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I was at BEA two weeks ago (has it been two weeks already?!) and went for coffee with my agent after my autographing session. The BEA badge pinned to his shirt had LITERARY AGENT written across it, and I was shocked to witness people interrupting our conversation--literally interrupting--to pitch their novels to him.
Sure, I remember the urgency, the desperation, to get an agent and get published. Partly that's because I'm not twenty-something anymore, and partly it's because I
spent a lot of years telling myself I needed to have a
money-earning job and therefore I didn't have the
squeeze in a little bit of writing every day. Mainly it's because writers write to communicate and that generally requires us to have (cough, cough) readers. When you don't have any luck getting a manuscript represented, it's demoralizing. I get that. I've been there. I made every mistake in the book before I managed to get through the gatekeepers, snag an agent, snag an editor, and land a book deal.
Having been through the trenches and having gotten more rejections than I can count before getting an agent myself, I'd like to share a little bit of what I learned. Let's start by busting some myths.
- You have to know someone to get an agent or get published. Most agents are open to receiving queries provided you follow their guidelines. Get on QueryTracker.net, search the genre you are looking for, and you'll get the email address and submission guideline information right there. Or at least you'll get the web address where their submission guidelines are posted.
For a nominal fee, you can even mark and track your submission there to find out what you have outstanding and where it is in the agent queue--i.e., how many other submissions have gone to that agent and are being tracked on QueryTracker. (Bear in mind that this isn't by any means anything more than a fraction of the queries and submissions the agents are looking at, but it lets you see approximately how quickly they are likely to get to yours.)
- To get attention for your manuscript, you have to jump through hoops or make yourself stand out. The only thing that needs to stand out is your manuscript. Accosting an agent at a conference or trade show, sending them chocolate along with your query letter, or even going to their offices in person, isn't going to change how they feel about your manuscript when they read it. Unless they love the manuscript and think they can sell it, they're not going to take it on even if you knock their socks off with your winning personality.
- The odds of getting an agent are so slim, you should query a hundred agents at once. Um, no. Trust me, I learned the hard way that a good query letter and a solid opening to your manuscript will get requests. If you send to fifteen agents you have carefully selected because they are looking for the kind of manuscript you have written and you don't get several requests, there is a problem with either your query letter, your story premise, or your writing. Don't query more until you figure out which. Take one of the inexpensive Writer's Digest workshops where agents review query letters and sample pages, attend a conference and pay for the critique, go through an online contest, or even go through our free First Five Pages Workshop. These will all help you figure out whether the problem is with the beginning of your manuscript or with your query letter.
- A query letter doesn't have to be perfect. Agents are going to look at the first pages of the manuscript anyway. Some agents will read the opening pages of your manuscript first and some will read the query letter first. But the chances are, even if they love your opening and see that you can write their socks off, they still need to know that you have an actual book that they can sell. That means they have to see that you know what your story is about. It took me a while to figure out that the trouble I was having putting together a hook and brief synopsis of what my book was about was because my book wasn't really clear enough yet and the hook wasn't strong enough. For the manuscript that landed an agent and a book deal, I wrote the query letter before I started writing the book. That query letter basically became the pitch my agent sent out on submission, and it is, in large part, the copy that's going on the book jacket. I still can't come up with a good query letter that accurately describes what my first two books are about. Which means I still need to work on those books. (And no, I don't need to query those books any more, but if I ever decide to resurrect them and send them to my agent, I would still want to be sure that I had a good, solid pitch. The fact that I can't define them well means they're not really ready for human consumption.)
- Agents (and/or editors) don't really know what they're doing, so you should just go ahead and self-publish if you've been rejected by everyone. Self-publishing is not a solution to rejection. If your book is good, it will likely find a home in traditional publishing, even if it means going to a smaller press. But that doesn't mean that traditional publishing is for everyone either.
The bottom line is that you have to examine what you really want out of publishing, and you have to:
- know the strength of your manuscript,
- your ability and willingness to market it,
- and your ability to write additional work very quickly.
Independent publishing works best for writers who have:
- a manuscript that agents (or editors) are saying they love but can't sell,
- manuscripts that need to get to market very quickly,
- authors who have an established network of potential readers already,
- very motivated and entrepreneurial authors who are willing to spend a lot of time and possibly money to market their own work.
