What’s Your Biggest Obstacle-Revisited

signsmall_thumbWriting can be both rewarding and frustrating. I’ve been around the block a few times and have had my share of rejections. Don’t judge me, get used to it. If you are out to write that best selling blockbuster, and I’m cheering for you, you’re going to have to develop some tough skin.

I’ve stated in previous blogs, that there are a lot of reasons why your manuscript was passed over, and many have nothing to do with the manuscript itself, but I thought it would be nice to hear it from an agent.

You just submitted a query for an awesome piece of work. You’ve had several agents request full manuscripts and one even gave you a call, but just like that it was over. What happened?

You may have submitted an amazing piece of work, but the submission before yours hit the ball out of the park, and the one after yours did likewise. Those two works raised the bar and affected the impact you novel had on the agent.

Maybe you presented a very well written novel, but the market is saturated with the genre you are offering. Agents may have manuscripts for the particular genre you submitted on hold for the next few seasons.

You made it to the personal phone call. Where did you go wrong? Maybe you were missing the synopsis or logline for your next novel. Agents don’t want to just sell a book, they want to represent a career. Another guess would be that you were resistant to editorial thoughts presented by the agent.

The biggest obstacle one can have in getting a novel published is quitting. If you’re going to do a little bit right, have that little bit be the fact that you don’t quit. – Barbara Poelle, agent

Something to think about.

-Jan R

What’s Your Biggest Obstacle-Revisited

Surviving The Sting

imagesX0EBMH1NI write a lot about rejection because it’s a part of life if you’re an unpublished author seeking a literary agent or publishing contract. Many would-be authors allow a simple rejection to end their attempts at writing. Their thought – I must not be good enough. Well maybe that’s true, but odds are it is not.

Manuscripts are rejected for numerous reasons, and many have nothing to do with your work. So what are you supposed to do if you receive a rejection?

  • Admit it hurts.
  • Allow yourself time to grieve, but never take more than a week.
  • Nurture your artist. Read a good book, take a walk, eat some chocolate… TLC is a good thing, but don’t wallow in self-pity.
  • Share your news and disappointment with close friends and family who will understand and offer encouragement.
  • If you must, write a rebuttal to the editor or literary agent, but don’t send it. Tear it up and throw it in the trash. Your only response should be a thank you for their time and consideration.
  • Just because your work wasn’t right for that particular editor or agent, doesn’t mean it won’t be right for another.
  • Remember just because it isn’t ready for publication, doesn’t mean you can’t make it publishable.

A writer not being able to deal with rejection, is like a doctor not being able to deal with death. It’s going to happen, and like successful authors, you will have to learn to live with it.

-Jan R

Surviving The Sting

I Thought I knew A Lot – Until I Learned A Little

images1MS72HRNEnough already! At least that’s how I feel sometimes. I’ve been through my book more times than I can count. In my own defense, no one taught me how to write. I had a great story idea and decided to give it a whirl.

I thought it was ready, and then real life happened.  My wonderful work was rejected by the five agents I sent it to. One of them must have seen something promising, she took it upon herself to provide me feedback about what I was doing wrong (there was a long list), and what I needed to do to improve my work.

I was totally humiliated. Grammatical and Structural errors are kindergarten stuff and completely unacceptable.  My issues with head-hopping and on-the-nose-writing were another story. Those terms were totally foreign to me.  I wasn’t a professional novelist. I thought all you had to do was put words on paper and create a wonderful story that everyone wanted to read. How was I to know there were rules?

And what was the deal with dragging dialogue? My people were talking. How was I suppose to know dialogue moved the story forward or had to have some significance?  I couldn’t believe I sent an agent such inferior work!

When you’re a newbie, you don’t know how bad your work is, because you lack the knowledge and skills necessary to produce publishable work. While there may be a few prodigies out there, chances are, you aren’t one of them. Sorry!
Like myself and many others, you’re going to have to pay your dues and learn the craft. Then you will be ready to write that New York Times bestseller.

