How many times have you heard the adage, that if your story is rejected, start writing again, immediately? Or, the notion that your first three novels are just practice, and, by that time, your skills will have grown so you finally write something worthy of publication.
Albert Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.
If you plunge into that "next" story and repeat mistakes that plagued your first story, what have you accomplished? Yep, fast track to rejection number 2, or 3 or worse!
As a young man, I received a lecture during an agency meeting about the importance of repetition in sales training. My supervisor stressed "Practice makes perfect." Behind me, an old, very successful agent muttered "Bullshit" under his breath. When the meeting was over, he tapped me on the elbow and motioned for me to follow him into his office.
"What'd you think about that advice on practice making perfect?" he asked.
"Makes sense to me."
"Well, forget it. It's wrong. The correct statement is 'Perfect practice makes perfect.' If you just keep repeating your mistakes, then practice only makes permanent!"
Wow! That guy's wisdom stayed with me my entire adult life.
How does it apply to writing?
If a writer doesn't learn from mistakes, then the flaws will be repeated every time a new writing challenge is attempted. "There" or "their" or "they're"? "The glass's flower pattern." or "The glasses flower pattern." Or, one of my favorites . . . "He laid on the couch" or "He lied on the couch."
Before jumping into that next story, find out what was wrong with the first submission. Don't be afraid to ask why you were declined. It might be something over which you had no control, like they already had too many historic fiction writers. But, what if the reason for the rejection was "too much editing needed" or "weak hook" or "shallow plot?"
If you ignore the feedback and dive right into the next book, you're probably going to repeat the same mistake(s) with the same outcome.
"Wait a minute!" you say. "Most agents and editors don't provide feedback. How am I supposed to figure out what to fix, if I don't know what was broken?"
There are three ways to handle this absence of information:
1) Hire a professional editor to review the manuscript and provide assessment. This can be a painful, but critically valuable, experience. "What if I can't afford a professional editor?"
2) Then, find some new beta readers. I'm assuming you used a set of beta readers before you submitted the story in the first place. If you neglected this essential step, then do it the next time. What if you DID use betas? They're human and could easily have missed important writing problems like SPAG, plot holes, weak hook or inconsistent character traits. Try to find some more experienced beta readers (not relatives) who also love your genre. See what they say BEFORE starting your new project. By the way, five good beta readers and an editor-in-training missed my misspelled word "corral" that I spelled "c o r a l." DUH! Fortunately, I caught it on my final edit.
3) If push comes to shove, there's one more source of feedback. Self-publish that first story and watch for reader comments. Readers are the very best judge of what they like, and they will not hesitate to point out every little mistake with the story.
Remember, the important lesson here is that "Perfect practice makes perfect." So, after learning from the feedback, apply your new knowledge and put together that classic story you always wanted to tell.
PS Please accept my apology for only posting two blogs during February. I was bedridden for three weeks and just couldn't get them written at a level I considered presentable. I'll make it up to you, I promise.