Friday, September 14, 2012

Getting Past "I Just Didn't Love It"

Rejection in the Wonderful World of Writing comes in many sizes, styles, and colors.

Some are the one-size-fits-all form letter rejections that tell the writer nothing about the publishing industry pro's true thoughts on the work in question. "Thank you for the opportunity to review your work. Unfortunately, at this time, we do not feel it is a good fit for us. Best of luck in placing it elsewhere."

Some rejections are more personal, offering insights on both the perceived strengths and weaknesses of the piece, as seen through the eyes of the rejector.

Fu Fu - lolcats.comAnd then there are the killers. The ones that say things like: "While elements of the story were certainly interesting, and the general premise was OK, unfortunately, I just didn't love it as much as I had hoped."

I can't speak for other writers, but those blasted "I Just Didn't Love It" missives used to sucker punch me. I'd open the email with pathetic hopefulness, then suddenly find myself transported back to high school -- making me all "aww, geez, I didn't get accepted into the popular kids' clique. Waaahhhh!"

For a long time, I thought the IJDLI rejections were the WORST.

Well, no more.

You see, I made the colossal mistake of equating "I just don't love it" with "I just don't love you." Which, of course, is ridiculous. I am not my book. My book is not me. ::Yeesh:: As if.

Strangely enough, it was a reading experience that gave me my writing epiphany.

Lately, I had the opportunity to experience IJDLI from the other side of the Great Writing Divide. A friend recently recommended a novelist -- a terribly accomplished, internationally bestselling writer -- whose tone and sense of humor is a very close match to my own. Though said novelist writes a genre I generally don't read, because of the similarities in our styles, I wanted to acquaint myself further with her works. So I checked out six titles from the library and started to read.

Same twisted sense of comedy: check. Same penchant for writing strong female characters: check. Same loopy approach to plot: yeah, Baby! Check!

But something was... missing.

Maybe it was the genre. Even in the hands of someone so talented, it's Just. Not. My. Thing.

Maybe it was the fact that every time the plot line skewed north, I was more interested in what would have happened if it had gone south. Or east. Or north by northwest.

I finished two of the six books, and got over halfway through three others. And I had to admit that though there was nothing wrong with the writing, the plots, or the execution of ideas, I just didn't love them.
Photo by wintersixfour via

This clicked on the Lightbulb of Revelation in my dim little brain. Suddenly, I understood exactly what IJDLI means. It means exactly what it says:

"I didn't hate it. I may have liked it. I may, in fact, have really liked it. But it's not something I want to read again. It's not you; it's me. Others may (and probably will) disagree with me on this. But since this isn't a book I can't stop thinking about, I'm going to cut you loose to find someone more passionate about this project."

In other words, it's the literary equivalent of "let's not get into a marriage of convenience. Better far to wait for someone who loves you truly, madly, deeply."

Who, I ask, can quibble with that kind of logic?

I know what it's like to have a long-term relationship a spouse who is one hundred percent crazy about me. It's awesome. It was so worth waiting for. I'm thinking if I receive any more IJDLI rejections, I'll not allow them to kill my optimism or enthusiasm. I'll just keep on keeping on till I find true love. It's out there. Don't give up till you find it!


LK Griffie said...

Ami ~ I caught your post through the #amwriting hashtag and thought I'd pop over and take a look having blogged something similar recently.

Well said. I think it is a positive sign that you are getting the feedback, because truly the rejection doesn't have to state why. There are so many books in this world, and so many more to be written, if everyone had the same taste in reading, it would be even more difficult for the struggling writer to "break through".

Move forward with confidence, keep writing, and keep submitting. Your understanding and attitude will take you to the person who does love your work as much as you'd like.

LK Gardner-Griffie

And if you'd like to see my post, check out Courting an Agent where I encountered IJDLI again and again - and it's all for the best. :)

Ami Hendrickson said...


Thanks so much for coming and commenting! I really enjoyed your related post. I've encountered *exactly* the same scenario several times. I used to find such "near misses" depressing. No longer.

Agents are like spouses, IMHO: there are few things better than the right one, and few things worse than the wrong one. :)

Keep on keeping on!

Martina Boone said...

Fantastic post, LK, and so important on so many different levels. Writing is subjective. Unless we have a huge commercial premise that everyone is going to talk about, we basically have to hope that people connect with our characters, plots, themes, and writing styles. And agents (and editors) have a much bigger investment into the writing than the ultimate reader. Instead of shelling out $14.95 for a hardback or $6.99 or whatever for a papaerback, the agent has to put in twenty plus hours reading and editing the work -- per revision round with us -- before he or she puts his or her reputation on the line and sends it out to editors. Editors who will eventually stop trusting them if they send too much that the editors isn't going to really like. And that doesn't include prepping the submission list, and doing the actual send, and following up, and all with the very real possibility that the book won't sell at all, and that he or she will have to wait for you to write ANOTHER manuscript, and go through it all again. Agents may well end up with hundreds of hours of work invested in a client before they ever make a deal for that client.

Yikes. So yeah, from a pure business standpoint, it's all a tough decision. And then there's the art part that kicks in, and the heart part. Why go through all that work for a manuscript they don't love? Why would we let them? Because ultimately, we need them to love it enough to champion it and to keep championing us even if it doesn't sell.

The fact that you're getting those kind of rejections means you're really close. Congrats! Print them out and hang them on the fridge, and do a happy dance. Lighting will strike -- and even if it doesn't strike with that manuscript, that one will still be there and "close" when you find the agent who loves you enough to marry you :D