Let’s get this out in the open from the start. However it happens, rejection sucks. It sucks big.
Indeed, as I wrote in Billy’s Log some years ago, it is the best contraception known to man. Trust me, a brutal knock back will drive a shy male back to his XBox faster than you can say ‘friend zone’.
Unfortunately, if you want to write, be it for publication or screen, you had best get used to rejection because like it or not, it will be coming your way.
The only comfort you’ll have to draw on is that you’ll be in good company. I’m not just talking about J.K Rowling who was famously rejected by numerous agents and publishers before someone finally noticed the pot of gold under her arm, I’m talking about all of us. For with very few exceptions, every single author, screenwriter and journalist has to deal with the dreaded R word on a regular basis. I know I do. In fact my current hit rate is one script in three actually getting anywhere near being filmed.
To be fair, I am happy to acknowledge that to most writers a 33.3% success rate will actually look half decent but to me, whilst I’m obviously delighted with the one that gets through, I’m just as pissed off about the two that don’t.
You see I’m a lazy screenwriter and by that I mean generally speaking, I will only write a script if I’m being paid. Therefore, if I write one on spec, it means that it’s something I feel passionately about and so if it subsequently gets rejected, it’s personal. Very personal. However, what makes it even tougher to handle is that often, the rebuff will come after I’ve already taken a few steps along the development path and the anticipation of a dream actually coming true has begun to take hold.
To give you an example; a few years ago I wrote a script called Boots on the Ground which examines the thorny issue of PTSD amongst British military veterans. For obvious reasons, this is a subject that has special significance to me and so once we were happy with it, we went out and pushed it as hard as we could.
Eventually, it landed on the desk of the head script reader at a studio who took it to his boss claiming it to be the best script he’d read all year. After reading it for himself, the studio head rang me to give me his word that he would put up most of the money to get it made and then introduced me to a very high-profile British director who was all over it like a rash. We even had BAFTA making some very positive noises about putting money in.
Then, as soon as it began and for reasons which I’ve never quite been able to fully fathom, it all went cold. And now, like Wings of a Sparrow and numerous other scripts I’ve written, it sits languishing on my hard drive until we stumble across the right person to put it in front of next.
Gutted? No, I was devastated, and continue to be so. Not just because it’s possibly the best thing I’ve ever written but because it talks about something that this country HAS to talk about.
But as I say, rejection is a part of the writers job so the question is, how do you get used to it?
The answer is that you don’t. And nor should you because if you want to write for a living, rejection HAS to hurt. And for one very specific reason.
A mate of mine, Brad Burton, is a motivational speaker and one of his ‘braddisms’ is that if you have a plan B, don’t get upset when others don’t believe in your plan A. In other words, if you prepare for rejection, it means that somewhere in the back of your head, you’re expecting it. And if you’re expecting it, how can you possibly put everything you have into your script?
The answer is that you can’t. But what you can do is to take the gut wrenching pain of being knocked back and pour it into your next script or book. Keep doing that and eventually that pain will be replaced by the ecstasy of success. And it will. Because if you want to call yourself a proper writer, you have to have absolute and total belief that it will.
Because if you don’t, if you’re not totally committed to yourself and your work, what the hell are you wasting your time for?
Speaking of being committed, my latest novel, the third book in the Billy Evans trilogy is now being edited before heading off for publication.
If you’ve read either The Crew or Top Dog, you will have some idea of what it’s about so I’m not going to give you any clues. What I will say however, is that in terms of the plot, it is bang up to date the the twist at the end will have your head spinning.
Watch this space!
Further information at dougiebrimson.com