Indie-publishing also requires hiring a professional editor, a professional copyeditor, a professional proofreader, a professional cover-designer, and a professional book-formatter. Some of these may be the same person, but the steps can't be skipped.
Readers deserve good content, and putting out a manuscript that is less than professional, and less than it could potentially be, isn't going to help you in your career as an author. And yes, I'm assuming with all of this, that if you are/were looking for an agent, it's because you want to publish more than just one book
Most importantly, what I've learned after getting an agent and a book deal is that if you want to get published, you have to:
- Write a lot and write mindfully, accepting critiques and learning from them until you can write a good, solid book.
- Read extensively in your genre, read widely overall, and read critically so that you are learning as you are reading.
- Focus on making your work the best it can be rather than on getting published quickly.
- Learn your craft as well as you can before trying to get a book published, because once you have a book deal, you have less time to spend on learning and your next book will need to be done in a year, not in two or five or ten years like your first book.
- Realize that getting published isn't going to magically make you rich or make you a rock star author. Your book still has to be read and loved by readers. Which means you have to have written a good, solid book. (See item 1) in this list. Rinse repeat.)
Want to know how to write a good query letter? Read this.
Want to know what not
to put in a query letter? Read this.
Want to smile a little about rejection? Read this.
Want some support because the road is long and hard? You've got mine.
If you're struggling and wondering if you will ever get there, my heart goes out to you. I've been there. I know what you're feeling. I'm sending you huge, huge hugs and love. And I'm telling you that you can make it, despite the overwhelming odds. It may not be with the book you are working on right now, even if that book is wonderful.
The truth is, there are a lot of really, really great books written and submitted to publishers every year by agents and authors who love them. And many of those books will not get published even if the editors love them too.
To a certain extent, getting a book deal requires luck and great timing as well as a solid manuscript. But that doesn't mean you quit. It means you write the next book and hope that the luck and timing are going to be better. Your next book will be better than the first, and that first book won't go away.
Once you have a book deal, you many want to resurrect that first dead manuscript and breathe it back to life after applying what you've learned since you first wrote it.
No writing is ever wasted, even if it doesn't ultimately make it onto the page of your published novel. So keep writing. Keep believing!
Editorial rejection has infected me like a demotivating virus. I have let it drive me from my office, until I rummaged in cupboards for Tylenol, tea bags and re-organization projects.
’ manuscript has languished for a few months. I know I should send out the manuscript to several new and different editors. Yet, I have had trouble pulling it out of the file drawer. It’s like my giraffe has entwined itself among the hanging files and is holding the drawer shut. I know if I coax him out, we may be able to find him a home. If he stays in the drawer, well...
that’s a sad way for a giraffe to go.
|Optimism Search and Recovery??|
(Photo by EPO: Wikimedia)
This is a notoriously subjective business. I have not tried hard enough and I will keep at it. Options include: smaller, independent publishers, agents, conference opportunities. I'm simply looking for ways to recover my optimism. I take heart in the success of other writers, especially my fellow Paper Waiters -- well done Robin and Brianna!
Anybody have ‘resurrection after rejection’ stories they want to share? How do you manage rejection? How quickly do you come back at it?
By: Debbie Ridpath Ohi
Blog: Inkygirl: Daily Diversions For Writers
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By: Rebecca (Becky) Fjelland Davis,
Blog: Becky's Blog
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, The Great Depression
, Slider's Son
, George Nicholson
, historical fiction
, Calkins Creek
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Slider's Son garnered its second rejection this week. "Not enough historical detail" is what Calkins Creek said. George is baffled by that (maybe more than I am, even), so he's going to ask them what they meant by that. In the meantime, I'm going to spread in some more Depression-era details into the manuscript. I was mostly concerned with the character in the small town and making his life real. Guess I'll try to make the national news come home to roost more than it does already.
I have some ideas. I'm going to add some of them this weekend.
I wish I could get a book right the first time. Or second, third, fourth, fifth, or sixth. Wonder what it means that I have to revise at least TWELVE times before anything gets published.
