In a bid to diminish the negativity of the dreaded literary agency rejection letter, my writing group thought we’d give them a new name, something with more positive connotations. We decided to call them daisies.
It really does help; a daisy is sunny and innocent, building a daisy chain is a relaxing way to pass the time and just saying the word lifts my lips into a smile. But there’s no escaping it, a rejection is still a rejection, whatever you call it. Especially when it’s a standard letter with no hint as to whether the manuscript has any potential at all. The first daisy I received made me smile – I felt like a real writer. By the second and third, I wasn’t smiling and I could see how it could go on and on if I didn’t take a step back and reflect.
One of the reasons for my caution is that my shortlist of target agents for my historical fiction manuscript is just that, short. I’m hoping that my targeted approach should improve my chances of success, but of course it also limits my options. Every daisy is the loss of a precious lifeline for my novel. So I need to make my submissions sparingly and be sure that my manuscript is the best it can be. There seems little to be gained by pinging a few more emails out and hoping for the best.
Many of my target agencies recommend that aspiring authors obtain a professional critique of the manuscript before they submit. This route does provide the writer with feedback they can’t get from a standard agency email and while it is expensive, hopefully it will pay off.
What those three daisies have also done is send me back to my manuscript. Sent me off to do some more genre research and to work on strengthening the themes and conflict.
So I think daisies, rejections, whatever we call them, can be both disheartening and positive all at once. A rejection letter is a sign that a writer needs to up their game, perhaps seek feedback both professional and from beta readers, but above all a rejection letter is just another essential part of the writing process, and a vital sign that we need to keep going.