Archive for January, 2010

Rejection

I was cleaning out files a couple of weeks ago when I found a stack of rejections. I’m not sure why I was saving them. Maybe it was a testament to having tried to market my project, or maybe it was to show all those people when the novel sold a million copies, just how good it was. Probably it was because I hate to throw anything away. If you take a look at my office, that’s the most likely reason.

Whatever the reason, I found I didn’t need them any more (if I ever did) and threw them away. It’s time to start a new collection. Time to send out all those query letters on my latest project. Time for more rejections? Of course, it’s part of the publishing game.

The rejections made up quite a collection. Some were formal form letters, saying “we have reviewed your submission and feel it isn’t quite right for our list. Best of luck on finding a home for your novel.” One was a crude scrawl across my query letter saying “Not for me.” Most were nicely written and contained comments meant to be encouraging, but still a rejection. The answer was “NO.”

One was a form letter with a cryptic, hand written note across the top. The note was probably written by a secretary/reader and said “This manuscript is not novel length.” I can’t think of a note that would be less informative than this one. All right, here we have one example of what is not novel length. It was rather like playing the childhood game “Hot and Cold” with only “cold” for a clue. How many submissions would we have to make to determine what is an acceptable length?

Not that it mattered. The novel was short (although I have seen a few books of about 42,000 to 48,000 words that had “A Novel” printed on the cover) and had a number of problems. I still have a copy of it on my computer hard drive (v10.1). Who knows? I may one day decide to go back to it, though I doubt it. It was a good learning experience.

Rejection affects most writers, including J. K. Rowling (something like 26 rejections), Stephanie Meyer, and Audrey Niffenegger. Audrey had enough rejections with her first novel that she decided to go with a small, independent publisher which had trouble keeping up with the millions of copies they eventually published.

So, hang in there and keep collecting those rejections and if you get some really unusual ones, please save them. You never know when you might have to line a bird or hamster cage.

The question for this post is: What is your favorite rejection letter?

On Writing

Everyone wants to write a book… right? Many stop at the wanting, dreaming stage and never get around to the actual writing. For some, it’s a matter of writing “someday, when I have time, and they assemble a writing station, buy a dozen pencils and a stack of pads and a nice desk lamp and wave at it every time they pass by.” For a few, it is “right now” and once they get started, they can’t stop. For me, it is “every chance I get,” which isn’t often enough.

I had written a few short stories, nothing published, but when I started writing my first novel, I knew what I wanted to say, but I got stuck on page 33. I discovered rewriting is easier than writing a first draft. So… the first 33 pages were very polished. Almost perfect. Until I looked at it ten years later. I did sort of finish that one after great struggle, but it was too short (43,000 words) and too predictable and good practice. I sent out query letters and sample pages and the whole bit and collected enough rejection letters (or notes) to fill a file and not one nibble. Was I disappointed? Yes. Discouraged? No, because I discovered I liked the process of writing, and publishing is not as important as writing to me. By the way, because I am a teacher and have that experience and interest in that age group, I now write middle grade children’s novels.

Of course I’d like to see my name on the cover of a book. Maybe. Someday. But what I really get into is the characters. When I write, I think of a situation (a “what if” question) and assemble characters to be in the situation. What if a young boy had to go live with a maiden aunt whom he doesn’t know. Or what if it was a young girl who had to live with her reclusive bachelor uncle? I chose this one because I could already see the characters in my mind. I already knew them. Once I write the first couple of chapters and a “target” for the ending, I know I can finish it.

How can you come up with intersting characters? That is the question for today’s post: How do you develop interesting characters?


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