Shattered Dreams and “Rhino” Skin

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, failure is the path to success, especially for writers who face rejection and failure more than most endeavors. This has, is, and will remain true in the pursuit of publication. Although true, the failure does not hurt any less by knowing this simple fact. The rejection can still shatter dreams and leave them in icy waste — for a period of time, at least. The important thing you need to understand, the thing you need to hold dear, the one item that is your life-rope: keep trying and improvement is inevitable.winter-fantasy-fence-1575958

This week I succeeded three times — by failing.

Two of my stories, “Eyes of Destiny” and a piece of flash fiction “In the Company of Demons” were rejected with polite “does not fit our needs at this time” emails. Okay, fine, moving on to the next prospective publisher for my work, no problem.

The third struck me a bit more pointed, like an arrow through my heart.

In preparation for the Writer’s Workshop in Portland, Oregon, next week, I polished my Agent Query (original viewable here) for my fantasy novel, The Returning, and sent it to be critiqued by Chuck Sambuchino from Writer’s Digest. With hope, I waited for his response. It came. My heart sank reading his critique, my mouth went tacky, and my stomach soured.

In order to differentiate his response within the text, his words were all caps so that they screamed at me: CONFUSING, VAGUE, I DON’T UNDERSTAND . . .

You can read his response here. (Important lessons can be gleaned from failure).

James Scott Bell, author of many fine books on writing as well as thriller action novels, says writers need to don “Rhino skin” when it comes to their writing being rejected.

Following my initial shock and disappointment (lasted about two hours, I guess), I found my Rhino Skin. (Can you believe it? It was in my closet, right next to the windbreaker I haven’t needed since autumn).

I set out to rework the Agent Query (or “pitch” as some call it) to share at the upcoming workshop. Using Chuck’s notes, jaw clenched and facing the next challenge like the at-bat after taking a third strike, I massaged the words, pulled the “confusing” phrases, and sharpened the “vague” into something clearer and more defined.

I think the query is now improved (Thanks, Chuck!). As I have said many times, improvement is the key to success as a writer. You can read my updated Agent Query here. Feel free to comment, and don’t worry, I am wearing my Rhino Skin at all times now to deflect the arrows.

Now, go write some more,


This Week’s Writing Quote:

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” Anton Chekhov

This Week’s Links:

Portland Writing Workshop — there is still room
The Kill Zone — informative writing info
Writer’s Digest
Good Writing Advice



Author: Rick "C" Langford

Writer, blogger, Business Owner, dreamer, and fantasy lover

2 thoughts on “Shattered Dreams and “Rhino” Skin”

  1. Rhino skin covered with flame retardant – twenty rejections and counting. That’s the only way to progress in this business. Me? I’m thinking of deviant relationships and tantric tree dancing while my characters stare vaguely at each other every other sentence. I understand it works for the big money.

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