Sunday, February 7, 2016

When you check and your name isn't on the list

Right, so there you are. You entered a contest, and now, the world has moved on and you didn’t get to the coveted agent round.

I feel for you.

I feel for you because I’ve been in your shoes. And what makes it harder is that sometimes those people go on to getting agents, and you feel like that could have been you.

It’s hard to be objective at this moment in life because you just received a blow. When you get cut from something, it feels like you were attacked. It feels like someone took your dream out of your heart and used it to park a tractor on. When I was rejected, I’d always feel like the world had just spit me out and keep on going.

I felt worthless.

I felt like a crappy writer regardless of what anyone else said.

I hated feeling so disregarded, because I felt like I was ready. I was ready for the big leagues. This is what I’d tell myself. I’d watch those contests trying to feel supportive of my friends and CPs, but in truth, I often had a sick green monster on my shoulder.

I know there is nothing I can tell you that will make it better, but I’m a writer and by default, I believe the impossible is merely difficult.

Publishing, the business side of writing, makes no logical sense. It just doesn’t. So when you get a rejection and you can’t figure out why a manuscript you feel is inferior gets the big agent and a contract in three days, it’s not what you think. Sometimes people win the lottery, but you don’t see them doubting their self worth when they don’t win the jackpot.

But with writing we do. It’s bizarre, but it’s part of writing. And maybe, just maybe, there is something that could be made more perfect about your manuscript. Or maybe your writing is Ah-May-Zing, but your story is a portal with a pretty typical other world. No matter how much I love those, no one is buying them in publishing, and that trickles down the castle walls.

Chin up. Write more. One thing about publishing: when you do get your break, the first thing they are going to ask you is “What else do you have?” Be sure you have something else, so get back to writing, even if your heart is feeling a bit broken.


  1. Here's the thing about those contests too, as someone who did used to make the cut on most of them, the vast, vast majority of those contest writers will get nothing from it, barring maybe a few full reads from an agent.
    Which is a whole nother level of disappointment.
    Contests can be fun, but if they tend to put you in a bad space, honestly, they're just not worth it.
    The vast majority of people land their agents the old fashioned way, by querying, and chances are you will too, regardless of whether you made it into a contest or not.

  2. I agree with Sarah.

    When I read your title, my mind went another way. I tend to enter quite a lot of short story contests, and I get disappointed when I'm not on those lists... until I realise I didn't enter that particular one :-)

  3. Nothing made me understand rejection isn't personal better than helping judge Write Club submissions. There is so much competition and so many good writers, I was able to narrow down to a few and then I had to just go on taste. On stories I personally liked better.

  4. It's true. You do have to keep something on reserve, because that question inevitably gets sounded. But, I'm a firm believer that there's someone out there who wants to publish your work. They just need to see it.


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