Monday, December 31, 2007

The Sting of Rejection

Recently a book I submitted was rejected. Shocking I know, but there you have it. And I freely admit that it stung a bit. Or rather, the reason it was rejected was a bit of a blow. It wasn't rejected for poor writing or because the story was bad. Actually, it was rejected because the story was too similar to another story already published.

After the first little shock, I tracked down the other story and read it. It was eerily like my story. Though I had never read the other story, there were many, many details that were very close to my story. It left me with a queasy feeling in my stomach. And it left me with a feeling that my story was tainted in some way.

As a writer, there is nothing that is a greater sin than copying another writer's work. Nothing. That's why there are copyright laws. The theft of another writer's ideas is anathema. So, with that faint questioning tinge attached to my story, you may imagine how devastating it was for me. My initial thought was to destroy the story. Delete it from my computer and pretend that it never was written.

But that really wouldn't solve the problem. I've had some time to think about it. For now, I will put the story away until I can gain some perspective about it. I'm too close to it to make changes now. Some day I will take it out, revise it beyond recognition, and maybe... maybe, submit it to some other publisher.

In the meantime, I must wrestle with the uncertainies and insecurities that all authors face when their work is called into question. In my case, there is also the niggling feeling that my work will be scrutinized in the future with people wondering where I acquired my ideas. The truth is that there are only so many story ideas out there. That expression about there being nothing new under the sun... is true.

I write a series about blue people. Imagine my shock today when I discovered that there are several documented cases of blue people. Entire families apparently carry a certain recessive gene for a condition that literally turns their skin blue. Bright blue. I must say that when I read that article, I just sat here for a while and wondered what the heck to do. Never in a million years would I have imagined that as a reality.

I wait with bated breath to find out that there are really shape-shifters that can shift into any animal they wish, or that there really is a planet Avalon where King Arthur is still ruling Camelot. It's a weird, weird universe out there. Nothing will surprise me now. No doubt some one some where knows the truth.

My friend Kelly wrote a blog about a woman who declared that there's really only one romance story and that the authors just change the names. I don't believe that's true, though it is a struggle to write an original story within the framework of the standard formula. There are unwritten "rules". A happily ever after is required. The hero cannot treat the heroine badly--no abuse, rape, etc. And the same for her--not that I was ever tempted or attracted by that kind of thing.

When I first sent off for submission guidelines years ago, they actually stated that nothing "bad" could happen to the heroine. Nor could she be unattractive, overweight, a non-virgin, and some other things I don't remember. I do remember thinking that it wasn't worth my time to write a story for that publisher as I wanted to write something that bore a vague resemblance to reality.

When I sat down to write my latest story, I was enthusiastic and happy about that story because it had an unusual premise and even the possibility of a series of spin-off stories. I find it disconcerting and strange that my "unusual" premise isn't all that unusual.

I'm sure that this happened for a reason. If nothing else, I will learn a bit of humility from the experience. I want to thank my editor for her graciousness and patience in answering my questions. And I want to thank my friends for their unswerving support and encouragement.


Don't forget to stop by Kelly's place for her continuing travelogue at and then stop by Amarinda's place as she sees in the new year down under at Blessings on this last day of 2007.


  1. Well, you know my thoughts on this so I will say no more other than soldier on and may the force be with you.

    "Nor could she be unattractive, overweight, a non-virgin..." Seriously? While I don't beleieve any woman/undercover goddess is unattractive - I have to laugh at the 'overweight' thing. Who writes these sbumission rules? Straight laced spinsters waiting for their prince to arrive on a white horse?

  2. My first book was rejected by an epublisher who said the characters were not engaging. My friends advised me that I was probably going to have to revamp my hero because he wasn't the accepted norm for romantic heros. Romantic heros had to big, ripped and drop dead gorgeous. My hero was not.

    Thankfully my current editor did not agree. Neither has the feedback I've gotten which has largely centered around how the characters touched the reader and how wonderfully "real" they are.

    And as to ideas, Neil Gaiman was asked why he didn't sue J.K. Rowling. Years before Harry Potter he wrote a book about a young boy with glasses who discovered he was magical. He even had an owl.

    Gaiman said their are only so many ideas out there. What makes them our own is what we do with them.

  3. Don't lose heart, Anny. You're very talented and I always look forward to your next story. Happy New Year to you and yours.

  4. I agree. Your stories are very unique, and they keep me in suspense.

    I had to laugh last week when a blurb on the news talked about a man turning blue; my 1st thought was he'd found Mystic Valley. The 2nd was his doctor had kept him on Amniodorone too long (hubby had to take the drug, and he was warned about too much sunlight turning him blue...didn't happen, thankfully!). And since I didn't watch the segment, have no idea what the story was about. But you reminded me of it.

    Keep writing! We love you and that nomination of Best New Author proves it!

    Happy New Year!

  5. I too thought of you when I saw an article on the blue guy :)

    You were nominated for best new author - what are you worried about?? Put the story away for a while and have a think - maybe you'll find a way to turn some element (or two) upside down and make it more uniquely yours!

  6. Geez, I must have sounded a lot more whiney than I thought. Sorry! Guess that's what comes of writing a blog at midnight.

    If I had a point, I guess it's that it happens to everybody. Thank you to all of you for your encouragment and pep-talks!

  7. Now I understand. You must be devastated yet I know you will pull through, stronger than ever. Those who know you would never accuse you.

  8. Ouch! That's a tough one.
    Wishing you many wonderful sales in the new year.