Were the characters believable and well-defined, were their motivations obvious? Were the stakes high enough to create enough tension and an addictive read? It’s going to be hard because you know the background, but do your best.
Eight: And finally, it’s time to re-read the feedback you’ve received and get down to edits. And also the moment for you to refer immediately to the other sensational editing blogs on this website!
All in all, peeps, revisions can be tough and rejection a nightmare. So give yourself a break, have some fun and a little down time, and keep focused. Making your book shine was never going to be easy. But snatch back those reins and kick Vomit Pile’s butt. Show the world that you're not a quitter and you can make this book better.