"You are a writer. Right now. With only what you have in your head as it is. You don't need anything else. You are a writer. You just need to keep writing. Don't let the Writing Fairy tell you that you aren't. That you need something more, that you're pretending to be something you're not. Hemmingway wasn't Hemmingway when he started. He was just a guy named Ernest who sat down at his typewriter." ~Joseph Devon, "The Myth of the Writing Fairy"
Today's post, which was supposed to be last Wednesday's, then yesterday's (the holidays have taken over and the days are just zooming by) is about something many writers who have their heart set on publication know all too well -- rejections.
A little over a week ago, there was a chat on twitter regarding queries and rejections. Following the chat, my friend Andi and I had a discussion about it, and I mentioned how I'd found myself feeling a bit confused as to what some of the writers had tweeted. At least a few had mentioned "helpful" rejections, and I wondered how many of those were actually different variations of the standard form letter, and how many of them truly were beyond the norm. Then Andi suggested that this would actually be a good topic to post on the blog, so here it is.
Can you tell me what these three rejections have in common?
Dear Ms. Brooks,
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to read THIS AWESOME BOOK. Though I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, I don't believe that my agency will have the opportunity to represent it at this time. Please know that this has nothing to do with your work, and that you may find an agent who feels completely different about your idea.
Agent So and So
Dear Jessica Brooks,
After much consideration of THIS AWESOME BOOK, I've decided I will have to pass. Thank you so much for allowing me to see your work, and I wish you luck in future endeavors.
Agent So and So
Thank you for thinking of me when seeking representation for THIS AWESOME BOOK. While we really like the concept of this book, we are unable to place it with our agency at this time. We believe your book may have market potential, and would like to thank you for considering us. We wish you the best of luck in finding an agent as zealous about your work as you are.
Agent So and So
If you answered standard form rejection letter, you were absolutely correct. The above three (fake) rejections were personalized and polite, but they were all standard form rejections.
I'm wondering how many first time writers who've just begun their plunge into the query process can actually tell the difference between a form rejection, and one that is not. Over the past few months I've noticed comments across the internet by writers stating they didn't understand how such a nice query could, in fact, be a rejection. The agency liked their work, thought it had potential, or appreciated the concept. So why was it then, that it was rejected, without the agent asking for at least a partial submission?
The answer is simple: Because that's their rejection letter.
I have to say, I do feel for agents. They receive a gazillion queries a year, and are, for the most part, doing their best to reply to most of them in a timely manner. If their response is short and to the point, a handful of writers will consider them rude. If they state that they enjoyed the premise but can't represent that specific piece of work at the present time, some writers see that as them being impatient and not giving the writer enough of a chance. So in a way, there's no right way for agents to reject. Someone somewhere is going to read into the words, or in between the words. They're going to want to know what it means, if maybe they should just fix it a little bit until it seems to fit the agency's particular style and then resubmit, or if it means something else.
Now, before I go any further in this post, I'd like to clarify that I haven't received a single rejection that I would deem helpful. Polite, yes. Slightly personal, sure. But helpful? As in, "this work could be better if this or that" or what other people have stated as rejections they've received that truly help them improve their work? No.
So you're probably wondering, what is a helpful rejection already, Jessica? You've gone on and on about these mysterious helpful rejections, and now I want to know what you're talking about! Well, the problem is, I actually don't know. But I do know that the above made-up rejections shared in this post do take the sting of the actual rejection away a bit, which is nice.
I guess the point of this post is
1) To point out that an agent can be polite and sound excited or appreciative in their rejection and still truly not be interested in your work.
2) I, along with other people, would love to hear an example of a helpful rejection.
How about you? Have you received a rejection that made you wonder just what it meant, exactly? Or have you received a helpful rejection that you could enlighten us with by paraphrasing here in the comments?
So here we are. You. Me. Henry. My desk, a stack of journals, lousy illustrations by yours truly, stacks of paper scraps with chicken scratch all over them, and of course, one steaming hot cup of coffee (thanks, Lovemuffin!).
I feel as though I'm in a three-ring (Or is it ringed?) circus. (If you'd like to picture me as the clown, fine. I wear a size ten shoe anyway so my feet being humacious is something I'm used to. But I will *not* wear that big red nose. Sorry. I have to draw the line somewhere.) I have this women's fic piece I've been working on, the second book that would come after FLORA (which may or may not even go anywhere so is it really smart to work on it all of the time? Obviously not. I'm not writing it, anyway, just jotting down ideas as they come.), and the WiP that came to me not that long ago, which I think is a pretty darn good idea if I do say so myself but will involve lots of thinking and brain wracking and hard work and well, I'm in lazy mode because it's the holidays and whatnot -- you know how that is, right?
So when I get into this mode of ideas crashing through my head, I go back and forth constantly from journal to journal, and not a whole lot of actual writing gets done. (Plot points? Yes. Dialogue? Once in a while. But word count? Nuh-uh.) When the day is done, I pretty much have nothing to show for it. Very frustrating.
I'm trying to decide which project to focus my energy on, but this deciding stuff is for the birds. Lovemuffin wants me to work on the shiny new (YA) WiP, instead of going back to the adult one. He's proud of the idea I've come up with -- him actually saying "Well I think you should work on such-and-such" is quite a big deal. But... I want to be lazy! (How dare I want something like that, right? Writer's can't be lazy! Hello, Jessica! What are you thinking?)
Ooh look. Donuts... on an eraser. Do you think it tastes like donuts?
I had a great post idea for today, but this weekend was insanely busy, and my brain is mush. Therefore, I'm doing a switcheroo -- today's post is now what would have been Wednesday's, and Wednesday's will be the one I haven't begun to write yet. ;)
So... spell check, or no spell check? I say both, as long as you ultimately check everything yourself to make sure it's correct. Here's a great example showing how the spell check feature can be a crutch...
Eye halve a spelling checker It came with my pea sea It plainly marques for my revue Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.
Eye strike a key and type a word And weight four it to say Weather eye am wrong oar write It shows me strait a weigh.
As soon as a mist ache is maid It nose bee fore two long And eye can put the error rite It's rare lea ever wrong.
Eye have run this poem threw it Eye am shore your pleased two no It's letter perfect awl the weigh My checker tolled me sew.
“You can sit there, tense and worried, freezing the creative energies, or you can start writing something. It doesn't matter what. In five or ten minutes, the imagination will heat, the tightness will fade, and a certain spirit and rhythm will take over.”
~ Leonard Bernstein
I thought this was pretty appropriate considering NaNoWriMo is over!