Keep Calm and Write On
Rejection. Line by Line.
byon August 14th, 2010 at 06:36 PM (707 Views)
Even the most nicely phrased ďNoĒ is still a rejection. But even the bluntest refusal has something you can learn from it.
Iím lucky; my latest rejection is full of encouragement, advice and helpful comment. And now Iíve gotten over the sting of it also being a ďNo,Ē I thought I might share it with you, line by line, along with my thoughts on how Iím going to use this valuable resource.
Background first Ė although itís all in my earlier posts, if you want the nitty gritty. Basically, this is from a super agent Ė director at one of Londonís biggest agencies Ė who took a chance on me and an earlier novel a couple of years ago.
Even after a lot of work, that one didnít sell, and Iíve been trying to come up with something else she might like for the last little while. She shot down my latest manuscripts Ė [I]Dream a Little Dream[/I] and [I]An A to Z of Love.[/I] Hereís why:
[I]Sorry it has taken me a little while to come back to you. I do think you should share your work with other agents, yes, because you are a good writer and your work has charm and may well appeal to someone else more than it does to me right now. [/I]
Sheíd mentioned before that she just didnít love these books enough, but that the passion required was, of course, subjective. Iíd asked if she thought I should share it with other agents, and this was a good, honest, helpful response to that. Iím prepping the manuscript for submission now, based on her feedback and my own gut instinct.
[I]Iíll be totally honest with you, wanting to be helpful more than tactful. Commercial fiction is terribly susceptible to fashion and although trends come and go quite quickly they totally dominate the markets while they reign. There was a point a few years ago when vintage-y, romantic, rural, wistful fiction was Ďiní. And it probably will be again before long. But right now your ideas and writing style feel a little out of step. Publisher aren't buying many debuts at the moment but when they do they are modern, harder-edged, witty and sexy rather than gently humorous. (Or they are book club reads - sort of accessible-literary). [/I]
This is useful market information. Unfortunately, hard, witty and sexy are not really my forte (pity my husband...) I donít enjoy that sort of thing so much, and so I write it very poorly. This is one area where I might just have to wait for trends to change. Iím actually working on something in a totally different genre that might have more success, so perhaps itís time to focus on that for a while.
[I]I liked the warm tone and lovely detail in DREAM but the characters felt rather cliche'd to me, especially the older generation. I am really sorry, but I think putting a lot of old people into a book for young people is a big risk. Similarly, in AN A TO Z, the first few pages feature a dear old soul. There are loads of members of the RNA out there writing books about people in their 50s, 60s and older and they're not getting published. Write about young people! At least you know what it's like to be young in 2010...[/I]
This is really helpful. Unfortunately, in DREAM the older generation are vital to the theme and meaning of the story. This tells me that this didnít come across strongly enough, and I need to work on it. That said, there are things I can do to make it feel Ďyounger.í The main couple are in their late twenties, which is fine, but thereís also another sub-plot couple, a little younger, who have very little page time. I think that developing that sub-plot more thoroughly might balance things out better. Obviously, I also need to do some deeper character work, to make them feel more real. Iím already working on ideas for this.
In A to Z, however, the older lady sidekick could really be any age. If I revise this for submission later in the year, maybe I'll make her in her forties, instead. We'll see.
[I]You are a very able writer who definitely deserves to be published. If you want to write rural communities, that's fine, but make sure the emotional storylines feel modern or relevant to your generation. Have a look in the shops at what is working in this area (like that Herriot type stuff, about being a modern vet, I forget her name). And keep your characters in check; they are liable to run off with a scene and change its tack altogether at the moment! Use dialogue more sparingly, to leave room for action. Don't lose your sweet romantic touch but up the ante in plot terms.[/I]
Again, fantastically useful. Lots of things to focus on in the rewrite, and in future books. I need to sharpen up my scenes, my dialogue, and do some more plot work. Yes, thatís a hell of a lot, but did you read the first sentence of the paragraph? She thinks I deserve to be published. That means Iíll put in all the work necessary.
[I]It's not easy to criticise someone who seems on the surface to be doing everything right but I hope some of this feedback is helpful and I definitely do think you should seek other opinions. I am sure quite a few readers will spot your talent. [/I]
[I]All my very best[/I]
So, despite the work ahead, everything here is encouraging Ė at least, thatís how I choose to view it!
What did I do next? I sent a grateful, polite and warm email back, to which she responded very positively again Ė leaving the door open for me to send her something direct in the future, if I think it will suit. Thatís a nice position to be in.
Of course, I know that some rejections are much harder to learn from. On the face of it, a form letter tells you nothing at all. But look deeper. Do you need to work harder to hook the readerís attention from the off, perhaps? Or do you need to do serious work on your plot/characters/writing style? If youíre not sure where to start, get other people to read your work. Online critique groups, writing groups, even a very literary friend (as long as itís someone you trust to tell you the truth, however hard).
Keep at it, and youíll progress to the personal rejection Ė and mark this as the triumph that it is! Someone saw enough promise in your writing to tell you what you need to work on next.
Perhaps the most important thing is to see each rejection as a step forward. Youíre marking time, paying your dues and Ė most importantly Ė learning every single step of the way. Take encouragement from your rejections, and theyíll be worth much more than the paper theyíre printed on.
[B]0 comments: [/B]