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The Discomfort of Pursuing Publication

Novelist Lauren DeFelice discusses the emotional rollercoaster of pursuing publication and how through therapy, she was able to embrace the discomfort of rejection as a catalyst for growth.

By Lauren DeFelice

May 15, 2024

In therapy, I admitted one of my deepest fears: I will never publish a novel. 

I’ve rewritten my novel so many times that I’ve filled a three-drawer storage bin with printed drafts. In 2021, I thought that was enough to begin querying agents, but it wasn’t. I only had a few requests from agents to see additional pages, but no takers. Once again, I decided I needed a substantial revision, and have been revising the novel ever since.

But as I approached it last year, I didn’t see what I had to gain from rewriting the same novel for what seemed like the millionth time. I began to pursue a new novel concept, one I thought of as my mistress novel. My goal was to broaden my writing skills by working on a project with fresh ideas and new characters. 

However, I hit the same wall in both projects. My bruised ego and self-doubt made me unsatisfied with everything I wrote. Each attempt at writing either novel left me wondering if my dream to get published would only leave me disappointed and heartbroken.

Maybe I just wasn’t a good enough writer. Usually, I can talk myself out of this negative thought, but this time, I couldn’t.

I brought all my turmoil to therapy. I talked about my frustrations and disappointments about setting my mind to something but then never feeling good enough to achieve it. My therapist asked about my novels, so I gave her the elevator pitches. 

The main theme of the fantasy novel I’ve been writing for over a decade is that people create their realities with their thoughts. The characters’ psychological states—specifically the truths or lies they tell themselves—cause their magic to function or bring them harm.

My second novel, a speculative fiction noir, centers around the idea that dreams will only be one’s undoing. The characters traverse an impossible dream world to solve a murder case, and even when they grasp the truth and are on the verge of achieving their goals, they are thwarted by the corrupt systems in waking reality. 

Trust me, I could see the obvious parallels to my situation. Much like the characters of my fantasy novel, my negative thoughts were creating my reality and causing my “magic” to hurt me instead. 

And the negative thought itself? Well, I began to wonder, like the hardboiled detective of my noir novel, if having aspirations only brings us pain. Pursuing publication has only brought me pain so far, so why subject myself to more hurt? But my therapist helped me reframe it.

“That narrative comes from a place of hurt,” she said. “You put yourself out there, queried your book, and experienced rejection. Because your brain is designed to keep you safe, not happy, it interprets rejection as painful, and tries to avoid it by telling you not to do that again. It’s a wound.”

I never thought of rejection letters as wounds, but they are. I always tried to celebrate the letters as they came in, but self-talk doesn’t change the fact that rejection is painful and changes your perception of yourself.

My therapist then said, “Your dream of getting published isn’t guaranteed to bring you pain, but it will cause discomfort. Sometimes, the form your discomfort takes will be pain, but sometimes, it will be self-doubt or vulnerability or nervousness. But all discomfort is a catalyst for growth.”

It may seem so simple, but it changed the way I thought about novel writing and querying entirely. Yes, it’s painful to experience rejection, but it is a necessary part of the process, and it will cause me to grow as a writer. By pursuing publication, I put myself in a vulnerable position, and though I experienced rejection, it’s my choice if that pain continues to be the narrative. 

Instead of fixating on the discomfort, I’ll focus my energy on what I can control: the ideas and my excitement to write them. The love of storytelling is what my primary focus should be, not the achievement. If that means writing a draft of the same novel one more time, then I have to trust the joy and the discomfort will bring me where I’m meant to go.

Lauren DeFelice

Lauren DeFelice is a novelist and illustrator pursuing an English major at Monmouth University. She is currently revising her debut YA Fantasy/Thriller series, CALL OF EMBERS.

Lauren DeFelice is a novelist and illustrator pursuing an English major at Monmouth University. She is currently revising her debut YA Fantasy/Thriller series, CALL OF EMBERS.