Revision, Writers

Rejection and Persistence-The Writing Life

Rejection and Writing-Ray Bradbury

I saved this Ray Bradbury quote. Not because I plan to wallpaper a room with rejection slips but to remind myself that my list of rejection e-mails for two of my manuscripts amounts to maybe a quarter of a wall.

Rejection emails don’t phase me too much anymore. With a click of a button, they slide right into my “Queries” folder unless the lit agent wrote something more than a form letter. I jot down whatever suggestions they offered and send good thoughts to those agents for taking a minute to say something constructive.

And then I take a deep breath, put my big girl panties on and get back to work.

Now that doesn’t mean I don’t pay attention to constructive criticism, I’d be an idiot not to take someone’s suggestions and toss them around, see if they fit and give it a try.

This is also the time when I remind myself that I’ve lived through worse than an email rejection letter and got through it, survived and thrived.

A rejection letter is a little nudge, sometimes a kick, to remind me that I am doing the work. I’m sending out query letters.

I love to put words together. Many times I found that I have to learn how to put those words together in a better way.

I remind myself that although I’ve been rejected, I must be doing something right if I also receive requests for more pages, writing fellowships, and selected to be mentored in an Association of Writing Professionals (AWP) program.

All of those good things have been interspersed with the not so great. As I write this, my little email slider dings and I see another rejection letter came in my mailbox. I’ll share with you:

Thanks so much for your query. I’m really grateful that you chose to submit to me, but I’m sorry to say I’m not connecting enough with this project. I hope you will try me again with future work if you don’t find representation for this.

Young women in prison do not connect with a lot of people especially when I write about young women who are from ‘subgroups,’ ‘subcultures,’ et al. (the immigrant, the addicted, the gang banger, the sexually abused).

I remind myself that someone out there will connect with that story. I just have to get through the ‘gatekeepers.’

I remind myself and ask you to remind yourself, that persistence is a quality to hold onto if you want to become a writer and author.

On writing-Jennifer Weiner
On writing-Jennifer Weiner 

Only persistence keeps me going, walking, trudging through the revisions and rejections.

And now, back to work.

" Strenght, Agents, Authors, Books, Encouragement, poetry, poets, Publishing, query letters, Wisdom, Writing

Seven Actions To Take After A Rejection Letter

Debbie Ohi knows.
Debbie Ohi knows.

Rejection letters can knock you on your butt. And that’s okay, it happens, stuff hurts, rejection sucks. But you can’t stay on the floor, rubbing your a**.

1.  Get your butt off the floor and go do something nice for yourself. Take a walk, draw, watch a comedy, play with your kids or pet. This includes eating or drinking-5 minute limit. Put on the timer.

After 30+ ‘thank you, but no thank you’ emails on one manuscript and going on 20 for another, I’ve numbed out when I begin  reading text that begins with “Dear Author.” (As I type, I swear another ‘Dear Author’ email blurb popped up on my screen).

Mona AlvaradoFrazier-Dear Author
Mona AlvaradoFrazier-Dear Author

2. Don’t stuff your feelings. I usually say, “Ah, crap,” or “Pftttt.” Sometimes I whine, “I’m never going to get published….” You can ‘wau-wau’ ‘boo-boo,’ but only for five minutes-again, put on the timer.

3. Think of the ‘no thank you,’ like James Lee Burke (his novels have been made into films):

“Every rejection is incremental payment on your dues that in some way will be translated back into your work.”
—James Lee Burke

I’ve also had many more emails that begin with my actual name and say some nice things before the ‘NO’ comes. The agent tries to soften the blow. Bless his/her little heart. 

4. With each rejection, I file the email in my little folder and then I either re-read the MS, or ask my writing sisters for more critique. Keep trying.

Twice, out of 50+ times, I’ve had what felt like B-12 shots to the heart.

“I’d love to read more, please send the entire manuscript…”

Six weeks later I get another type of shot, one in the butt.

“After careful consideration….Uh, no.” Well that’s not entirely true. One rejection felt like that while the other was thoughtful.

5. If someone gives you specific criticism, regard it as a gift. Let them know you appreciate their comments. 

This agent took the time to explain why she didn’t accept the MS. She supplied some examples, some suggestions, all in a couple of paragraphs. I felt respected, overjoyed, and then grateful.

I shared the agents comments with my writing sisters. They were happy for me. Why? Because I know, we know, that I am much farther along the road to getting an acceptance than I once thought. I’m going to work on those weak areas for the next month or until I get it right.

