A carapace is a protective case or shell on the back of some animals (as turtles or crabs.)
I've entered the stage where I realize the trial of trying to get one's novel published - making that transition from it being a private story to a public read - is a matter of building up one's carapace, putting on a suit of armor, becoming more pachyderm (choose whichever metaphors best suits you) in how we present ourselves to the world. And I don't use carapace or pachyderm to mean "calloused" or "insensitive" as definitions of the latter would put it... I mean it in the "thick skin" sense. We'll always be sensitive to criticism and rejection, especially when it comes to our brain-children, but we learn how to withstand it, use it and move on from it.
The rejections have begun for me. Granted we're only on the second agency on my list, and there is a long winter ahead of me. I was sad about it last night, and then came to the multi-faceted realization that 1.) I have a greater respect for the literary agents who sift through piles upon piles of query letters every week - how is it their fault if my novel doesn't stand out to them in the brief flash of a query? And how is it mine? It is a simple matter of the interests of two human beings not aligning exactly, not matching. It's a very human, subjective business. Of course, it is going to take a while to find a person (because agencies are organization made of people who are called agents) who wants to run with it. One rejection isn't the End of All Things, just the beginning of the road.
2.) All this worrying about whether or not my novel needs another rewrite is a bit silly. Suppose I do need to put it through another wash? Will it take so very long? Is it beyond my power? No. In fact, it is quite doable. It's just another step. The state of my novel can't be the reason for a rejection if an agent hasn't read beyond the query.
3.) A professor-friend of mine shared her mantra with me, "Living well is the best revenge." I've heard this everywhere this week: "make the agent that rejected you regret having turned you down." I wouldn't personally go so far, but the point is there: don't let this stop you; let this fuel your creative fire; take criticism, listen to it, apply it where it makes sense, ignore it where it does not. There. If this novel doesn't make it to publication, something will eventually. In the meantime, my job is to write.
4.) This feels so much better than applying to an MFA program. I feel sad for a while, but then I can move onto the next agent. I don't have to stare ahead at a wasted year. I don't have to regret the months I wasted on useless essays and personal statements, trying to sell myself to a university. I can continue on as I've been doing: endeavoring to write well, and see where it takes me. There is no greater relief.