You’ve signed a contract. You’ve done edits. You have a release date. You feel invincible!

And then the next rejection comes.

I honestly never thought about it one way or another, but it was a weird feeling realizing that rejection would still be part of the game after publication. I mean, sure, it’s not surprising, but I think we focus so hard on getting published, we don’t always think about what happens after publication (I mean beyond becoming rich and famous, of course).

Of course, the reality of the situation is, if you plan to keep getting published, you have to keep putting your work out there. You have to keep submitting, and whether that’s to your publisher, agents, or another publisher, rejection can still be the name of the game.

I signed the contract for my first book in October of 2011. I signed the contract (with a different publisher) for my second book in July of 2012. I signed the contract for my third book in December of 2012 and I got offered a fourth contract in January of 2013…and yet, there were rejections in between all those contracts. Rejections from editors and agents. Rejections on queries, partials, and fulls. Luckily none of the rejections came from publishers whom had offered me a contract in the past, and most came from agents on projects I later sold, but that doesn’t mean rejection wasn’t a possibility (or it might not be a possibility in the future).

Rejection is always a possibility. The nice thing about rejection after publication, is you have a contract to pull out and remind yourself, gosh darn it, you’re good enough. It should also remind you that this is your career and the only way to keep building that career is to keep writing, keep improving, and keep submitting. Rejection be darned.

Nicole

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Writing: Where I Stand

December 12, 2012

Sometimes I feel like a pseudo-expert on a topic simply because I’ve written about it. When I think of all the research I’ve done in order to write compelling articles and characters, it makes sense. Of course, I’m not going to change out old knob-and-tube wiring using knowledge gained from a scene I wrote. Yikes! Still, I know things because I write, and that’s pretty cool.

Another thing that’s pretty cool…I’ve been on a writing high, and not because I’ve sold anything. Frustrating as that is, I now understand it’s hard to sell something when I have nothing out there. (Thank you, Nicole!) For the first time in my life as an active fiction writer, I have three different manuscripts on submission, one a requested partial. I’m feeling very hopeful, but more importantly I’m feeling very accomplished.

To celebrating, I’m writing something new. And after months of being bogged down with worries about what the market wants and staring at a blank page because I couldn’t translate those wants into words, I’m writing what puts a lump in my chest—a good lump, a big ole ball of excitement. Certainly that may backfire in terms of reaching my publication goals. But I have to say I’m writing and enjoying more this way.

I spend months inside a manuscript. Months. It takes mere minutes to read a rejection letter, less if it’s a form. Over the past two years, I’ve spent miserable months inside a couple manuscripts I plotted and planned around submission calls and market trends, only to end up with rejections. If I’m going to get rejected anyway, I’d rather enjoy the months I spend writing. Of course, I’m oversimplifying this, looking for poetic justice maybe, because I’ve read stories about writers who didn’t sell until they “threw caution to the wind.” Maybe 2013 will be the year I join those ranks?

How about you? As the year winds down are you happy with where you’ve been and where you’re going in terms of writing? Successes to share? Rejections you’d like to whine about? I’d love to know.

Elley

Peas Suck, But You Don’t

August 17, 2012

I don’t like peas. Yeah, I said it. I don’t like peas. In fact, I hate them. I think they’re disgusting and I refuse to buy them for the pea-eaters in my house.

Are you offended? I’m going to go out on a limb and say no.

Now, what if I said I hate your favorite book? What if I said I didn’t like your book?

New ball game.

I realize peas and something you’ve produced (probably the work of years) are vastly different, but something I am slowly coming to terms with, slowly accepting as truth is that not liking something does not equal a value judgment. Peas are not for me, and because I don’t want to smell them, I don’t buy them, but are you a bad person if you like peas? I don’t think so. (Though you might get a dirty look if you bring them into my home).

There are some genres I don’t read because I don’t care for them, but I feel like I can’t say I don’t like them because we associate not liking something with it being bad. I can not like a book and still think it, and the author, have merit. I love Nora Roberts books, but I can’t get into J.D Robb. It’s my own personal preference.

Now, sure, there are people who make value judgments in terms of what they don’t like, who say, “Oh, I don’t read that.” And what they mean is, that is trash or bad. I think these are the same people who lack critical thinking skills, who lack the ability to participate in rational discourse.

We can and should not like something without turning our noses up at it.

As aspiring and published writers, it is even more imperative to believe and accept that not liking something is not the same as something being worthless. When we receive rejections, it is not simply because something is bad. Sometimes your manuscript is not good enough, sometimes it is fine but not fine enough for editor or agent to want to read multiple times, sometimes they simply don’t like it.

