Rejection

It’s official. I’m a writer. I’ve been rejected. It’s actually not the first time, just the first time for a novel. Despite being told I would probably not hear back before September, it o only took a couple of weeks to be rejected.

I had told myself to expect it. Afterall, nobody gets in on their first try. Still, it hurt. Reading the reasons hurt more.

I gave myself last night to feel lousy about it, then today I would get off the pity pot and climb onto the perseverance pot. Even in my angst, I reminded myself of some things – like the comments I’ve gotten from people who’ve read it. And the fact that neither agent actually read my book. They sampled it. If I can get someone to actually read it, perhaps I’d have a better outcome.

This morning some other facts dawned on me. I know that most writers get rejected many times before someone takes them on. Each person who rejected them had a compelling reason for the rejection… but that didn’t make them right. J.K. Rowling was rejected dozens of times, and obviously those agents reasons were idiotic.

One agent that rejected my novel said its was good writing, good pacing, but too familiar and wouldn’t stand out. Another one said he didn’t care for it and couldn’t follow it. Two agents. Same agency. Two completely different reasons for rejection, and frankly two that don’t even work together. If it’s good writing and too familiar, how could it be difficult to follow? It occurs to me that I can’t take any of their opinions to heart. If down the road, every agent is saying the same thing, then perhaps I should take them more seriously, but for now, I simply have to find an agent whose personal opinion is more closely aligned with my readers.

Other reasons cited for rejection were a weak market linked, in part, to the chaos in Washington. Lucky me. i decide to make my leap of faith at the same time a quarter of my fellow citizens go nuts and decide to destroy the country. Hopefully they don’t take my dreams down too.

This afternoon I did some research on how to properly construct a query letter. I already have several agents in mind that I’d like to query. One in particular interests me greatly, but only allows for 10 pages of the book to be submitted. That means I better have a killer query letter to sell then entire series.

Onward and upward. It’s not the last rejection I’ll get. But I won’t quit. Not yet. Perhaps not ever, because I only fail if I quit. I will persist.

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Inching Forward

Writing a novel is definitely a marathon and not a sprint. I knew this before I started. I know it more now. I’m days away from having the final product from the editor. Well, sort of final. I then have to make one more pass to put in a few changes. Clarity on details keep coming.

In some ways, this is the most frightening thing about declaring this novel “done.” There are two more books to write before this story is told, and this world is still revealing itself to me. I know there are more surprises ahead. Which one of them will make me realize that I didn’t set that up in the first novel, and now I either can’t use it, or I use it and hope nobody notices. I almost want to finish all three before trying to publish, but there is simply no way I could afford to do that.

When this one is done, it has to be well enough crafted to be a solid foundation to tell the rest of the story. That’s terrifying. Though, I will probably be done with the second novel before the first would be published, so I suppose maybe there are still opportunities for edits to volume 1.

In adding new chapters at the end, I was pleased to see not only an improvement in my writing, but an improvement in my attitude. When I first got notes and questions from my editor, my inner voice was defensive and resentful. I had worked so hard. How could there be holes? How could there be problems? How on earth was I going to find a way to fix them? It was impossible and I should just give up! I’m a terrible writer and too old to be starting novels. This time, when I got notes and questions, I was excited. I have come to realize whenever I have been pushed, either by a professor, or now an editor, the end product is always vastly better than the original. Those notes and questions mean I’m going to tell a better story. That excites me. While there will always probably be a tinge of panic that I can’t find a solution to the problem, it is quickly smothered with the curiosity of following the problem to its source and its solution, as well as the excitement of a better story. Growth!

By the end of the week I plan to have the manuscript to a proofreader, and after that, it is off to the literary agency that expressed interest in reading it. I really should be working on a query letter for other agencies, because the chances of being taken on by the very first agency are about the same as me winning the lottery tonight. Well, slightly better since I don’t have a lottery ticket. And maybe in this case, just a fraction better than normal because this is a connection from my editor. But still, I shouldn’t start planning my first book tour just yet. Oh goodness, I dread that part of the job (though would be lucky to experience it). Writers are introverts. Crowds, especially crowds of strangers, drain us. Why on earth would you make us do book tours and public appearances? Just let us sit in our offices and dream stories!

The last two years have been beautiful. I will always be grateful for this opportunity. I hope it’s not over. I hope my talent is enough to get me to the other side of the chasm, and I can continue to do what I love to do.

Here we go…

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Making Connections

There are oh so many things in the news I would love to write about and get off my mind, but I’ve been doing too mach of that lately. Instead, this post will be a progress report.

The feedback on my book has slowly been trickling in. For the most part, it is positive. Where there are issues, I go in and attempt to fix it. So many kind people have pointed out small flaws in the timeline, questions about motivation that can be made clearer, typos, and odd sentence structure. They have also pointed out the good qualities like pacing, dialogue, character development, and chapter endings that keep you turning the page. So far, everything that’s wrong can be fixed, and everything that’s right… well, it’s just right. All good news.

A few weeks back one of our clients at work asked me some questions about my book. Her face lit up and she said, “You know who you should meet?!” She proceeded to tell me about a local author who has sold millions of books, won many awards, and is a good friend of hers. She set up lunch for us to meet and talk about writing, books, and publishing. It was a fun lunch and I was able to ask many questions and get some concrete ideas about what to do next.

His best advice was that it didn’t matter if my friends, family, or even strangers like my book. Until I put it in the hands of a professional editor, I won’t really know what I have. So, next week I plan to get started on that process. Thanks to another connection, one back in LA,  I may already have a good one.

The other piece of advice gleaned from our lunch was that it is time to start querying agents and publishers. So, that means it was time to sign up for The Writer’s Market – a huge searchable index of agents, editors, and publishers that lists what they’re looking for in both a query letter, and a manuscript. It feels a little overwhelming to see all the places I’m going to have to start sending letters, but I imagine the list will get whittled down by a large pile of rejection letters. Even Harry Potter was rejected at first. Eventually, I have faith that someone will see potential and take a risk.

One of the things I’ve loved about this process is its ease. In Hollywood there was a constant scramble to make good connections. If you were chatting with someone, and you realized they were in a position to help your career, your antenna went up, your brain started churning, and you calculated all the different ways you could approach, suck up to, and harness their power for yourself. It made for sick relationships, up and down the power ladder. I’m glad to be off that ladder. I’m glad to be in a world where connections flow naturally.

Even better, it’s nice when your friend has the courage to ask the guy who’s sold millions of books to read your novel. I could never have done that. It will be interesting to see what he has to say, if anything.

For now, the editing continues, the professional is about to be brought in, and I’m going to find out for real if this little leap of mine is going to work.

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