One of my favorite sayings is, you don’t know what you don’t know. I’m not sure where I picked that up from, but it’s true. I wasn’t intentionally sending out bad work. I just didn’t know.

-Jan R

I Thought I knew A Lot – Until I Learned A Little

Maybe It’s Not You!

Maybe-its.pngYou may have a great elevator speech/pitch for an editor, but that doesn’t mean it will be accepted. Don’t take it personal. There are many reasons your work is rejected,
and they have nothing to do with your writing or how it’s presented. Take heart and don’t give up.

Common reasons for rejection

  1.  The editor has too much on their plate. They are only human just like the rest of us. They may really like your work but just not have the time to pursue it. They could request that you wait until they have the time to give your work their full attention, but that wouldn’t be fair to you. In reality, they would be asking you to put everything on hold and inhibit you from pitching to another editor.
  2.  The piece isn’t a good fit for that particular editor. Know what they are looking for.
  3.  The Editor has insider info. In the past editors could post what they wanted, but these days, authors do surveys, interviews, and talk to focus groups. In order for a publication to be successful, the editor has to provide what their reader is looking for.
  4.  The concept lacks originality. You can do a simple google search to find out how original your great idea really is.
  5.  The editor may be afraid to gamble on your skills, especially if you’re new. Have that great pitch, but also have that article or piece of work complete so the editor knows you’re serious and can complete what you have started.

This list was provided by an editor at Writer’s Digest. Her focus was on magazine/publication articles, however, these reasons for rejection also apply to novels.

I would take a good look at that elevator speech to make sure I’m presenting my work in the best light. If the speech/pitch is sound, maybe it’s not your work. Consider moving on to the next editor on your list.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

 

Maybe-its.png

Maybe It’s Not You!

Make A Decent Proposal

imagesI know you may feel helpless at times. You’ve written an exciting adventure and edited it so many times you’ve lost count. You know you’ve produced a publisheable piece of work, so why isn’t it published. I’ve been there – done that.

Remember that your work being accepted by an agent often times has nothing to do with the novel itself. How many times have you had a rejection letter following the request for the full manuscript? That agent made the decision that they liked or disliked your idea before they even started reading your novel.

That’s the importance of the query letter and getting those first few pages of your novel right. Keep in mind that most agents receive over 10,000 queries a year. They don’t have the time to give to every submission they get.

Don’t make it easy for them to toss your work before they’ve given it consideration. That query has to be as polished as your manuscript. You don’t send out your first draft of a novel? That’s what it is – a rough draft. At least I hope you don’t. I have to confess I did.

One of the many rejection letters I received was nice enough to inform me that the novel wasn’t ready for publication, and proceeded to provide a long list of reasons why. The agent did like my premise 🙂 and made it through the query without tossing it. That’s probably why she took the time to respond.

There is a formula to get that query right. First and foremost, follow the submission guidelines of the agent or agency you are querying. Don’t give them more or less. If they want more information or to see the manuscript, they will request it.

There are workshops available and unlimited information on the internet on how to compile a successful query. Do your homework. When you finish that novel, you are not finished.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

 

 

Make A Decent Proposal

What’s Your Biggest Obstacle?

signsmall_thumbI’ve stated in previous blogs, that there are a lot of reasons why your manuscript was passed over, and many have nothing to do with the manuscript itself, but I thought it would be nice to hear it from an agent.

You just submitted a query for an awesome piece of work. You’ve had several agents request full manuscripts and one even gave you a call, but just like that it was over. What happened?

You may have submitted an amazing piece of work, but the submission before yours hit the ball out of the park, and the one after yours did likewise. Those two works raised the bar and affected the impact you novel had on the agent.

Maybe you presented a very well written novel, but the market is saturated with the genre you are offering. Agents may have manuscripts for the particular genre you submitted on hold for the next few seasons.

You made it to the personal phone call. Where did you go wrong? Maybe you were missing the synopsis or logline for your next novel. Agents don’t want to just sell a book, they want to represent a career. Another guess would be that you were resistant to editorial thoughts presented by the agent.

