Wednesday, August 29, 2012

My Best Rejection Letter Ever


I had given up on New York publishing houses. I'd given up on New York editors and agents. I had set my goals high and rejection after rejection came. Years of it.

But I still clung to my dream. I believed in myself. I believed that there was a reason why all these stories circled in my head. I kept writing.

I decided to try some smaller presses. I did a little research. Saw a familiar name. Paula Guran. Years earlier I'd somehow come across Dark Echo, a blog she ran at the time and had dared to email with questions asking for some tips, some guidance, anything. You know how we authors will grovel for publishing data. She suggested I go to some conventions, meet people, network, etc. I'd never considered such a thing. I hadn't known that folks like me gathered in gaggles and flocks like that.

Following that advice, my happy ass went to some conventions. I met Paula in person. I followed her around like a groupie following a rockstar, carried stuff, whatever I could do to be handy and helpful, grateful for the chance to listen in as someone in the know spoke to others in the field. Not that I did much with it, but it was interesting and educational for someone who suffers from shyness.

Fast-forward to the time when I'd decided to give small presses a try and went researching a bit. I discovered that Paula was editing JUNO BOOKS, a newly launching line full of heroines. I had a story that fit. I sent off my submission with a kind cover letter reminding her of who I was.

I received back, in a short amount of time, a polite rejection that --gasp!-- bothered to offer a few paragraphs about why she felt the story wouldn't work for the line. It hit me, I suddenly felt like someone actually looked at the pages I sent. She'd read it. She'd really read it, understood it, and could explain what was wrong.

Though saddened, (duh), I was also terribly perplexed.

Some of that gold was right there in my hands, that...publishing data.

Now, there are those authors who believe that their creative babies are perfect. They must be presented to the world exactly as they are written or they loose their luster. A few might even suggest that listening to editors is akin to selling out. They protectively cradle their pages and coo over them when some horrid editor says they are ugly.

I fashioned a kind of new-mind-set-wire-rim-glasses out of that gold, and through that lens I looked long and hard at this lump I'd created. I saw the flaws, too. It made perfect sense. I trusted that professional in the business was a professional in the business for a reason, that she knew her stuff, yanno?

And like an evil scientist, I started amputating.

I severed characters from the plot.

I also committed cosmetic surgery on that lump.

I sewed together pieces of different characters creating a single supporting character that was faster, stronger and just plain more than the sum of her original parts.

I stood back and cried out, "It's alive! It's!"

Ok, maybe I didn't do that but I did send off a nice little letter to Paula letting her know that I had taken her direction to heart, and reworked the story in effort to fit better with her goals for the line, and asked ever so sweetly (read that as begged) if she would please take another look.

She did.

VICIOUS CIRCLE was the result.

So my best rejection evah!!!! was the rejection that offered helpful feedback. In the end, I believe that showing her I was willing to take instruction, willing to work, and able to do all this in a professional, cordial manner made a HUGE difference.

Advice to glean from this little blog:

1.) Keep Writing.
2.) Be openmindedly willing to make changes.

My philosophy about it is this: You had your fun making that creative baby. But there comes a time to set it loose. It has to go out there in the world and meet people. If you're lucky, it'll land in the right spot, and start making some money, and sending some back to you.

That is the goal, right? To make a living sitting in your pajamas and fuzzy slippers, sippin java in front of the computer writing stories and that people will pay you for the entertainment you've provided. So take direction from the pros with grace. Consider their words thoughtfully, not offendedly. Then decide how you can incorporate THEIR guidance into YOUR story.


  1. Great advice, Linda - seems like it happens this way for a lot of us!

  2. I've heard the term 'kill your darlings" when reworking a manuscript. I do a lot of developmental editing and luckily all my authors want to hear what is wrong as well as what is right. Stories are like puzzles to me...I've love to picking them apart finding plot holes and inconsistencies! *cackling and waving butcher knife*

  3. Sharon I sooo get the puzzle! I love creating that puzzle /novel. :)