Writing Emotional Pain – without bleeding too much on your readers

“Please reject.” The email was from a complete stranger. I almost didn’t open it because I thought it was junk mail.

Then I thought, oh. Oh. A reject letter. I might as well see who this is really from.

Sad girl

Sad girl

I was once told that writing one’s pain makes a compelling read. It’s deep and people can identify. My pain is rejection. I don’t do well with it. I never have. I think I was born with it. It’s called Avoidant Personality Disorder (APD). In other circles, it’s called Root of Rejection. Healing comes in stages with me.

I promise not to bleed all over you, but show you a bit about how my thinking is skewed. Ridiculous thoughts of self-condemnation and diminished self-worth keep running through my mind.

Really now. I do know better. I really do, and yet I get caught up in the misery. I’m not going to recite the long litany of rejections I’ve had in my life. But suffice it to say – it’s from before birth. I evidently have a personality type that was affected by being adopted. My brother, who is adopted, wasn’t affected, not in that way.

Why would one stinkin’ rejection from an intern try to steal my hope? Because it was so impersonal – and so inaccurate. I expected more from this award-winning literary agent. But why should I have? He daily doles out rejection slips through his intern, probably like an assembly line. He just records the dictation tape, or puts a sticky note on a file, saying “please reject.”

I was disappointed because I had high hopes. They were dashed. This guy recently won an award for being very good at his job. But everything in the actual two-sentence content of the reject letter showed me he made some erroneous assumptions and presumptions.

Because I’m previously unpublished, he assumed I didn’t know the publishing process. He presumed I hadn’t even had the sample chapters I sent him – or my whole manuscript for that matter – professionally edited. The prologue was edited by five successful published authors through classes and the professional edit. The “first chapter” was edited by three of the five.

Unfortunately, I didn’t tell him any of that. I’m not sure it would have made a difference. But of course he’s a busy man – too busy to even tell me himself that I’m not ready for publication, and I should have my manuscript professional edited. Enough of him.

His intern is obviously so young, she doesn’t have much experience in professional business etiquette or correspondence. Honestly, here’s what the subject line said.

“Please reject.”

Judean desert

Judean desert

I’ve come full circle. I’m back to the beginning. And this is the end. Being cynical, but real, with you today. If you feel bled on, slimed, or in any way trashed by this – I’m sorry. Please accept my apologies.

Because I do have a hope – and options. If the other three people representing publishers and another agent also decide to reject my manuscript, I’ll publish it myself, if I have to. I’m not being belligerent, just stating my plan. I will get out of this desert.

What do you think I should do? Leave a comment and let me know. And – thanks for reading.

8 Comments on “Writing Emotional Pain – without bleeding too much on your readers”

  1. I’m so sorry to hear of your tacky reject. I like your spunk and your decision to self-publish if the other possibilities also turn into rejects, but I hope they won’t. I think you should self-publish if neither of the other possibilities choose to publish you. It sounds like you have followed all of the right steps, and I hear more and more that self-publishing is affordable and can be successful. You just have to be sure to self-market as well, and social media is a great way to start. God bless!


    • Thanks Kelly. Did I miss you last Saturday? I don’t remember seeing you. And yeah, I’ve still got great hope for Meghan’s Choice to be published traditionally. I have a post actually on self-publishing tips from a few months ago. Thanks for the comment. 🙂


  2. DON’T GIVE UP! Whether it’s one rejection or five. A wise person told me recently to tell the story God inspired me to write. I’ve been struggling since the ACFW conference with a rewrite on my first book. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne showed me the error of my ways. My friend nailed it when she said I was mourning for my characters, I’ve been so afraid I’d lose them in the rewrite. I prayed again for guidance and have worked through the first three chapters and guess what, it’s better! I’m encouraged and I’m praying for you to be encouraged too. DON’T GIVE UP!


    • I wouldn’t think of it! 🙂 If you need a beta reader, I’d be glad to help you out when you’re ready. I love a good redemptive mystery. I have that self-editing book too. It will help you. Another tool is Jerry Jenkins’ Thick-Skinned Critique. He does these from time to time. He takes your first page and gets rid of the extraneous. I think I may have told you he edited himself, because he saw the first page to Meghan’s Choice twice. Thanks for the encouragement. Back at ya! 🙂


  3. Hi Donna – It took me 8 years to write and get my first book published. At one conference, an agent told me I’d never get my book published – not because of my writing but because of the genre. I write Christian Speculative Fiction. In early 2013, a small press contracted me and has published three books so far. Keep writing, and don’t give up!


  4. Oh my goodness. Agents behaving badly!!! I’ve heard a thousand times that authors need to be professional, put their best foot forward, don’t make sloppy mistakes. When I see this in the publishing and agenting word, I just tell myself that these are not people I want involved my career. I think you dodged a bullet, even though your hopes were dashed.


    • I think it was the inexperience of the intern. I rather suspect the agent himself would be mortified if he knew. Thanks for the comment. I’ve got other hopes that aren’t dashed yet. The point of the post was to show the emotion and write the pain. Thanks again.


  5. Pingback: What You Liked | Donna L.H. Smith

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