It mostly means that I should do nothing but write and maybe I'd get a book done WAY faster (and be with my kids, and be with friends, and ride my bike, and play with Freya--oh, yeah, and teach and grade papers).
Oh, well. I'm heading out on my bike to THINK in a few minutes.
I tossed my ‘giraffe’ in the air…the rhyming manuscript about which I was so excited went off, exclusively, to two carefully chosen editors.
A month or two later, I had heard nothing; I assumed nothing.
As happens in this industry, it turns out that editor number one, for whom I had high hopes, left the publisher two weeks after I emailed her. Editor number two has sent no reply. Nearly three months have passed since I submitted.
I need to follow up so that I can forward the manuscript to other editors. How should this be handled? While I am out of luck with editor number one, is it as if the manuscript dissolved in cyberspace? Or do I have a responsibility to follow up with that publisher? Editors move frequently. What is the standard practice with manuscripts left unresolved upon that editor's departure?
With editor number two, I have a picayune protocol question: since I submitted by snail mail (as required) must I also follow-up by snail mail? Or can I shoot an email?
Rejection protocol. I know many of you have been through this before. Thanks in advance for your advice.
Recently I received a wonderful rejection from an editor.
Non-writers always look at me strange when I say those two words together. "Wonderful" and "rejection". How can a rejection be wonderful? they wonder.
But writers know. Rejections can be wonderful. And this one was...
It was so wonderful because the editor gave me wonderful suggestions for my manuscript. Suggestions that really made sense to me.
So I got to revising. And revising. And revising!
Have you ever noticed how you can't just make one simple change in a manuscript. Every change sparked other changes.
And in the end it was a pretty different manuscript. But still the same, if that makes any sense.
All the best parts were there. But it felt fresh and new.
A true re-vision. Thanks to a wonderful rejection!
So, what wonderful rejections have you had?
During the conference I attended last week, I must have asked thirty people how their editor and agent “pitching” appointments went.
Many of the writers were told to go ahead and submit their full manuscripts. Joy!
Even more, though, had flaws and mistakes pointed out in their summaries and synopses…things that needed to change before the story would be considered.
The flaws included such fixable things as:
- the manuscript was 20,000 words too short for the genre
- the manuscript was told from an unworkable POV
- the plot sagged instead of rising to a recognizable climax
- the historical setting didn’t sound authentic
Reactions and Responses
What I found most interesting were the writers’ responses to the news that their manuscripts had flaws that needed work.
They included many reactions:
- Some denied that there was any big need for revision. They decided to ignore the editor’s or agent’s comments. Every writer except one was an unpublished writer too, so I’m not sure what they were basing their denial on.
- Some writers admitted that the flaw was there–a few had already guessed it–but they took the news so personally that their self-esteem was flattened. They left the conference depressed–not a good state for revising.
- Some defended their mistake or flaw. One writer who had pitched an idea for a genre that the editor didn’t publish argued that they should! She defended her choice of publisher, claiming that they needed to think outside the box.
Yes, it’s hard to hear that your idea needs a major overhaul to be publishable. None of us enjoys hearing that. What’s the answer? Eric Maisel in Fearless Creating says this:
“What are any of us to do? Abandon the work or complete it, learn from the experience, cry, forgive ourselves, and move on…Now dry your eyes. There’s work to be done.”
Yes, it’s true that editors, agents and publishers can be wrong. We love to hear such stories of rejected manuscripts that went on to publication (with no change) and hit bestseller status–even becoming classics.
However, says Nava Atlas in The Literary Ladies Guide to the Writing Life:
“There are certainly many other instances in which writers refuse to take any constructive criticism and cling to the notion that their freshman efforts are brilliant and beyond reproach. This creates a ‘me versus them’ mindset that’s never constructive.”
What if you’re willing to fix your writing mistakes, but you don’t know how? What if you freeze or block at the revision an agent or editor has requested? These words from award-winning Elizabeth George in Write Away might point the way for you:
“Why do [writers] reach sudden dead ends? Why do they become afflicted by the dread writer’s block? I believe it’s because they … don’t have enough craft in their repertoire. Put another way, they have no toolbox to root through to repair a mistake in the house they’re trying to build.”
