So you can read my books

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Yes, Andrea Somberg rejected FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURNE last night.

I've read it again as a creative writing teacher, finding it a haunting, evocative urban fantasy with action and humor.

But I am prejudiced.

Yet this is Thanksgiving. And there is much to find to be thankful for in even this rejection.

"Adversity is like a strong wind. It tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that we see ourselves as we really are."

- Arthur Golden

Mr. Golden is the author of MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA. In that novel, he has a passage that translates well to our dealing with rejection and waiting for an agent to accept us :

“From this experience I understood the danger of focusing only on what isn't there.

What if I came to the end of my life and realized that I'd spent every day watching for a man who would never come to me? What an unbearable sorrow it would be, to realize I'd never really tasted the things I'd eaten, or seen the places I'd been, because I'd thought of nothing but the Chairman even while my life was drifting away from me.

And yet if I drew my thoughts back from him, what life would I have? I would be like a dancer who had practiced since childhood for a performance she would never give.”

The answer to me is that each day we dance. Perhaps not to the tune we would wish but to a melody circumstances demand of us. And sometimes it is very hard to keep from tripping over our own feet.

Let's think through rejections and see what they might mean :

1) You write badly.

Ouch. But often we get carried away with the Zen of writing, typing in the moment without a thought of how to be precise with our verbal blows. Sloppy writing is rejected writing.

*) Solution?

Go to the internet or the bookstore or the library. Take books by Hemingway, Chandler, Koonz, King, Updike, Vidal, and Bellows. Read a chapter from each one. Study their use of specific words. How did they space their paragraphs? How did they convey emotion? { With dialogue, with detail, with what wasn't said?}

See if you can improve on a paragraph picked at random with eyes closed and stabbing forefinger. Can't? Welcome to the club. Can? Then you've grown more than the writer you were before the rejection.

2) You plot with all the grace of a plodding horse with blinders :

All too often we start with the burst of a scene or of an opening hook. But we have no sense of direction or a map of where we take our hero. Is it a journey that would entice a reader? Why? Where is the driving momentum that keeps the reader flipping the pages hurriedly?

*) Solution?

Take those same books you've bought or borrowed, looking for the map of their story. How? Look at the jacket blurbs. Read the summations on the jacket flap. See the primal drives? See them being blocked? See the primal dangers? Read the first chapters. Read the last ones. Compare the two. How did the hero change? How did his/her world change? Read the first paragraph. Read the last. See the novel's bookends of thought and transformation?

3) Cliche is your first, middle, and last name :

Cliches can creep up on us. If you ever catch yourself writing "like white on rice," lick your forefinger and stick it into a live socket. That's what the agent reading those words wants to do with you.

Scum layers the top of the lake. The true game fish swirl around deep at the bottom. So it is with the imagination. We want to be writers. Do we want to be deep-sea explorers? If we want to be offered representation by an agent, we do.

*) Solution?

Read the jacket blurbs again. Sound familiar? Yes, because the plots started out as original but have been copied and copied by TV and Hollywood until the stories are familair. Throw a what if in your thinking. What if the hitman of your novel is different somehow?

How? Twist the plot on its ear. Your hitman is from the future. Why would someone travel from the future to kill people?

One reason : he hates his life, his world, and the girl who jilted him. So he is off killing his great-grandparents, those of his world's greatest leaders, and those of his girl.

Up the ante : he falls in love with his own great-grandmother. Whoops. He becomes a bad joke. The punchline : his own father arrives from the future to kill him. And it turns out that he's not all that wild about his own life up the time stream either. And he wants the hitman's new girl for himself.

4) Nothing is wrong with your novel. You're just one query in a sea of millions of them. You just didn't wow the agent enough to impress her. Or she was too tired or too caught up with the flow of rejecting every email in front of her. You query boat just got swamped in the storm of submissions.

*) Solution?

You do all of the above. You strive to grow each writing day into becoming a better author. You keep on submitting.

5) You weren't a good fit for that particular agent.

You failed to your due diligence. Or you did, and their website hasn't been updated to accurately reflect the changes in their editorial attitude.