The biggest obstacle one can have in getting a novel published is quitting. If you’re going to do a little bit right, have that little bit be the fact that you don’t quit. – Barbara Poelle, agent

Something to think about.

-Jan R

What’s Your Biggest Obstacle?

So You’re Afraid of Failure-Deal With It!

courage-quoteSo you’re afraid you might fail. Truth is, you might stumble the first try, the second try, and maybe even the third try, but that’s part of the learning process. If you’re constantly looking over your shoulder, you may not finish your novel. You’ll be too busy battling the thoughts of it not being good enough.

No one wants to be humiliated or rejected. Your inner critic will paralyze you by telling you just how bad your manuscript really is (even if it’s not) .  This is an obstacle that I’ve had to overcome. It hasn’t gone away, I’ve just learned to deal with it.

I remember doing a Bible study on the battlefield of the mind. Though it’s primary purpose was dealing with spiritual warfare, it also related to many of the issues that we deal with in our everyday lives. Our mind is a battlefield. In writing for example, all of us worry about looking dumb and never getting published. Fiction writers make a business out of being scared, and not just looking dumb.

It took me six months from the time I started writing my novel, to tell my husband what I was doing. When I finally told him, I was a mess. I knew he would be excited for me and encourage me in my endeavor, and I didn’t want to let him down.

For the longest time I treated my novel as a hobby. That’s not a mindset that will get you published. When I finished and sent it out to the first few agents, I was more than a little anxious. The first few rejections confirmed my beliefs. I just wasn’t good enough.

Note that I said I wasn’t good enough. Well that’s not exactly true. The truth is the novel wasn’t good enough. The fact is, it was filled with grammatical and structural errors, there was some serious head hopping going on, and my dragging dialogue was all but bringing the story to a complete halt. If you are not familiar with these terms, you should be. Go back and read the posts I have written addressing them, or do a google search.

I don’t know that the inner critic will ever go away. So how do you combat it? You keep moving forward and growing in your craft. Don’t stop writing. I still question my novel, but I know, that I know, that I know, that it’s a lot better than it was after the first draft. I’ve learned the hard way and hope to help you avoid some of my pit falls.

-Jan R

So You’re Afraid of Failure-Deal With It!

Do Your Homework!

imagesDoes your manuscript have to be perfect?  If you’ve already written a best seller, your agent and editor may cut you some slack. If not, yes, that book better be pretty darn near  perfect, or nobody is going to look at it.  Agents receive hundreds of queries a week. They don’t have time to read everyone.  If your work is full of grammatical and structural errors, that’s all the excuse they need to toss it to the side and move on to the next one.

I sent my first manuscript out to five different agents.  I was very excited and a little anxious to hear what they had to say.  I expected some rejections but not all.  I had put  over a year into that novel.  It was my baby.

Well, two didn’t respond at all, one said no thanks, and another said it wasn’t what they were looking for. The fifth one responded with a rejection, but also included a why. There were numerous grammatical and structural errors, I was head hopping, and the dialogue dragged.

While I was disappointed, I did take her advice to heart and began the process of editing and correcting structural and grammatical errors.  I was one of those people that fell for the myth that it didn’t have to be perfect, they have editors to clean that up for you.

I also took on-line courses on writing dialogue that moves your story forward. I had never really thought about dialogue moving a story forward, but I see it now, and have a pretty good understanding of what the on-line instructors were trying to get across.

As far as the POV goes, I never heard  of ‘head hopping’.  I went to google and typed it in. It’s not a hard concept to grasp, but it can be tricky at times and sneak in when you least expect it 🙂

Truth be known, I was ashamed of myself for sending such poor work to an agent.  I never realized how bad it was until I began the arduous process of editing and revising. I definitely didn’t make a good first impression.

Do your homework. When you’re writing your first novel, there is so much you don’t know. You’ll figure that out along the way. It’s a lot more complicated than just putting pen to paper. And you probably thought anybody could do it. 

I hope my blogs help you to avoid some of the mistakes that I have made.

