Rejection: So, does that REALLY mean it’s over?

No one wants to receive a Dear John, Dear Jane, or Dear Writer letter. Whether it’s from an ex-lover, an agent or an editor, rejection is rejection and it’s painful.

There are varying degrees of rejection. Some can actually inspire you, while others can be downright hurtful. Yet no matter how good or bad they are, our egos and confidence take a beating. Initially, we may want to:

• Scream and rip the manuscript to shreds
• Start revising the book–at that moment–from chapter one.
• Burn the rejection letter along with the other 50 stuffed in the desk drawer
• Become BFFs with Jose, Jack or the Captain.
• All of the above or a few of your own creative choices

Yes, I know. It hurts like hell.

But the next day, after the hangover and putting out the fire we started in the trashcan, we grab our manuscript, and tape it back together. Then we try to behave like the professionals we are, and take this rejection as a sign of getting closer to our dream. And remember, the most successful authors were rejected. I might add, some none too nicely.

I ran across an interesting blog, “One Hundred Famous Rejections,” complete with the blogger’s editorial comment(at the end in italics) that I thought could make any aspiring writer struggling with rejection, hopeful. (I only saw 78, listed. However, I’m sure they’ll have a complete list in no time.)

Here are a few from their list. I urge you to look at the rest.

Famous Rejection #1: F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald, considered to be one of the best American writers, wrote The Great Gatsby in 1922. While the book is now ranked #2 in Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century, he once received a rejection letter that read: “You’d have a decent book if you’d get rid of that Gatsby character.” I believe history would beg to differ.”

Famous Rejection #43: Nora Roberts

Bestselling romance novelist Nora Roberts has written over 209 novels! We think that deserves repeating. Two hundred and nine novels, which spent a combined 861 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List. But, before all that, there was rejection.

[Nora Roberts] submitted her manuscripts to Harlequin, the leading publisher of romance novels, but was repeatedly rejected. Roberts says, “I got the standard rejection for the first couple of tries, then my favorite rejection of all time. I received my manuscript back with a nice little note which said that my work showed promise, and the story had been very entertaining and well done. But that they already had their American writer. That would have been Janet Dailey.” Nora found a home with Silhouette books, and since then romance has never been the same.

Famous Rejection #69: Louisa May Alcott

“Little Women” would never have seen the light of day if Louisa May Alcott let rejection hold her back.The editor of Boston’s The Atlantic magazine, James T. Fields, told Alcott’s father, “Tell Louisa to stick to her teaching; she can never succeed as a writer.” As far as rejection goes, that one is pretty harsh! Fortunately, Louisa May Alcott never took it to heart. Instead, she told her father: “Tell him I will succeed as a writer, and some day I shall write for the Atlantic!” Not long after, she did!”

Rejection #72: Jacqueline Susann

“Novelist Jacqueline Susann is famous for her book Valley of the Dolls, which sold over 30 million copies. She’s also known for a particularly nasty rejection letter. Editor Don Preston initially wrote this about Susann’s initial manuscript:

“…she is a painfully dull, inept, clumsy, undisciplined, rambling and thoroughly amateurish writer whose every sentence, paragraph and scene cries for the hand of a pro. She wastes endless pages on utter trivia, writes wide-eyed romantic scenes that would not make the pages of True Confessions, hauls out every terrible show biz cliché in all the books, lets every good scene fall apart in endless talk and allows her book to ramble aimlessly…. most of the first 200 pages are virtually worthless and dreadfully dull and practically every scene is dragged out flat and stomped on by her endless talk… I really don’t think there is a page of this manuscript that can stand in its present form. And after it is done, we will be left with a faster, slicker, more readable mediocrity.” Wow. Now that’s a rejection!”

Famous Rejection #76: Chinua Achebe

“Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” has been considered a milestone in modern African literature written in English, and is one of the first to receive global acclaim. It has sold over 8 million copies worldwide, been translated into over 50 languages, and was selected as Time Magazine’s 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005. And, it too, was rejected: It was sent to several publishing houses; some rejected it immediately, claiming that fiction from African writers had no market potential. Finally it reached the office of Heinemann, where executives hesitated until an educational adviser, Donald MacRae – just back in England after a trip through west Africa read the book and forced the company’s hand with his succinct report: “This is the best novel I have read since the war”. In 1958, the publisher published 2,000 hardcover copies, and the rest is history.”