We hear this from editors and agents, but we don’t believe it. We assume don’t like is craptastic. We assume the editor or agent is just being nice. We assume. We read into things. We make up elaborate scenarios about how the manuscript isn’t just bad, we’re bad (hopefully that’s not just me). We internalize and feel as though we’re being personally rejected.

It’s hard to dissassociate ourselves from our work enough to see things impartially. To view rejection as something outside of us, as something less of a value judgment and more of a business decision. It’s hard, but it’s necessary.

If I was offended every time someone didn’t like something I did, I would spend all of my time being offended.

Both of my contracted novels were rejected a handful of times before they were accepted. Writing for publication is a business, no matter how personal it feels. Don’t let rejection offend you or determine your self worth.

Nicole

***As part of our birthday week celebration, we’re picking our favorite posts of the last year. This is Nicole’s favorite. It originally appeared on the blog on December 13, 2011.

I’ve been seriously submitting to publishers (a few agents too) for almost two years now, and in that time I’ve received a lot of rejections ranging from a revise & submit (which still ultimately ended in rejection) to your average form letter rejection and a lot of stuff in between. I’ve made about 15 submissions in that time, and been rejected 14 of those 15 times.

Rejection sucks. It doesn’t get easier. In fact, if you have some modicum of success like a contract or even positive comments with a rejection, getting a form letter seems even harder to swallow after. It feels like backward progress, like your writing has become worse rather than better.

The thing is, getting published isn’t a straight line from A to B. There are a lot of ways to get there and a lot of detours along the way.

When we first get a rejection, it’s hard to remember that. It’s hard to let the rational part of our brain react.  Instead, it’s usually the irrational side that starts yelling, crying, whispering, poking at you. But, if you really want to be a published author, if you really want this to be your career, you have to think of it in that business manner. It can’t be personal, even when the irrational/emotional side of your brain wants it to be.

So, today, perhaps to cope with a little rejection of my own, I’ve made two lists. The first list is those irrational responses we have. Some might even be valid or worthy of a second or two of thought. You might need to vent those feelings to a loved one or to a CP, but mostly, the second list is the one we need to focus on. The one that we should remember in the public forum of the internet. The mature, business-minded, rational reaction to rejection.

Irrational Thoughts upon Rejection

1. I suck. I must be the worst writer in the world. Why did I ever submit that piece of filthy garbage?

2. The editors are fools! How could they ignore my brilliance when they’ve published x, y, or z crap?

3. What’s the point in all this? I’m just going to keep getting rejected. I give up.

4. Woe is me. Everyone else has it so much better. Look at This Person. Her life is perfect. It’s not fair!

5. I will never write again.

6. What am I doing that is so wrong? This is the best thing I’ve ever written and it’s still not good enough! Why isn’t this happening for me?

The Rational Side of Those Irrational Thoughts

1. It is normal and understandable for rejection to feel personal. But it’s not (unless you’ve made some kind of horrible shrew of yourself in the past so that no one wants to work with you). For most publishers and agents there are a million things that go into the decision of acceptance or rejection. Perhaps your writing isn’t sharp enough. Maybe your concept is too close to another book they’ve already published/contracted. Maybe, regardless of how well the story is written, there’s something about it that will be hard to sell. Maybe they’re already full to the brim of a certain sub-genre. Maybe your story really isn’t ready yet. There are a million and one reasons for rejection. They don’t always mean you suck, and they never mean you can’t get better. Read over your manuscript. Chances are if you subbed it months ago, you’ll see some weaknesses after having a break from it. I once subbed something and didn’t get a response until almost a year later. When I read it a year later, I cringed at how bad it was. I had come so far as a writer I couldn’t blame them for rejection. It had been the best I could do, but it was no longer the best I had to offer. The thing about writing is we continue to grow and get better. Chances are if it’s been a while, you’ll have the clarity to see that you can improve that story now, even if you couldn’t have then.

2. Nothing irritates me more (and I’m sure editors and agents feel the same way) than someone complaining that the editor, agent, whoever is just too stupid to see the brilliance in a manuscript. These people did not get their jobs because they’re stupid or don’t understand the genre or the publisher. While it’s good to have confidence in your work, if you’re blaming everyone else for your rejection, chances are you’re wrong. I’m always amazed when I see an agent or editor post a nasty response they’ve gotten to a rejection. Remember, just because you wrote a book doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed or owed publication. Just because it’s the best you can do doesn’t mean it’s better than the other submissions publishers/agents are getting. Accept that it wasn’t a good fit, and leave the blame game behind. You’ll never get better if you can’t admit there’s room for improvement.

