Thursday, February 20, 2014

My First Rejection,

of my writing that is. At 54 I've had many rejections in my life which makes this one quite tolerable to bear. I queried this particular agent just two weeks ago, they did not want any chapters of my book only the query letter which involved just two paragraphs about my novel. I had to leave room in the one page query to talk about my past accomplishments, and the genre of the book as they requested in their submission guidelines. I am very pleased with their rapid turnaround since they said to expect 4-6 weeks before a response.

So you can see for yourself what a real rejection looks like, I've copied the email below removing of course the agents name.

Dear Ms. O'Shaughnessy,

Thank you for querying......................about your book project. We have evaluated your materials and regrettably, your project is not a right fit for our agency. We currently have a very full clientele and must be highly selective about the new projects we pursue.

Thank you again for thinking of us. Please know that we wish you much success in all of your future writing and publishing endeavors.


......................... Literary Associates

So now what? Well I'll continue to do what I've been doing. Constant rewriting and revising and I will send out several more queries this week. If I receive more rejections then I will send out more queries and so on and so on. In my reading I have learned that an agents rejection can be due to multiple variables. They don't see a market for my work, or my book just sounds dull, or perhaps they have all the stories they need that are similar to mine, or they did not feel a connection with me through my query letter.

But I do believe in my book and will continue to polish and improve. I will also be starting my second novel soon so that in the event an agent is interested in my novel The Child Clare, and wants to see more of my work, I will have it ready.

With that said, I did have some fun looking at other famous rejection letters of the past. They were grand to read, at least for me. I'm sure the authors on the other end were not so thrilled to receive them, especially poor Miss Gertrude Stein, bestselling author, when she opened up this little gem in her mailbox.
 With all the right things said you might wonder, how do I really feel?

Well, I am curious. I would love to know the following: did the agent feel anything when she read my letter? Was there the slightest bit of interest? Did she walk down the hall to her colleague and say "what do you think", only to be reminded that they printed a story like mine two years ago and it still isn't selling well? Or did she really, really want to represent me but her schedule was so full and they were representing so many authors she knew she couldn't do my project justice?

Yeah. That one makes me giggle too.

But I will never know. And that is just fine. Really, I am fine.


OK, I feel slightly, just slightly bruised. As if someone ran into my shopping cart at the grocery store causing my apples to fall out of the basket and well...bruised them, But they are not bad apples in their entirety. They are still firm and red and shiny with a couple tender spots that if not cared for right away will turn bad. So, I'm going to take them home, peel them and make a nice pie with a brown sugar topping.

Then I will take a piece up to my desk with a big carafe of black coffee and I will keep writing.

For more great rejections take a side trip to: Famous Rejection Letters

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Genre? What Genre?

Genre Free Cover
When I started writing my first novel I thought it was about a husband and his wife their family and their extended family. Then I believed it to be about a couple and their family. Then I thought it was about the couple and their child. But when it came down to it after several revisions, the story was simply about a woman and her child.

In basic literary terms the genre would be Women's Fiction, a story about  woman written by a woman. (Keep in mind some experts in the field think Women's Fiction can be written by men, but that's a whole 'nother post.)

Seems simple enough. But what type of Women's Fiction? Is it Women's Contempory Fiction?  Women's Historical Fiction? Women's Literary Fiction? Women's PMS Fiction, Women's Commercial Fiction? Or just the fun and sassy Chic Lit?

I know. It gets very confusing.

To complicate it even more, the Women's Fiction genre is just one of approximately 150 fiction genres. I won't even go anywhere near the NON-fiction genres.

Some of the most popular fiction genres are:

Adventure Novel
Children's Literature
Comic Novel
Erotic Fiction
Historical Fiction
Literary Fiction
Political Fiction
Pulp Fiction (I know, I thought that was just a movie too!)
Religious Fiction

And then within those, are subcatagories of fiction.

Under Horror, for example you have: Gothic Horror, Southern Gothic Horror (What is that? Banjo playing Zombies with dark smoky eyes and pierced tongues?" Followed by Supernatural Horror, Cosmic Horror, Body Horror and something called Splatterpunk Horror.

I don't even want to know.

Oh OK, yes I do. Seems Splatterpunk Horror (according to Wikipedia) is —a term coined in 1986 by David J. Schow at the Twelth World Fantasy Convention and refers to horror fiction distinguished by its graphic, gory, depiction of violence. "Hyperintensive horror with no limits"

Yikes. I don't think those authors will have to worry about any competition from me in that arena. After reading Stephen Kings, Pet Sematary almost 30 years ago, I am still unable to sleep all night without at least one nightmare. To make it even more difficult, prospective agents expect authors to have a good idea what genre their book will fit into and whether or not it meets any cross- genre criteria. Say for example, could you call it a Psychological Romance or is it best defined as a good old Legal Thriller?