You may not have the right tools in your toolbox, but you can get them. (Example: if your problem is the story lacking conflict or a climax, study books on plotting until you figure out the problem.)
How About You?
I’m curious. What do YOU do when you get the “fix this” message about your fiction?
Do you have any tips or special survival strategies for this?
Authors need to get used to rejections. Even already-published authors aren't immune. I had two big ones on the same day last year.
Now the Rejection Generator is here to help you get used to rejection.
From the website:
The Rejection Generator is designed for all writers. Emerging writers can utilize it to remember life before their first break. Writers well-established in their careers can use it for balance: no matter how successful a writer is, each year there are Pulitzers to lose, as well as National Book Awards, PENs, and Nobels to not be selected for; maintaining a sharp sense of rejection as award announcements approach is important. And, of course, beginning writers not used to or only barely used to the sheer weight of rejection that lies ahead can use the Generator to get ready for the future.
To generate your own rejections for yourself, click here.
2011 - Chapter I. PB truck story finally gets written. (Aug. 11th post)
Chapter II. PB truck story goes to a conference. PB truck story appeals to an editor and she takes it with her. (Sept. 28th post)
Chapter III - PB truck story is revised twice (based on editorial suggestions) and resubmitted in November. Email from editor saying "looking forward to reading it over the long weekend." (Thanksgiving)
2012 - Chapter III, con't. Email from editor on 1/20, "looking over it now . . . more thorough response soon." (Feb. 16th post)
Last Thursday, tired of waiting for a response, I called the editor and left a message. Two hours later, I received an email
REJECTION . . "most likely not going to work . . . the plot has become too complex . . . the sweetness and charm of the first draft has been obscured. One thing I regret about our earlier revision talks is that I think I may have been too forthcoming with my own ideas. I would be happy to see another draft, but you know what my hesitations are so it's up to you whether you want to put in more work." She wrote a long and thoughtful rejection letter and I agree with some of her comments.
For months I felt disassociated from this story. It belonged to the editor and she controlled its fate. The worst part about a rejection? Now the story's mine again. I'm forced to face the fact that my first draft needed work, but the changes I made last November damaged the tone of the story.
Revision is a tricky! But that won't stop me.
Follow the Yellow Brick Rejection Road By Gayle C. Krause
We’re all familiar with the road Dorothy took to Emerald City. I’d like to use her journey to explain why we, as children’s writers, follow her same path.As we perform our daily chores of creating characters, revising stories or submitting manuscripts we dream of the place over the rainbow (the publishing marketplace) where we’ll someday
All of the talk lately about whether "no means no" is an appropriate response for agents to give to query letters had me thinking about my own rejection letters over the years. I agree with Janet Reid when she says that a response is not only important, but pretty easy. It's something we've always done at BookEnds--responded to all queries and submissions--and something I think we all agree is important and plan to continue to do.
That being said, it's amazing how things have changed in the past 12 years and how much my queries, submissions, and responses have changed. When we first opened the agency we were hungry agents looking for great authors. Everything in those days (2001) was done by snail mail, so we had an open policy to unsolicited partials. That meant that without even getting a request you could snail mail us a copy of your query/cover letter, the first three chapters of your book, and a synopsis. Man, you should have seen the piles of mail. More often than not it took multiple armloads just to get from the mailbox to our desks. That was every day.
At that time, because we were hungry, I somewhat personalized every rejection. I had several forms, sure, but I actually took the time to type into each letter the name and address of each person I was rejecting. I'd love to know how much time that took me each week.
Over time, within probably 3 to 5 years, we were getting busier and busier, actually tending to our clients, because we actually had clients. So instead of the personalized rejection, we started to go the way of the "Dear Author" form. Away went the address and name and instead we had a stack of letters printed out that we could just stick into envelopes and send off. This was for unsolicited material. For solicited proposals we were still writing in the names and addresses.