3. If you want to give up, go ahead, but you won’t succeed. The only way to become published is to keep going. If you feel like you want to quit, explore those feelings. What’s more important to you: avoiding rejection or continuing to try? Sometimes, the answer is avoiding rejection, and that’s okay. No one’s forcing you to become a writer. If it’s not what you really want, do everyone a favor and give up. The great thing about writing is that you can always come back to it later when you’re ready to try again. Whatever you decide moments after the rejection doesn’t have to be what you stick to the next day. If you need to take a break from submitting, do it. But if this is really what you want, you have to keep plugging away at it. Giving up won’t lead you to publication.

4. Comparisons are never your friend. They will never make you feel better. And, especially in social media, it is easy for a person to present their life in only positive terms. If you’ve ever been to pinterest, you’ve probably seen the silly pictures they have with funny sayings, and one of my favorites is, “Someday I hope my life is as awesome as you pretend yours is on Facebook.” The bottom line is you really never truly know what another person’s life, career, emotional state is like ESPECIALLY on the internet. You can only worry about you (if you’re a parent or a teacher, you’ve probably said this to a child before). If you’re obsessing about another’s success, you have less time to focus on making your own. It’s not healthy, and it’s not fair to you or the person you’re jealous of.

5. Doubtful. If you’ve gotten this far, it’s because you enjoy writing. Chances are, even if you feel so gutted you vow never to put word to paper again, you will.

6. I think this is the hardest feeling to get over, because the bottom line is it’s hard to find the feedback to answer this question. Sure, a CP helps. (The first book I worked on with my CP is also the first book to land me a contract). Contest feedback can be worthwhile and if you’re really lucky your rejection might give you some inclination as to where you went wrong, but mostly it’s a guessing game. What can you do? You can keep writing. The only way to get better is to keep doing it. You can keep reading. Writers who don’t read are doing themselves a huge disservice. You can take workshops. Look for ones that have been recommended to you by people you trust. Even if something is the best thing you’ve ever written, that doesn’t mean it’s the best thing you’ll ever write. The bottom line is you have to keep trying to get better.

Whining and wallowing for a few days (as long as it’s not in a public forum) can be helpful and even necessary. It’s okay to mourn that opportunity you lost. In fact, not caring about it at all isn’t really that great either. It shows a lack of passion, of wanting it. Feel bad. It’s okay. But at some point you have to let the rational voice take over. You have to pull on your Big Girl/Guy pants and move on. You’ll have to submit again, possibly face rejection again, go through the same process all over again.

I’m not saying it’s easy, but if you want to succeed, it is necessary.

Nicole

I promised to tell you all about the presentation Jennifer Miller/Jennifer Haymore gave on Deep Editing at the November 20 meeting of LARARWA. Yes, between the Torrential Downpour and car trouble…then car trouble, Torrential Downpour, lunch and shopping, followed by more car trouble, Torrential Downpour, long scary drive on surface streets from The Valley through Los Angeles with more shopping, power outage, still car trouble, and Torrential Downpour as we drove home to San Pedro, which was falling into the ocean (this really happened)…there was actually a meeting. (Wow, I think I just condensed my entire post from last Wednesday into one very, very long run on sentence! Who knew?)

Anyway, Jennifer Miller is an editor with Samhain, who also writes under the name Jennifer Haymore. She relates to both sides of the process. As an editor, she reads, rejects and acquires submissions and as an author she pours out her heart, receives edits and has the same goals and dreams that most of us who put pen to paper have, to tell a story and have it read.

I’m sure that what you really want to know is what makes an editor who is also a published author reject a manuscript. According to Jennifer, sometimes it’s as simple as, she can only acquire so many manuscripts. Today she may be looking for a sci-fi thriller and your manuscript is a steampunk paranormal with a touch of romance, so even though she loved your story and your style, she sends you a rejection letter.

But, what if she is looking for a steampunk paranormal with romantic elements, and your manuscript, a steampunk paranormal with romantic elements, comes to the top of the pile? She reads your query and moves on to your story, but what does your story have to have to get the call?

The first thing is pretty basic. We all know that we need to hook the reader in the first few lines if we want them to continue reading. An editor needs to be hooked in the first few sentences as well, and there are a number of things she will be looking for. At the top of Jennifer’s list are believability and characterization.

Is your story believable and logical? The reader must believe it, or at least believe that it’s possible in the world you created. Is your world building believable? Is it solid? Does it make sense? And your characters must be believable.