-Jan R

Do Your Homework!

Perseverance Is The Key

julieandrews1I received two rejections this week, and while they were nice well written form letters, that’s what they were. You know the ones that thank you for considering their agency, and assure you that they will give your work a thorough going over before they make a decision. And then they add, if you haven’t heard from us in two weeks, assume we are not interested, and your work isn’t a good fit for us…

I have to admit besides being a little disappointed, I was skeptical and mad. I’ve put a lot of work into my manuscript. I’ve edited so many versions, that it doesn’t even look like it’s former self.  It really is that much better than the original completed work. So what’s the problem?

I’ve heard over and over not to take it personal. It’s business, and truth be known, it may have nothing to do with your manuscript. If there are no obvious flaws with your work, send it out to other agents. Just because you were rejected by one agent, doesn’t mean you will be by the next.

The New York Times best selling author of “The Help”, was rejected by 60 different agents. You read that right. Her 61st attempt was a success. The book was on the best seller list for the entire year and eventually made into a movie.

So why do books get rejected?

Maybe your manuscript just isn’t ready.

  • The author can’t format, spell, and doesn’t understand grammar. The result is  incomprehensible sentences that leave the reader confused, pulling them completely out of the story.
  • Dragging dialogue, head hopping, poor character development, plot holes, info dumping…
  • Maybe your work isn’t that bad and with competent editing, it’s publishable. Staff editors don’t have the time and sometimes don’t even have the necessary experience to clean your work up. Hire an editor before you send your manuscript out for consideration if self-editing isn’t an option.

Maybe your manuscript is ready but….

  • The agent/agency has an abundance of the genre you just submitted, and they are not accepting anything new in that genre until their inventory decreases.  You really weren’t a fit for what they were looking for.
  • Maybe the agent/publisher reviewing your work is in such a bad mood, they would turn down  Nicholas Sparks “The Notebook”,  even if it was handed to them on a silver platter – twenty four did. Agents make mistakes.
  • Maybe the storyline/subject matter you’re writing about isn’t selling right now. Zombie books are getting old. People want something new.
  • The publisher could literally be in a cash crunch, and no matter how great your book is, they can’t purchase it right now. They have a freeze in place until some books start selling, and they can build up their reserves.

What I’m trying to say, is there are a lot of reasons books get rejected, and they may have nothing to do with your work. I’ve read more than once, that perseverance is the key.

If you have a great, publishable piece of work, don’t give up, submit it to other agencies for review. If you have less than perfect work, roll up your sleeves and get to work. Don’t expect someone to fix it for you. They won’t.

Don’t give up!!!

-Jan R

Perseverance Is The Key

Grammar-Get It Right!

4QYYI7VIf you think grammar is just a small child’s mispronunciation of “grandmother,” and if you think syntax is a tax that the church levies on sin, maybe you should consider becoming a nuclear physicist or a neurosurgeon or just about anything at all except a novelist. Dean Koontz

Maybe you’re inexperienced, or perhaps you have been writing for a while, but still haven’t produced a publishable piece of work. You probably have a few things to learn about writing a novel, but grammar should not be one of them. Writing grammatically sound prose has nothing to do with creativity. It is a mechanical process.

You don’t need extensive experience to produce prose that meets minimum standards of correct English usage. You don’t even need a formal education. Grammar is something that can be self-taught. While a publisher may understand your deficiencies in characterization, shaky plotting, and an overblown style, he will not excuse poor grammar.

I remember my first few rejections. One of the reasons cited had nothing to do with the story  and everything to do with the grammar. One of the literary agents stated, “It’s not ready. Your work is full of grammatical and structural errors.”

You should not expect a copyeditor to strip away your poor grammar and replace it with grammatically sound prose. This is one of the myths that I believed. I had a great story, and while it was a little rough around the edges, I thought the idea was enough to carry my work.

Remember, no one cares about your work and your future as much as you do. If you don’t care enough to write well, you are destined to fail.

A hard truth and something to think about.

-Jan R

 

Grammar-Get It Right!