Lesson in all this?

If and when you get another disappointing ”Dear Writer” letter, take another glance at some of the most famous authors who had their work handed back to them. And remember, they prevailed. We will too.

And one more reminder. Stay true to you and your book. F. Scott Fitzgerald didn’t take out Jay Gatsby, did he? If he had, we would have been reading “The Great Whathisname.”

Chin up and keep writing because it only takes one YES.


Let the writing begin …

I tried to post from my phone yesterday, but it wouldn’t go through. Pffft. Technology. Love it. But sometimes …(I’ll stop here. That’s another blog.)

Anyway … on to more exciting things.

It’s officially Feb. 1 and that means it’s Nano Writing time for more than 20 members of New Jersey Romance Writers. We’re calling our stint JeRoWriMo. We received our rules/guidelines (how cute are we?) and are ready to roll.

I’m starting during my lunch hour today, and I hope to put a small dent in the 30K due by the end of the month. I’ll try to blog my success (and yes, some slip ups) over the next 29 days. I’ve received so much great information from the last post. Big shout out to all the great people who offered support. You rock!

I’m so excited. My keyboard is clean, my monitor tidy and I have a week’s supply of Gummy Bears! (I’ll replenish on Saturday)

Woohoo …let the writing begin!

Nano …Writing at the speed of sound and light …

Faster than a speeding bullet? Maybe. More powerful than a locomotive? Definitely.  It’s not Superman, but Nano writing. And I’m hoping it will help me leap over writer’s block and life’s hurdles in 29 days.

I, and more than a dozen of my sister writers in New Jersey Romance Writers, have taken on the big one. Nano writing in February.  Thirty thousand words in 29 days. (It’s Leap Year, you know.)

This is a huge commitment since I’ve never participated in one before.  However, I know it’s what I need to get my “ass in chair” and get busy. I’m excited and eager to finish the book.

What’s your experience with Nano writing? Did it help? Not? 

Perseverance, thick skin and belief

A writer’s life isn’t easy. Actually, it’s downright hard. Submissions, rejections, contests placing and not placing, can get a person down.

But there’s something I’ve learned as a published writer and an aspiring romance author. There are three things (IMHO) that you should be equipped with if you hope to improve your craft, and get published: A thick skin, perseverance and belief in your work.

A thick skin comes in handy because everyone isn’t going to like your work, and they will call your baby ugly. But you have to let it roll. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have a pity party, or get upset. By all means do that, and then get writing.

Perseverance is important because no one is going to knock on your door and ask you for your manuscript or what you’re working on next. You have to be determined enough to take the blows, the criticisms, dust yourself off and keep moving forward. It takes perseverance.

Last but not least, believe in yourself and that your work is worth reading. We’re our own worst enemy. (I know I can be.) We’re hypercritical, and full of doubt. Get over that too. If you have a consistent record of putting out good work, thrive on that. Make your good work even better, and then strive for excellence.

I entered two contests once and the first time around didn’t final in either. Talk about disappointing. I sulked for a few days—okay weeks. Thankfully, I got over it and decided that I wanted to be a published romance writer. I refused to give up. So, I attended more workshops, became immersed (even more than I already was) in books on plot, point of view, and conflict and talked to industry professionals. I used what I learned and began to revise that story that originally fell short.

The results?

After submitting a few years later, to both contests, I not only placed in final round, but won third place in both. (one of them just happens to be the Romance Slam Jam Aspiring Author Contest.) This is a huge accomplishment for me, and the experience did two things. It verified my growth as a romance writer, and allowed me to see, without hesitation, that the road to publication is worth the angst that sometimes accompanies it.

Go for yours.

Writing better …and getting it done

It may be only December 3, but I’m already planning my travel and writing itinerary for 2010!

Next year will consist of a couple of writer’s conferences. The Romantic Times Convention, takes me to Columbus Ohio. I can’t say I’ve really ever been there. I’ve flown over and driven through.

This time I happy to say, I’ll be staying for a few days. The conference kicks off at the end of April and looks to offer a great deal of information that authors, published and aspiring, will want to know. E-publishing, social media, writing erotica, (Woohoo!) and good old fashion how to write a synopsis are just a few of the things I saw on the agenda. The RT Convention Web site has a list of events happening and over 400 authors who plan to attend.