And then email really took hold, at least for submissions. Agents became less afraid of being inundated with queries in their email inbox and opened to email submissions. We were right there with the rest. By this time we had done away with the unsolicited partials and were accepting queries only via email and we came up with a very clever way to reply to those queries. That magical signature line. Most email programs allow you to have multiple signatures to choose from. Maybe you have your business standard and another for personal use. Well, we have somewhere around 10. I have my standard signature that goes on the bottom of all email, and then I have the "letter" signatures or the form rejection signatures. I have one that says I'm closed to queries, one that requests material, one that rejects material, one I can easily modify to make more personal, and those that give some specific information (like the book is too short or too much like a magazine article).
I've found it's never hard to pop on that signature and hit send, and hopefully it allows me to keep networking with authors and helps them to keep thinking of me.
I'm pretty sure we've covered this before, but it's come up again so I don't feel it hurts discussing it again.
Should you respond to rejection letters, and, if so, what is the appropriate response?
I don't think there's any reason to ever respond to a rejection letter, and some agents will even tell you not to, ever, for any reason. That being said, for me personally, it never hurts to hear a polite "thank you" now and then. Most agents use form rejections of some sort or another, and for that reason I see no reason to send a response. In fact, one of the reasons form rejections are used is to help prevent responses to every email we receive.
If, however, you receive real feedback from an agent that actually sparks something in you or helps you "see the light," for lack of better phrasing, I think it's definitely nice for an agent to hear that her advice was helpful, and something simple is all you need.
Critiques are very valuable, but in the end, you have to be the judge of your own stories. You have to believe in your own writing. And trust me, negative critiques come to everyone.
I was reminded of such a case when my granddaughter was here overnight recently and wanted to watch two Narnia movies we have on DVD. I was pulled into the magic of the stories again right along with her. I love C.S. Lewis‘ books, both his adult works and those for children.
Going Beyond Criticism
He’s probably most famous among children’s writers for his Chronicles of Narnia books (and now movies). Surely his books were well received from the beginning, right? No–his critique partner (none other than J.R.R. Tolkien of The Lord of the Rings fame) didn’t like it.
From C.S. Lewis Through the Shadowlands: The Story of His Life with Joy Davidman: “When Jack [C.S. Lewis] had completed his story about four children who discover a magic wardrobe and, through it, find a way into the land of Narnia, he showed it to Tolkien, who was unimpressed. Feeling, perhaps, that Jack had aimed rather more at achieving an effect than at creating an Other World of the kind he was writing about in The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien told him that ‘It really won’t do, you know!’ Jack was discouraged and put the book to one side for a while before returning to it and rewriting the first few chapters. However, he still felt uncertain about whether it was any good or not, and decided to ask the advice of someone else.”
Thankfully the second person he asked was more enthusiastic. Jack then went on to complete this book, which became the first Narnia book: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
What about you? Do you have a story that still resonates with you–but you put it away because someone didn’t care for it? I do. And I’ve dug out both unfinished novels to look at again.
While it’s good to get outside feedback, don’t let negative feedback be the deciding factor. If you do, you just might deprive the world of stories that will inspire for generations.
During the 1988 Jamboree encampment of 32,000 Boy Scouts, one troop (38 Scouts) led the entire Jamboree in cuts treated at the medical tent.
The huge number of nicks from busy knives sounded negative until someone toured the camp and saw the unique artistic walking sticks each boy in that troop had made. They led the entire encampment in other kinds of games, too.
Wounds simply mean that you’re in the game. It’s true for Boy Scouts–and it’s true for writers as well.
I know an excellent writer who has revised a book for years–but won’t submit it, even though everyone who has read it feels the book is ready. What benefit does she get from that? She never has to face rejection. She never has to hear an editor say, “This is good–but it needs work.” She never has to read a bad review of her book, or do any speaking engagements to promote her work, or learn how to put together a website.
She will also never feel the exhilaration of holding her published book in her hands. She won’t get letters from children who tell her how much her book means to them and has helped them. She won’t get a starred review or win an award or do a book signing. She won’t move on and write a second (and third and fourth) book.
Paying the Price
If you want to be a writer, you have to get into the game and risk a few wounds. Figure out ways to bandage them and recover from them, but don’t be afraid of getting them. They’re simply a sign that you’re a writer. Wear the battle scars proudly!
What part(s) of the writing life make you want to stay on the sidelines and out of the line of fire?
