I've seem to be getting a lot of rejections lately, which is part of the whole process - so I felt like it was time that I put my own thoughts out there about rejection.
Rejection doesn't necessarily mean that my stories are bad - it doesn't mean that about anyone's writing. Rejection does mean that you should take a harder look at your story.
Is your introduction gripping? Absolutely gripping? Do you pick up the book and suddenly need to turn the page to figure out what happens next? If not - what have other books done to catch your attention?
I'll never forget the opening the The Outsiders, where there was an intense excerpt at the beginning of the book. That excerpt, taken out of context, sucked me completely in. I needed to read about him walking out of the dark light of the movie theatres, because I had to know what happened next - I needed to know what made Ponyboy get to that point in the novel.
Is your grammar correct? Some people will see the typos there/their/they're and immediately get turned off. Here's the thing: It matters. If you don't have great grammar or spelling, no problem - ask one of your friends to help out! Surely there is someone you know that won't mind beta reading your books. Heck, I can beta read if we trade beta reading!
What is your style like? Look at the writing your desired agent represents. Are they completely left-field whereas your style is right-field? They probably won't represent someone that doesn't resonate with them. Try picking up one or two books that the agent has represented and read them. Check out the style and see if it is something that you like. You need an agent to like your work, but you also need to like the agent's work.
Know your audience. While using some larger vocabulary is good,
make sure that your readers don't get lost in needing a dictionary by
their side. YA literature can still be smart, sophisticated, while
being fast-paced and smooth. Take the novel Bunnicula, for example. The language isn't dumbed down, but it certainly only uses enough words to make you learn, not to make you read the dictionary in tandem with the book.
How is your pacing? Finally, once all of that is done, you should step back and look at the pacing of your novel. Do you have parts where it is just explanation? Just dialogue? Just action? Is there any way to mix them into the same scene so that you don't have blocks of explanation? Does your evil-doer go on a two-page long tirade? Yes, a two-page long monologue is probably a little too long, especially if you are writing for YA.
Should you reflect on your writing every time you receive a rejection? It's not a bad idea to read it over and make minor changes. Your writing is only going to get better over time, especially if you can be your own worst critic. And if you get advice and suggestions from people, don't take it personally, but take it to heart. They are only trying to help - no matter how critical they are. Continue to work on it, no matter how many rejections you receive.
I've seen so many people decide to quit writing just because they aren't getting noticed. Do I even need to mention how poor some famous artists were? Do we need to discuss the poverty of painters, writers, and true artists over the years? No, I don't think we do. Just because you aren't getting sold doesn't mean you aren't good. It just means it wasn't good timing or the right style. And if you think you are good enough, grab some beta readers, hire a good cover artist, get an editor, and self-publish.
But never, ever give up.