*) Solution?

You find more about the next agent before you query. Google not just webpages, agent query, or absolute write water cooler -- you type in the agent's name and follow with "interviews." Read as many interviews with that agent as possible. You type in "blogs." Read the last ten posts of that agent's blog. Go the archive of her blog. Read the titles of her posts to see if there are any that speak to what you've written.

6) You asked for it :

Yes, you did. Me, too. How? We became writers. The day we started down that path, we agreed to pay the toll at the gate. The toll? Getting rejected more times than we get accepted. Knowing that there is no promise that we ever will get accepted.

*) Solution?

Be Cortez. When Cortez landed on the shores of the New World, he caught his men eyeing the ships and the horizon leading home.

He burned the ships.

We have to burn the ship. No retreat. No surrender. Only advance. Stumble. Fall. Get up. Walk on. Hack our way through the agent jungle.

Never surrender. Never give up. Only grow stronger. Grow better. Grow wiser.

Oh, and every now and then, bend down and give the person who's fallen along the way a hand back on his/her feet. Wink, smile, and say, "Hell of a trip, ain't it? Let's get her done."

And never tell me the odds. :

{My favorite scene from STAR WARS}


  1. Sorry to hear about your rejection. I admire your ability to be pro active and look at it like just a crack in a sidewalk to stumble over. Then again, what else can we do?

  2. It hurts. But we must see the long view. Our journey is one of discovery and growth. The only writer I know that was immediately bought when he started was Truman Capote.

    Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

  3. Wow, that just stinks. I'm sorry, but like Wendy, I admire your ability and determination to find the teachable and the positive in the situation.

    And I have to tell you, I adore Snoopy and Woodstock!

    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving anyway!

  4. I'm sorry you got rejected . . . but it is admirable the way you turned it into a way to learn from it.

    Hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving!

  5. Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!
    I'm at the echo-empty blood center, bacterial sampling platelets (blood products that control bleeding,) filtering blood, and delivering needed blood to the far-flung hospitals across two states that ring us, ah me, up. It's micro turkey for me and Gypsy today.
    Happy Holidays!

  6. Having a rejection is good because it means you put your stuff out there. Good for you. Keep it up. It'll snag before you know it.

  7. I'd add a #7 which applies to the post-2008- bloodbath in the publishing industry:

    The agent loved it. She knows an editor who will love it. But the last three similar things the editor submitted to her bosses were shot down because the marketing people couldn't guarantee blockbuster sales on day one.

  8. Your positive approach to rejection is inspiring! I would add, the industry is probably tougher to break into right now than it has ever been. Fantastic work is being rejected. Your idea of improving is the way to go though! We can use hard times to make us even better. You will get there!

  9. I'm sorry to hear about the rejection! Oh dear. Oh but I do like your very practical and sensible points on how to deal with such a thing! Good luck with French Quarter Nocturne!! I think you can only go from strength to strength especially with these points in mind! Take care and happy Thanksgiving! x

  10. You have such a great attitude about rejection - I'm sure you'll get there soon!

  11. Hey, Roland -- sorry to hear about the rejection. I feel your pain. I had 2 separate manuscripts rejected on the same day last week. And damn it, it hurts.

    But you are right, especially on #6. I came to that same realization just yesterday. I asked for this. If I can't take rejection, failure, bad reviews, bad sales, or criticism, then I should just stop writing.

    The only alternative is to toughen up and get back to work.

    I like your reminder about Cortez -- burn the ships. There is no going back.

  12. I think you're taking a healthy perspective on dealing with rejection. I liked your point about spending too much time focusing on what's not there.


  13. I'd second Anne's #7...

    Thinking of you, Roland.


  14. Sorry to hear about your rejection, Roland. But love your healthy attitude. Trust me, acceptance is around the corner.
    Thanks for a wonderful and Inspiring post. Keep writing. :)

  15. I'm sorry about your rejection, but glad you have a healthy attitude about it. At first I loathed rejections and then I was slow to realize that rejection means I'm not ready yet and for certain aspects of my writing I have to go back to the drawing board.