(a) Comment gérer le rejet ?

Voici un témoignage superbe de S.D., qui est en lien sur le blog, à propos du rejet de nos créations (manuscrits en l’occurrence) :

A writer’s life is one of rejection. In 2002, on a whim and an afterthought, I started writing Where the Rain Falls. It was a tedious process, full of self-doubts much like the peace that was never final in Assam. I finished WTRF in 2006 and spent another year editing and rewriting. At the end of it, the book was shining like a beacon in the literary world. So I thought. How wrong I was.

I started querying. In batches of five or six I sent out queries and to only those agents accepting electronic submissions. Can you imagine the cost of couriering a letter to London or New York? And the normal post? I was better off throwing my query in a bottle into the Brahmaputra. The first agency I queried requested a partial, and a week later, the full manuscript. There were more requests for partials and fulls. In the meantime, I kept working on the manuscript, so that every time a partial or full was requested, I had something better to send. And every time I finished editing, it felt like it was the best I could do. Then the rejections started coming in. Brief letters dropping subtle hints. They were pointing out deficiencies in the story, problems with the plot, dialogue, where I could improve. ‘The story takes too long to take off’, ‘Over repetition of some words’, ‘Can you please cut down on the prose?’ They said I could write. They liked the idea of an old widowed illiterate woman as the protagonist, someone who rose above her inadequacies to lead the protests against the atrocities of the soldiers. They liked the idea of a rebel assassin whose father was a pacifist and a Gandhian. They said it would not sell. They wished me luck. I wrote back thanking them for their time. Their inputs were invaluable. Every little pointer was like a mini-critique for free. These were people who have been in the trade for years. I took heart from the fact that the book was improving. I was learning. I had hope.

I left India for a few years in 2007. England was cold and dreary. I had little time to spare. I was working from eight in the morning. Patients, papers, presentations. Not to speak of the cold. And the infernal rain. Does it ever stop? But I still found time to write and revise. And the rejections, they kept pouring in, much like the rain. My writing was all right. The time, not at all. The publishing industry, I was told, was going through its worst period. One day, an agent wrote back. Yes, we like it, she said. We are not saying we would like to represent you, but we would like to work on it. It was one of the few agencies in London with their own editor. The editor sent her own letter. She wrote: ‘Many thanks for sending us your full typescript, which we have read with interest. We think this story is an astonishing undertaking. It is written with terrific commitment and fervour and we like the fact that the main character is an elderly widow. However, we do feel it needs some polishing. Firstly, the story takes too long to get going and the narrative voice takes a while to get into its stride. You can, occasionally, be too wordy with your prose – especially at the start – and this over-writing needs to be toned down. Do you think you could have a go at making the writing leaner and, perhaps, by doing this cut about 10,000 words from the story?’

I was elated. I set to work. A month later, I resubmitted. She wrote back within the week saying: ‘I do think your writing is of the right quality to merit publication. Your writing is sparse, evocative, and has a strong sense of place.’ There were a few more editorial suggestions. I set to work with gusto and couriered her the manuscript again after a month. She wrote back a week later. She always took a week. She said she was leaving to join as an editor in a well-known publishing house. She was leaving the manuscript behind for whoever comes to take her place. I waited. Six months passed. I sent a reminder to the new editor. She replied that the agency was no longer interested. I wasn’t angry. Disappointed, yes, but wasn’t the book in better shape? I was drifting in an endless sea in a storm that showed no signs of abetting. Hope was all I had. That very evening I started querying again.

A pile of rejections built up. It seems better was finding lesser acceptance. Three months later, an agent in New York wrote: ‘I have now finished re-reading WTRF, and I must tell you that I am even more enamored of the book now than I was upon first experiencing it. What a marvelous story.’ He offered representation. I accepted. He began to submit. I crossed my fingers, touched wood and declined to walk under ladders.

More months passed in waiting. It extended into a year. I wrote to the agent. He replied back. The recession in the publishing industry was bad and getting worse. A small press had accepted, then closed. Signing on my book was like inviting doom. The replies from my agent became vaguer with every passing month, and then stopped all together. Another year had passed. And still no shore in sight.

I returned to India still adrift. As if in welcome, three car bombs exploded one after the other during morning rush hour. I escaped one by about three minutes. There were many who were not that lucky. I started querying again. One agent in New Delhi replied within five minutes and asked for the full. Ten minutes later, he suggested a critique and quoted a price. I had enough. I started submitting to publishers on my own. In India, you can still do that. Even the big ones accept submissions from writers. Time passed. I forgot about the book. Gave it up. I started working on book no.2. On Christmas Eve 2010, I received an offer of publication. A few emails and phone calls later, I signed the contract in the New Year. And it has been a journey too long.

On hindsight, did I time my submission right? Was the manuscript polished enough? I thought I was well read. Only, the agents were better read. Their advice was invaluable. They gave shape to a book that was just a story told talked and written offhand. That they were kind enough to reply to my thought-perfect book was a blessing. I still cringe when I think of those days, how I dared to inflict my work on them. I never gave them a book they couldn’t refuse. My writing wasn’t perfect and I was foolish enough to believe it was. They were right. They read for a living. They know the inside outs.

Rejection? What I learned? Rejection is just a passing phase. I have seen enough of rejection and life to know nothing is certain in this world. It feels great to see the book listed with various online retailers. It is finally coming out. Or is it?


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