By: Adventures in Children's Publishing,
Blog: Adventures in Children's Publishing
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Have you ever gotten a rejection letter and wondered what it meant? Actually felt happy to get a rejection letter? Or gotten one that makes you want to burn your manuscript and take up something less risky than writing, like say sky-diving?
Since Marissa and I are on blog hiatus, that means no round-ups. In the meantime, here's a repost of the dictionary of all things rejection, and if you don't see one or two terms that sound familiar, you haven't sent out enough queries yet.
- A single sheet of paper with the potential to send you screaming for Ben & Jerry's. With Tequila. Because the last year of your life was worthless.
- A rite of passage on the path to publication. Applying lessons learned from it can help you grow as a writer.
(Taken mostly from the blog at http://www.therejectionist.com/
- An assistant at a literary agency.
- Someone who does not want your tired, your poor, your huddled masses. The Assistant is not Ellis Island. The Assistant isn't interested unless [your manuscript is] GOOD.
- Someone who considers it her job to
crush your dreams/spit on your hopes/make you cry pass good things on to the Agent. It is not the Assistant's job to tell you how to write a book, dole out the milk of human kindness, or hold your little Author-hands.
- Someone who encourages you to buck the conventions of the query letter if your work is too amazing/revolutionary/brilliant to be summarized [or to] try applying for jobs without a résumé, using only your psychic powers.
- A great (and funny) resource about the publishing industry from [almost] the other side of the agent's desk.
(Taken mostly from the blog at http://rejecter.blogspot.com/
- An assistant at a [different] literary agency.
- The first line of defense for her boss [against tripe, drivel, and the random query musings of writers who don't bother to do their homework].
- Someone who, on average, rejects 95% of [query] letters immediately and put[s] the other 5% in the "maybe" pile.
- A great resource for writers who want to do their homework before sending out their query letters.
(Don't look for the blog--rejectors are everywhere!)
- An agent or editor who rejects you.
- For the purposes of the following definititions, a short way of saying "agent or editor."
(see Evil Editor)
Back before he was a famous writer (check out the Travis McGee series), the late John D. MacDonald, like all of us, got tons of rejections letters.
Later, when he was famous, magazines started soliciting him for stories.
And I guess in a little bit of tit for tat, he sent this sarcastic rejection letter.
Which kind of reminds me of this letter to Knopf from Norman Maclean, which includes the memorable sentence: "If the situation ever arose when Alfred A. Knopf was the only publishing house remaining in the world and I was the sole remaining author, that would mark the end of the world of books."
In More magazine, Kathryn Stockett talks about her road to publication. “In the end, I received 60 rejections for The Help. But letter number 61 was the one that accepted me. After my five years of writing and three and a half years of rejection, an agent named Susan Ramer took pity on me. What if I had given up at 15? Or 40? Or even 60? Three weeks later, Susan sold The Help to Amy Einhorn Books.”
But the version that got accepted was not the first (not by a long shot) one she sent out. With every rejection, she re-wrote the book, trying to improve it.
Read more here.
By: Kristi Holl
Blog: Writers First Aid
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We don’t like to talk about quitting or giving up on our dreams. But let’s be honest. Will every wannabe writer eventually land big contracts, snag a well-known NY agent, and be sent on ten-city book tours? No.
Maybe your dreams are more modest, but you’ve worked at breaking into publishing for years. Should you continue the struggle? For how long? How do you know when to quit?
Asking the Wrong Question
I came across an excellent discussion from a blog post that is several years old, but the advice is timeless. Called “When to Quit,” it’s a lengthy article by Scott Young on this subject. I hope you’ll read it to the end.
One factor the article said to consider was how you feel on a day-to-day basis as you pursue your dream. How is the process affecting your life, your character, your growth? “So if you are pursuing your dream and you don’t think you are going to make it, the question of whether or not to quit doesn’t depend on your chance of success. The real question is whether pursuing this dream is causing you to grow. Does this path fill you with passion and enthusiasm? Do you feel alive?”
You may not agree with all his views, but I guarantee that the article will make you think–even if you have no intention of quitting. It might lead you to make a course correction however. And it will make you evaluate why you’re pursuing your particular dream–and that’s always a good thing!