So where does a new author or inexperienced writer go to learn more about genre? Wikipedia for starters and then a google search for each genre listed. You can also do some old fashioned research. Get your can out of your chair, dust off your library card or GET ONE and go trouble a very well educated librarian.

Tell her you'd like to check out five books in the Ergodic Literature section. You'll have a blast and she/he will feel needed. (See what I did there? No link. You'll have to work a bit to look up that term.)

The point is our job as authors to be able to label our work. We spent weeks working on the setting, years refining our voice and months tweeking the dialog. We developed the characters, their arcs, their flaws and their intentions. I mean really, if we don't know its a Paranormal Lesbian Historical Romance Tragi-Comedy who will?.

To read more about Genre please check out K.M. Weilands guest post on the topic at
Suite T  The Author's Blog of Southern Writers Magazine.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Query Letters Off and Running

It is done.

Earlier today, 1:40 am to be exact, I hit the dreaded "send" button hurling my very first query letter for my novel, The Child Clare, out into the cyber world.

Preparing that query letter was more nerve shattering than preparing for the birth of my first child, which is sadly no comparison at all because at 21 all I could think about was getting the poor dear out. Preparing for anything back in those pre-dawn ages was not in my skillset.

While on the other hand I obsessed about my query letter for weeks. First I had to find the perfect first agent to contact. Then the letter had to be perfect. The delivery...via email as the agent requested, perfect as well. Even though the response itself may not be so perfect, as rejections for this particular agent average more than 100 each week, I felt true excitement as I hit that keyboard firmly with my index finger. Later today I will select the other four agents who will also get a query letter.

But it's funny. After all the work, all the removals of all the commas followed by the reinsertion of all the commas, followed by the checking and rechecking of the agents name, not to mention the hours spent deciding on my genre (is it women's fiction? women's contemporary fiction? women's hysterical fiction?) I expect a rejection.

 I am OK with that.

 You see, I am new at this and have not yet paid all my dues. I have few scars which means no scar tissue and without scar tissue I have no means of protecting my delicate self.

So fine. Hit me. Send me the rejection and maybe even a tidbit or two about what might be needed and I will be happy. Please readers, don't give me the whole "you have to be positive" malarkey. I am positive. Positive that the likelihood of my first query letter for my first novel will result in my first rejection.

The way I see it, each rejection is a brick on which to build this new foundation for the second (or is it third?) career I have initiated. With additional query letters followed by additional revisions to my novel, followed by additional query letters for that book as well as others I have already started...I am building a new life.

A writing life.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Finding my Beta Readers

 My novel is complete, until I again revise it, and I need real, honest, not-afraid-to-hurt-my-feelings-and-maybe-chance-not-getting-a-Christmas-present-feedback. In other words I need Beta Readers.

If you are new to fiction writing you might be unfamiliar with the term. I certainly was until about 6 months ago. A Beat Reader is one who will read all or part of your completed but as yet, unpublished novel and then give you realistic, useable feedback. They will take the time to sit, read and comment.

And when they are done, the writer will hopefully be able to take that input, apply it to their sacred baby and revise to the point of...improvement. So, I had to ask myself what do I specifically need in a Beta Reader?

I need people who love writing their opinion in red pen. No, not green (too organic) and not yellow (too passive) and certainly not pink (too Jr. High) but real Sister Mary Frances Red Ink.

I need people who think incorrect use of a semicolon; is just as criminal as wearing lace trimmed anklet socks with sandals and Capri pants.

I need people who believe one typo on a page is one too many.

I need people who have read more than they eat or at least read WHILE they are eating.

I need people who will publically mock me if I use clich├ęs like "high as a kite'' "right as rain" or "crazy as a loon," anywhere in my novel.

I need people who are not afraid to throw a thesaurus at my head when I use the same word (like "people") over and over.

I need my own Beta Reader(s)

So last week I contacted three nursing friends of mine and asked them to take on the job. Goofy women all said "yes." So three chapters of my novel went out to them complete with SASE for the return of their comments. Because I have traveled to Ireland with these woman, shared drinks and family woes at O'Loclainns Pub with these women, worked long grueling night shifts caring for the most distressing of patients with these women...I trust them to be honest with me.

Next I plan to hit up some near strangers. Specifically those I have never shared an airplane ride or jug of Red Breast with. Maybe my mail lady or a blog follower or that really nice woman in the gift shop in Sibley. (She is always reading a book when I come in)

And then I plan to compare.

If the good buddies and maybe a family member or two and then the strangers all find the same flaws, I'll know where to focus my energies. After that I am considering hiring a professional editor. Now you might ask yourself why would she pay someone to do the same job someone else was willing to do for free?

Well that would be like leaving the dishes undone in the sink before the housekeeper comes. And who would do that?

How about you? Do you have Beta Readers?  How did you find them? How many for each new novel? Do you ask family members for feedback or do you only trust paid professionals? Do you give them just a few chapters or the entire manuscript? Has the experience been beneficial ? Tell me. I'd love to know.