How to celebrate your first writing failure

Rejected: I'm a real writerYou know you’re a real writer when you’ve received your first rejection. I received my first two on the same day—on a Monday, no less. I’m in the game now!

Rejection #1: The email announcing the semi-finalists for the ACFW 2013 Genesis Contest didn’t include my name.

From: Becky Yauger
Date: Mon, May 6, 2013 at 1:24 PM
Subject: [ACFW_News] Genesis Semi-Finalists
To: ACFW members

We are excited to announce the 2013 Genesis semi-finalists. There are ten semi-finalists in each of the nine genre categories who will be moving on to the second round.

Rejection #2: Three hours after the ACFW semi-finalist email—and sixty days after I sent my first agent query—I received a gently worded email from Rachelle Gardner, literary agent, with the word “unfortunately” in the first line.  (I really, really appreciated her encouragement after that “un” word, though! Actually, I’m grateful that she gave me any kind of response!)

From: Rachelle Gardner
Date: Mon, May 6, 2013 at 4:19 PM
Subject: Re: Follow up to the OC Christian Writers Conference
To: Natalie Sharpston

Dear Natalie,

Thanks for much for following up! Unfortunately I won’t be able to pursue this right now, but I am impressed with your writing and want to encourage you to keep seeking out publication. People need to read your stuff!


Rachelle Gardner | Literary Agent | Books & Such Literary Agency

Because I had mentioned the ACFW contest in my query letter, I wonder if the agent waited for ACFW to vet my novel before she sent her email. I’ll file that thought away for next time. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to announce my contest entry intentions in my query letter!

The next day, I received a generic email to all ACFW contestants. Dang it but it included the word “failed.” Couldn’t they have used “didn’t score” or something soft and fluffy like that?

From: Syndi Powell
Date: Tue, May 7, 2013 at 12:13 PM
Subject: ACFW Genesis Contest

Dear Genesis contestant,

The coordinators of the contest want to thank you for your participation in this year’s Genesis contest. While your entry failed to score in the top ten, it is our sincere hope that you will find much of value in the comments of the judges who scored your entry.

Please be advised that you will receive your entries and score sheets in a week or so.

Thanks again and keep writing!

I wasn’t shocked when I did not see my name on the semi-finalists list, nor was I surprised at the content of the agent’s email. I had been praying that God would prepare my heart for whatever the outcome. Please, Lord, help me take it in stride. Help me not be too discouraged if I don’t make it. I have so much to learn. But wouldn’t it be crazy awesome if I actually made the cut on my first try? I allowed myself to hope.

I tried not to be disappointed, but I was. Tried not to feel like a failure, but I did. I thought I was handling it well, but I keep waking up at four in the morning every day that week, thinking about my future as a writer, wondering if I had wasted my time, what was I doing this all for anyway? Oh Lord, help.

Here’s how I’m celebrating my first failures:

So much more to learn…  I’m writing for the love of it. I’m writing for the lessons God is teaching me. He’s been doing some serious soul work inside me, and if someday I get to make an impact on others with my words, wow. In the meantime, He’s working on me.

So many more stories to develop… My first novel may never see the light of day, but I had to write it to be qualified to write the next one. I’m three chapters in to my second novel and loving it.

So many more adventures to have along the way… My husband told me that making the first cut would have been way too easy. And no fun at all. He’s right. I know he is. I’m not at the end of this journey.

I hesitated to post this because it’s humbling to admit failure. As a new writer, I’ve soaked up the experiences of other writers via their blogs. Their transparency as they’ve navigated failure and disappointment has been a huge encouragement to me. I hope my experience helps them, too.

Do you agree with this statement? “You know you’re a real writer when you’ve received your first rejection.”

How did you handle your first, second, third, or 83rd rejection?