“An absolutely necessary part of a writer’s equipment, almost as necessary as talent, is the ability to stand up under punishment, both the punishment the world hands out and the punishment he inflicts upon himself.”
—Irwin Shaw

Rejection letters are part of the process of writing. That’s just the way it is, for writers, for everybody. It takes a strong woman/man, a bien chingona to keep writing pass the hill of rejection letters. 

6. Turn your rejection around and see what you can gain. Go get the timer again. Shut off your computer. Now, write out your feelings, huff and puff, or boo-hoo on paper. Rip it to shreds if you want. Slam dunk it into the wastebasket. Or put it away for when you need that kind of emotion in one of your stories or poems.

7. Keep growing. Attend a critique group. Enroll in online or offline classes. Keep reading. Attend at least one conference a year. Spend more time on your writing work than on social media. (You can devote more time to that area after you’re published). 

I know you can do it. Keep on writing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chingonas, Encouragement, Writing

Writing a Query Letter Sucks Sometimes

Getting to the gate
Getting to the gate

Ugh writing query letters suck. They are a necessity for the unpublished writer without an agent. Writing a good query is not for the faint of heart, you have to be in it for the long haul, you have to put on your big girl chones (panties) or big boy pants to write, rewrite, a few times. It takes a chingona to re-work a query and not give up.

You can moan and groan or look at the query letter as an adventure-with turbulence. The query letter is your calling card, your advertisement for your unborn baby (book) that you have worked on for months and years. The query letter is your ticket to the “Gatekeeper” who can unlock the giant fence that leads to another huge gate “Publisher.”

Writing the query letter doesn’t have to suck too much if you get a format down, work hard

at revising it after a critique, and follow the advice of literary agents who read query letters for a living.There are tons of articles on how to write a query letter.  

A search for “How to write a query letter ” yields about 3,560,000 results in 0.22 seconds.

It is very hard work assembling your story into a calling card that makes an agent say “I gotta have this manuscript…”

You only have one page, three or four paragraphs that have to seize the agent’s attention and keep him/her reading for more than 10 seconds.

Your query has to grab and hold that agent, make her nod her head and say, “This is promising…” Your query has to have her type “I’m interested…send me your full manuscript.”

When you get a request for full you do the “OMG” gasp, reread the email, do the happy dance, mouth a prayer of thanks, light a candle

and ask your friends to send their positive vibes, energy, and prayers into the universe for you.

Or maybe that’s just me.

happy dance
happy dance

Here are two formats I used when writing my query letters. At the end of the post I’ve copied a Twitter feed from the cool agents who are on Twitter’s #tenqueries. You can learn a lot from the rejection/pass stack. 

The first formula for a query is from Nathan Bransford’s blog:

[Agent name], [genre], [personalized tidbit about agent], [title], [word count], [protagonist name], [description of protagonist], [setting], [complicating incident], [verb], [villain], [protagonist’s quest], [protagonist’s goal], [author’s credits (optional)], [your name]

Now, look how your query turns out:

Dear [Agent name], I chose to submit to you because of your wonderful taste in [genre], and because you [personalized tidbit about agent]. [protagonist name] is a [description of protagonist] living in [setting]. But when [complicating incident], [protagonist name] must [protagonist’s quest] and [verb] [villain] in order to [protagonist’s goal]. [title] is a [word count] work of [genre]. I am the author of [author’s credits (optional)], and this is my first novel. Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon. Best wishes, [your name]

Another formula is from Agent Query: 

  1. Paragraph One—The Hook: A hook is a concise, one-sentence tagline for your book. It’s meant to hook your reader’s interest, and wind them in.
  2. Paragraph Two—Mini-synopsis: This is where you get to distill your entire 300 page novel into one paragraph: (approx. 150 words).
  3. Paragraph Three—Writer’s bio keep it short and related to writing.
  4. Your Closing: As a formal closing, be sure to do two things. First, thank the agent for her time and consideration. Only send what the submission guidelines specify.

The hashtag #tenqueries is for an agent  who goes through his or her query inbox and shares the reasons why they do or do not request a manuscript. This is the post from November 7, 2013. Read from bottom to the top: Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 4.05.11 PM Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 4.06.48 PM November 8, 2013 Screen Shot 2013-11-08 at 2.19.52 PM Screen Shot 2013-11-08 at 2.20.25 PM Screen Shot 2013-11-08 at 2.22.21 PM

This agent read 20 queries and requested two. The odds are slim but you can increase your odds by writing a great query and following the submission guidelines the agent has posted.

Now, go write and rewrite.  I hope you get to do the happy dance soon.