If you have a minute, give me your reactions to the ideas in his article.
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It has been over two years since I've written about perspective, but given the events in my personal and writing life in the last few weeks, it's time to remind myself that everything has to be kept in perspective.
Life for me has been pretty darn good lately. I'm in my third semester at Vermont College of Fine Arts. I will graduate in July with an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. My picture book, BENNO AND THE NIGHT OF BROKEN GLASS, published in January 2010 by Kar-Ben, has received starred reviews from both School Library Journal and Jewish Book World. I have five Author Visits lined up between now and the end of November for Jewish Book Month. A few weeks ago I learned that BENNO will be going into a second printing. And I learned last week that BENNO was awarded a Gold Medal in the Multicultural Picture Book category by Moonbeam Children's Book Awards. Life is pretty darn good! So why do I need perspective? Because as good as my writing life has been, my "other" life has been, both, even better, and profoundly sad.
Last week my daughter got married. It was a glorious weekend. Probably the happiest weekend of my life (so far). All our friends and families were together to celebrate. It doesn't get much better than watching your children grow up - whether they're heading off for their first day of kindergarten, starring in a high school play, graduating college, or walking down the aisle. Life's events are to be cherished and enjoyed. Two days after the wedding, I got on a plane to Florida to say good-bye to a cousin of mine who is dying of colon cancer (PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE - if you are over 50 get a colonoscopy!). We had hoped that she would make it to the wedding, but that was not to be. After deciding to stop treatment in early August, the doctors expected her to have six months and with pain medication they were to be a good six months. But life doesn't always work out the way we expect it to.
And that's where perspective comes in. Yes, My writing life is great right now. My personal life is great right now. But all of it can change in an instant. Getting published is not the be all and end all of our lives. Yes, some of you may say, "Well, that's easy for her to say. She's published." But I truly believe it. Writing is a part of my life. It is not my life. My full life is a combination of friends, family, activities, hobbies, and beliefs. Not one thing defines me. I think that keeping perspective keeps me on an even keel. No one could have been happier at their daughter's wedding than I was at mine. And no one could have been sadder bidding farewell to a loved one than I. But by keeping a balance of what's good in our lives with what's bad, makes it all easier.
So, the next time a rejection arrives in the mail - and there will be rejections - throw a hissy-fit, threaten to stop writing, say nasty things about the editor or agent who turned down your gifted prose, eat a box of chocolates, drink a bottle of wine, and then remember the good things in your life. Drag yourself back to your desk and send your masterpiece out again.
Oh, yeah, and when I get my next rejection. Remind me of this post!
I just read through a great blog over at Don't Pet Me, I'm Writing. It's the blog of author, Tawna Fenske. Her latest post about Writing Regrets was amazing. It got me thinking about my own path as a writer.
I've read a lot of blogs by authors who, understandably, choose not to make public, their road to success, or should I say, the bumpy path of rejection that led them there. As I said, I understand. Being as public as we are now-a-days, what with blogs and social networking, it's really hard to expose our weaknesses and our self-doubt, much less, our failures along the way. It's a vulnerable position not many people ever want to put themselves in.
But you see, I think it's actually so brave for anyone to do this, and it helps so many in the same position.
Tawna's blog post about writing regrets was so helpful. It really made me stop and look at myself in the deepest possible way a writer can.
See, here's the skinny: I started writing THORNE (a middle-grade, urban fantasy...the first in a series), and believe me when I say this book went through some changes along the way; initially, it was a lot longer, until I discovered it was too long for MG, and so, I thought about it for a couple of weeks, and decided to take a chapter out of the book, and write an entirely new book around it; it became the first in my series, and what was left of the original became book 2, and it worked out amazingly-well.
Ever since then, I've revised, and even recently, I virtually rewrote it in order to tighten it up. I love the end result. That said, one agent I queried a few months ago requested a partial, and later rejected it saying that, although she loves the way I write and the story concept was great, she simply wasn't drawn into the 12-yr old protagonist enough to offer representation. She also suggested I rewrite the book in first-person; she's actually the second agent to make that suggestion. So it makes me wonder if I made the right choice when I first wrote the book.
