A Writer’s Career

More on Rejection

A couple more thoughts on Rejection—I was looking at rejection letters from the point of view of the writer and all the frustration that brings. But in truth, there is another side to that picture. Agents and publishers are covered up by queries of all types. Most queries, they say, are far from being professional, filled with grammatical errors, punctuation mistakes, and all around sloppiness. A lot of writers can be very persistent. While this is not a flaw in itself, it is unwelcome when we are, shall we say, not quite ready for prime time.

One agent even tells of a query spammer who sends query letters by e-mail once a week and vows to continue this practice until he is published. Each week he is rejected, deleted, and marked as spam, but nothing works. (Writer’s Digest, Feb 2010 p17) I should think by this time he is working under a brownie point deficit.

I had almost forgotten a rejection letter I received from an agent which said “We accept submissions only from published writers.” Nice work if you can get it, rather like a three or four day work week. Let someone else do the hard work.

On and On – A Writer’s Career

Do you suppose, when Sue Grafton first started her alphabet series, that she planned ahead? Using the alphabet as part of the title commits you to (if successful) 26 novels. She has just published “U is for Undertow” which gives her five more to go. On her current schedule (one every two years) she will be eighty when she publishes “Z is for Zero”, no doubt pushing her walker along to book signings and interviews. I’m guessing she isn’t worried about what she will write after that. She is making some progress in the series, however. Her main character finally traded her beat-up VW Bug for something newer.

J. K. Rowling’s series covered seven Harry Potter years and she stayed close to that actual time, once she found a publisher. (Ever wonder what happened to the editors who turned down her series?) She completed the seven volumes in about 10 years. She doesn’t have to worry about income now, but will she write anything else? She’s still young.

J. D. Salinger died in the past three days at the age of 91. His classic novels “Catcher in the Rye” and “Franny and Zooey” are still selling well, but he stopped publishing after several short stories and four books, moved to the country, and dropped out of society at a young age. Couldn’t handle the press, I guess.

Harper Lee struggled for about twelve years with her first novel. She also helped Truman Capote gather notes for his book “In Cold Blood” which took some of her time. For the next 14 years there was rumor of a second novel, but it never appeared. For most of her life, she has stayed out of the public eye and has not written anything else. I assume she said everything she had to say in the one book.

Jean M. Auel started writing a short story around 1980 and then discovered what she was really writing was the popular six volume “Earth’s Children” series. She cranked them out on a regular schedule until volume four took five years to produce. Readers then waited twelve years for volume five. That was eight years ago and volume six is still nowhere in sight. She became interested in doing research on cave dwelling and cave art in Europe somewhere in the process, so there’s no hurry. (It’s tax deductable.) Except that she is getting on in years. The devoted wait patiently (sort of) to learn the fate of Ayla and Jondalar.

Nicholas Sparks produced one or two novels per year for a while but seems to have slowed now. He has never seen a rejection letter. He found an agent on the first try and she called him two days later and told him she had an offer of a one million dollar advance for his novel. “The Notebook” was later made into a major motion picture.

Jodi Picoult seems to produce a new novel about every six to eight months and I consider her the current champ of mass-produced popular novels. She likes surprise endings, so that’s no surprise to her readers. I read two of them and was cured.

So the question is, do you have a favorite author story?

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