03 May 2010

Writer's Grief

by Cecilia Dominic

The problem with being a writer is that imagination doesn't limit itself to storylines.  For example, I entered my novel Wolfsbane Manor into the Amazon Breakout Novel Award contest this year.  My fantasy immediately placed me at the winner's ceremony in June.  A notification on my birthday that I had made it through the first round seemed to confirm that victory was inevitable.

The next notification never came.  I waited until around March 31 to actually check and see if they'd posted a list of who made it to the next round.  As you probably guessed, I didn't make the cut.

This brings me to the Stages of Writers' Grief (unashamedly adapted from Elizabeth Kübler-Ross' work):

1.  Denial:  Surely they couldn't have rejected me.  It's probably
just a mistake.  They didn't notify us until four whole days after the
first target date, so I'm sure they're just running behind again.

2.  Anger (after finally checking the website):  I've only read the
critiques on my excerpt once.  How dare these "experts" tell me it's
too fragmented, and it's not horror, you numbskulls, it's suspense!

3.  Bargaining:  Dear God, if you give me some sort of encouragement,
just a small sign like a short story sale to a prestigious market, I
promise to never doubt my worth as a writer again.

4.  Sadness:  Of course the reviewers were right, I'm an idiot for
even trying.  I'll never be an author.  I may as well just give up and
stick with the day job.

5.  Acceptance:  I have to be okay with where I am right now because
if I constantly think about where I "should" be, I'll never progress.
This time to learn, experiment, and grow should be appreciated.

Learning about writing – and putting that knowledge into practice – can seem unstructured outside a formal program like an M.F.A.  My husband has told me no more degrees, so no M.F.A. for me.  Thus, my course of study feels like it's all electives, and it's definitely all self-study.  There's a certain freedom to this that I can't discount. I can write what I want, post to my website without restrictions, and take time off to read and learn a new subject area when I need to.

Sure, I have moments when I'm tired and resentful and wonder when "it's" going to happen, whatever "it" is that will launch my writing career.  I dread getting back into the query game, especially since I
will have to re-read those critiques and decide for myself what's fair.  On the other hand, I can take the time I need to do the groundwork for my next The Penny Dreadful serial and continue writing
my Twitter #fridayflash stories.  At this point, I don't need my writing to support me, so I may as well enjoy it.  I'm sure I'll become a better writer as a result of being able to take the time to learn, experiment, and channel my imagination in the right directions.

Cecilia Dominic writes best with a cat perched on the back of her chair and a glass of wine or cup of coffee in front of her.  She posts genre fiction, thoughts on writing, and reviews of self-published books at http://ceciliadominic.blogspot.com, and she blogs about food and wine at http://random-oenophile.blogspot.com  She has written three novels, revised two, and published none, but not for lack of trying.  She also writes short stories and flash fiction and is a regular contributor to the Decatur News Online and The Penny Dreadful websites.  Cecilia lives in Decatur, Georgia with two cats and a husband.


  1. I feel like I usually go straight to 4, then backtrack to 3, then on to 5. Good list!

  2. Grief may not be a straight forward process, but it certainly helps you grow as a writer.

    Love the article.

  3. Just a thought, but have you considered publishing a novel online & selling it thru' a website, Amazon, Kindle, etc? An agent or a publisher might take a lot more notice of an author who's already making sales...

    If you use OpenOffice (it's free) you can make your manuscript into a pdf with just one click, and there are lots of templates to let you do a great design, and cover software, etc. to make it look every bit as professional as anything that's in a book-shop!

    If I ever get a novel written, that's certainly Plan A.

  4. But you made it through the first round!

    And remember, it's not "you" they're rejecting, though I wish we could use a word not so fraught with bad connotations.

    I have read of writers, established and published, who also feel the pangs when their latest piece of work is not accepted. It's a writer's lot. No matter how much good news or reviews or acceptances one gets, it's the rejections that gnaw and give doubts.

    Your last sentence is perfect! A toast to you. :)

  5. Thanks for the comments and suggestions! I've flirted with the idea of self-publishing and/or ebooks, but I think I'll bang my head against the wall the traditional way a bit longer. ;)


  6. Us writers are so sensitive, I know I certainly am! When I'm rejected, I really take it to heart and think they're all stupid poo-poo heads. But I quickly realize it's not a personal attack. =)

    Also the Amazon Breakout Novel Award is judged by readers who are forced to read genre's that they may not even like or 'get'. There have been some great books that never made it through because they were handed to readers that hated reading that specific genre.

    However, whatever the rejection may be from, it's good to learn from it. =)

  7. I've a feeling I need an article about the Amazon Breakout Novel Award... but I know nothing about it. Waaah! when will the writing learning curve head down hill?

  8. Thanks, Morgan! I was wondering how my suspense was approached as horror, so your comment cleared up some confusion. I'll take from the critiques what I can use and leave the rest.

    Carrie, the writing learning curve NEVER heads downhill! That's the fun of it. :)

    Thanks again for this opportunity!


  9. Good read. Thanks. I soooo be there at least thrice a month... At least!

  10. Jerrod Vores5/10/2012 1:26 AM

    This was an amazing read I hope I see some more work from you!