I've always loved first-person narratives. I love how it allows me to dive into the mind of the characters like no other format can. So, I started trying to rewrite the first book as a narrative from David's POV. It's coming out great, but something in my guy keeps gnawing at me: Could this actually work in first-person? It just doesn't seem to have the same haunting quality as the original, and I'm afraid if I try to bring out the haunting nature of David's inner demons and anger, it might come off as more "woe-is-me".
I don't know....
As for queries, I just don't know what else to do. I can't begin to tell you how many websites I've read on queries, agents, agencies, publishers, writing, and all things authory. On the wings of my dream to see my work out there, I've studied more than I even did in school, and that's saying a lot. And yet, every time I query agents, I do it with what I believe to be a new and improved letter, and still, the rejections keep pouring in. Ever since I started this process back in 2004, I've received probably...and here's the part where I leave myself vulnerable to ridicule and speculation...close to 200 rejections; all based on different letters and different versions of the book's first chapter.
I feel so lost.
Back in 2007, I was approached by a publisher who'd been following my blogs on Myspace, and asked that I send them a partial. Desperate as I was to see my book out there, I pishawed the writer on my should who warned me that publishers don't do this. In the end, they loved it, and asked for more. Then I was told they wanted to publish the book.
Two editors there both commented (apparently) that my book had some of the best dialogue they'd ever read. And that was just the beginning. Sadly, in 2008, a week before the book was to come out,
Hehehe - you're laughing with me, right? Right?
Hey who groaned at the back.
This productivity business sucks (insert personal preference), but I shall jolly along. Besides, it's kinda funny to get four rejections in four days in a brand new four-day-old year. I could probably take ten days without breaking. Although, I'm classing the rejection count as three because one was from Clarkesworld. I like to think of Clarkesworld as rehab for stories. Somewhere they can rest awhile and learn that no isn't a scary word.
Right, anyone have any tips on how to nail a board to an inbox to stop the mail flowing through. And for telegram enthusiasts (don't tell me if you are one, some things should be kept to yourself) apologies for the comma, I'm sure they weren't allowed (stop)
When he was still in high school, Tim Burton sent a copy of his illustrated children's book - The Giant Zlig - to Walt Disney Productions asking if they would be interested in publishing it. They weren’t - but an editor did send him a letter offering detailed feedback.
Click here to see a sample page - as well as the rejection letter. Looking at the letter made me nostalgic for typewriters!
Okay, I haven't read it yet myself, but I will buy it and I will read it. Why? Because Mary Glickman is my new favorite author.
And why is Mary Glickman my new favorite author? Well, if you read Chuck Sambuchino's blog at the Guide to Literary Agents, you've read Mary's inspiring story. You can click here for the full saga, but I'll give you one paragraph to wet your appetite:
Cynthia Ozick once remarked that being published for the first time at 38 was a kind of little death. For me being published at the age of 61 was a kind of resurrection. Home in the Morning is my seventh novel written and the first one published, although out of the seven, only one was really bad. The rest were damn good. But I’ve learned a lot of this business is all about luck. You can have the wrong idea at the wrong time (my first novel), the right idea at the wrong time (that’d be two through five), the wrong idea at any time at all (number six, the really bad one), and if you’re lucky, the right idea at the right time (Home in the Morning).
Open Road Books published Home in the Morning in November 2010. it's recently been optioned for film by Sundance director Jim Kohlberg.
So wherever you are as you read this -- at your desk with a cup of coffee, on your couch with a glass of wine, or in your bed with a water bottle on your nightstand, raise your drink and toast Mary Glickman, the queen of perseverance. And then buy her book!
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Women’s Day had a series of article about women over 40 who made their dreams come true. One was a writer who didn’t get a contract until nine years after she seriously started trying.
“Diana sent the manuscript off to one publisher after another. When rejection number 100 arrived, she quit counting. “I thought of it as a test to see if I wanted what I said I wanted,” Diana says. And she did, badly. The only thing left to do was work harder. “If my writing wasn’t selling to those publishers, I needed to do more research, take more classes.”
And that persistence paid off. Her eighth novel sold, and she’s published two more, with another due out in October.
Read more here.