Beyond believable, your characters must be relatable. They don’t have to be likeable, but the reader must be able to relate to them. Characters should have clear goals, motivation and conflict. And, of course, avoid cliches. If there are cliches in your characterization (this goes for plot as well) you need to have a good twist to the cliché.

One of the things Jennifer advised, which I am going to take a hard look at today in my manuscript, is don’t be afraid of the word “said.” I’m pretty sure I avoid this word, and when author Kara Lennox critiqued my manuscript, one of her notes was “you need to work on dialogue attribution-the technical aspect…people don’t “laugh” dialogue. Woops, I was avoiding the word said.

Jennifer packed her hour-long presentation with advice on deep editing, shallow editing and some technique tricks that can enhance a writer’s work. I’ll continue my rewrites with a much better educated eye. If you get a chance to hear Jennifer Miller/Jennifer Haymore speak, don’t miss it! She is intelligent, informative and entertaining. Even hunky hubby, Paul, who is not a writer, enjoyed her presentation. He will also be reading my work with a much more educated eye.

So what about you? Are you confident that your story is believable and your characters relatable? Who would you drive through a Torrential Downpour to hear speak? (I really don’t recommend stormy travel…stay home where it’s hopefully safe and dry.)

Oh…and by the way, after last week’s Torrential Downpour (did I mention it was also freezing cold?) yesterday, it was sunny and beautiful with record breaking high temperatures. It was in the 80’s, even here along the coast…and of course, we stayed home.

Tari

I hope this post serves as a kick in the ass, because I need one. I’ve been writing full time for over a year, and I’ve submitted four times. Four. I’m pretty sure that ranks as pathetic.

The first time I mustered the courage, I sent an email query to an agent who responded a week later with a lovely request for the first three chapters and synopsis. A couple weeks later, I received an email rejection in which the agent told me to work on my “atmosphere.”

I did—even though I wasn’t sure what that meant. I read a lot more, and I told myself that when I’d atmosphere-d my MS to perfection, I’d submit to another agent on my list.

I did that. The agency’s policy was email queries. If they were interested, I would hear something in about three months. I didn’t hear anything.

In the meantime, I wrote. I participated in Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write (SYTYCW) and submitted the first chapter and synopsis to my latest (at the time) manuscript (MS). I received a rejection with feedback.

Taking that feedback to heart, I made changes. I found a great critique partner (CP), and she offered me additional perspective on the rejected MS. She saw the story fitting into another Harlequin line, and as if by fate, the line announced a pitch contest.

I entered. Sent along two paragraphs and waited.

Not picked.

Now? I keep telling myself I’ll submit after my synopsis course. But I’m starting to think I’m procrastinating. (I even procrastinated on making the determination that I was procrastinating.)

Four manuscripts are waiting for me to do something—five if you count my work in progress (WIP). The first is the single title submitted to two agents. The second is an MS I edited down from a single title and steamed up in hopes of submitting to Blaze. The third is a single title I haven’t looked at in over a year. The fourth is my SYTYCW entry, which I submitted as a Blaze, then rewrote to make a Desire and entered in the Desire pitch. The fifth is being written as a Desire.

At some point I need to submit, don’t I? I keep telling myself that every writer has a collection of stories under the bed that were never meant to be submitted. Is this accurate? Are these my “practice” manuscripts? Or am I making excuses?

I give myself to the end of this synopsis class to decide. (Lord, this sound like another excuse.) Really. I’m going to have my CP hold me accountable. (Are you reading this, Nicole?)

Whether it’s one, three or all five, I’m going to submit. Soon.  And I’m going to stop making the following excuses.

Non-valid Submission Excuses

  1. Publisher X takes too long to respond. (Oh yeah? Because sitting in a never-opened file in the laptop or stashed in a dusty box underneath my bed is the shortest route to publication.)
  2. International postage is such a hassle to deal with. (Could be. Don’t know. I’ve never made it to the post office to find out. And I won’t know unless I do.)
  3. Publisher Y only accepts snail mail, which means I have to print out the entire manuscript. That’s so much paper, ink and time—not to mention the price of postage. (Most of these publishers do not require the entire manuscript up front, so if I’m actually to the point where I’m facing a request for the full manuscript, the cost and time of printing and the cost of postage should be outweighed by the sheer joy of getting this far.)
  4. I’m still not sure if the story fits. (Usually said after reading oodles of books from the line I’m targeting. I actually do this…pretend I’m not “getting” the line or focus on one scene in my manuscript and deem it un-Blaze or un-Desire or un-whatever.)
  5. The story’s not ready. (After four revisions, a read through by my “ideal reader” and a full critique by my CP. When exactly is it ready? Beats the hell out of me.)