I’m all about learning all I can, so this will be a definite stop.

Romance Writers of America National Conference is in Nashville this year. Since I attended in Washington, last year I’m not sure if I’ll make this one. However, plans do change! Of course they’re offering great workshops on the craft of writing, publishing and marketing your manuscript. It should be a great conference.

If you don’t think you’ll be able to attend any workshops or conferences this year, there’s a great book entitled, “Writing the Breakout Novel,” by Donald Maass. Yes, of the Donald Maass literary agency. You may want to check it out. This is a great resource and I’ve shared this information with all my writing buddies. Mr. Maass also has a workbook to complement the book and it features actual exercises and workshops that he uses during his live sessions. I purchased mine at Barnes and Noble, however I’m sure you can find it on Amazon.

Those are the trips so far, but locally I will attend writers’ meetings for inspiration and craft.

How are you planning to write better, and get the work done?

Reflecting and giving thanks …

Thanksgiving in the United States is usually the point when most people recognize that the current year is winding down. However, I think Thanksgiving is also a time when many of us reflect and give thanks for things in our lives and the lives of our family and friends.

On a personal note, I’m happy to be a year older, and yes wiser. I know that in the publishing industry, which is relatively new to me, there are people who know more about it than I do—authors, industry experts, writers conference speakers, contest judges and agents. I’m thankful that I’ve taken their advice by continuing to learn the business. It continues to be an education worth having.

I’m thankful that I’m at a point in my life where I can take on an endeavor such as writing romance novels. It’s been put on the back burner for quite some time, due to day job responsibilities and family, but now it’s my turn to let loose all the stories that have been hibernating on my hard drive.

I’m indebted to my family who put up with my craziness—locking myself in the room and not answering the phone until a chapter is finished.

I’m thankful for my critiquing partner, Louise, who always wants more and puts up with my meltdowns, listens to my rants and raves, and then tells me to, “keep writing.” I’m thankful for my good friends, Sharon and Diane, who will journey to New Jersey the minute I get “the call” to come party with me.

I’m grateful for the many people I have met, who have expressed interest in my work, and tell me to hurry and get the #%@$# book published.

I’m thankful to everyone who reads this blog. You rock!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

The Best Rejection Letter Ever …

200336717-001The two longest months of my life resulted in the best rejection letter I’ve ever received.

Originally, I had an appointment with an agent at Romance Writers of America Conference in July. However, they were unable to attend and allowed me to pitch via email.

Prior to pitching this agent, there was something I liked from the start. They were cordial and professional, and we’d established a bit of a rapport through email. It could have been when they said, “Sorry I won’t be able to meet you in person, but have fun at the conference.”

I was excited about the prospect of pitching via email, but wasn’t sure how one went about it. However, I did what I thought was normal, I sent my query.

To my utter amazement, the agent requested my full manuscript. Not only was my manuscript requested, but I was able to email it, which I found so much better. I was over-the-moon delirious.

After checking my manuscript for proper formatting for the tenth time, I clicked the send button, and then played the game all writers have experienced–the waiting game. I queried in June and received a response in September, which is very good considering how busy agents are.

As I mentioned, this was the best rejection letter I’ve ever received. It was an email specifically telling me what they liked about my book and why they couldn’t represent me. They explained that, “the chick lit voice” in my book really didn’t work for them.

Honesty, and constructive criticism? It doesn’t get better than that!

I continued to read my rejection letter and instead of the usual display of disappointment, I smiled. The agent ended by saying, “However, I do think it was well written and will find a place in the market I’m just not the right person to represent it. I wish you the very best in your literary career and I have no doubt you will sell.”

That sentence was golden. Not only did it confirm that I was on the right track, but it gave me a boost to forge ahead. Every day I get closer to having my baby on a shelf or two at Barnes and Noble, and on Amazon.

There’s an old adage my mother said often, “What doesn’t kill us, will make us strong.” Sound familiar?

It’s true. This particular rejection didn’t kill me. It made me stronger, as do ALL my rejection letters, especially the overly nasty rejections. (Unfortunately, I’ve had a couple.)

However, THIS rejection letter was unique because the agent spoke to me, the author. I almost felt as though I was told in person, as opposed to email.

I was impressed and would definitely query this agent again–sans the chick lit voice.