So you can read my books

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Please vote for THE LEGEND OF VICTOR STANDISH for the Gatekeeper Contest :

"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 do 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?"

And thinking about never surrendering, never giving up :


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Let me start this again. :) Great, great post. This is something that I so exactly needed to hear/read right at this moment as I struggle with a story that has been particularly problematic for me.

  3. Melissa : I'm so happy that my post could be of help. All who won the first round of ABNA are celebrating, but I couldn't help but think of those who perhaps were still stinging that the judges lacked the vision to see the worth of their pitches. Have a great end of week, Roland

  4. Had to visit a friendly blog tonight. Thanks for your comment on mine the other day. You are a good friend and a compassionate person.
    This is a good post with great advice. Glad I stopped in. (=

  5. Glad you stopped by tonight, too, Jo. My email address is in my profile. If you need to vent or be just to know you're being heard by someone that gives a damn. I'm here. Thanks for coming and talking. You'll always find a friend here, Roland

  6. You have such great insight and needed advice. But my favorite part was the last, help the fallen :)

    Have a great weekend Roland.
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  7. I'm off to lick my finger and stick it in a light socket!

  8. Just popped in quickly to say a big congratulations with making it to this round of the ABNA!! Yay!!!!!!! I hope Gypsy is most impressed too!! :-) Take care

  9. I'm with Debra. lol. Congrats on making it past the first round at ABNA. Good luck.

  10. Roland, these are wise words. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. Writing is a challenging art and it's important not to get lazy about developing our art and our skills. Well said.

    Big congrats on getting through to the next round of ABNA. Well done!

  11. I like to focus on the purpose of my story and my characters. Rejections are a part of the business but they're not the only part and they're certainly not the most important part.


  12. Another great post! I'm off to look for Victor's story. I hope you'll drop by and read The Secret Of Spruce Knoll and vote if you enjoy it. It's kind of nervewracking having your friends finally read your work. I don't know how you do this all the time! LOL!

  13. It's funny, isn't it... this mental metamorphosis we make where at first we think it is the agent who has it wrong, then we come to realize we just have a lot to learn... I like that contrast between failing to live in the present because we are waiting, and failing to live because we have nothing we are striving for.

    And I offer congratulations to you for passing to ABNA round 2 (yes, I saw you there--well done!)

  14. Jules : Yes, the best part in life is to help those you pass, making good friends along the way.

    Debra She Who Seeks : Shame on you for that! LOL.

    Kitty : Gypsy says she'll be impressed when I get published -- until then, she just yawns. Feline princesses! You take care, too.

    Christopher : I know your writing ability - cliches are not your style! And thanks for the congrats. Now, to the harder round! Ouch.

    Jai : I admire your attitude. Rejections still sting me -- a lot. Gypsy just snickered at me again. LOL.

    Heather : I voted for your story. It is nerve-wracking to put yourself out there for all to see. But Victor just turns to me, laughing, "Chill, Roland. This is me they're reading about. Of course, they'll love me!"

    Hart : Yes, it is strange chasm we writer all attempt to cross, daring to dream but not ceasing life waiting for it to dawn. Thanks for the congrats. For those of my friends who didn't make it, I kept a low profile about it to let the sting die a bit. I know from too many experiences how it feels for judges to have the lack of vision to reject me. Roland

  15. Great post. Published authors are first and foremost salesman and second they are writers. That's just my opinion but I stand by it. Sell Sell Sell...if you aren't used to selling, then no one will buy, and that is the bottom I just wish more aspiring authors would realize that. "I want to get an agent to be published," is such an innocent statement. X-ray vision shows that it should really read, "I want to get PAID." If you disagree...I dare you to ask any agent if they would take a well written and well plotted book and represent it, knowing that it wouldn't sell. How is that possible? Audience. If you're selling erotica to Catholic probably isn't going to fly off the matter HOW well it is written.

  16. WOW- I needed this today. Thank you. I have never submitted writing as I'm still learning the craft, but your words encourage and speak to me today.
    Thank you again! I'm following.

  17. What an inspirational post and the solutions you provide are just so helpful. :P Thanks for this!

  18. I love that Calvin & Hobbes comic- I use it in my classroom. And Arthur Golden is one of my favorite authors- Memoirs of a Geisha is my all-time favorite book.

    Great post!

  19. Stephanie : Isn't that particular Calvin and Hobbes poignant? And that excerpt from Arthur Golden seemed too dead-on for we writers in our relationship with writing, living, and agents. Thanks for liking my post, Roland

  20. Michael : Like Renaissance painters of old, we writers must sell our worth, first to the agent, then to the editor, and nowadays to the purchasing agent for the publisher. Ouch. Thanks for liking my post.

    PAMO : I'm glad my post helped you in some small way today. Don't be a stranger. Roland

    Nutschell : Thanks for enjoying my post. I try not just to point out problems for we writers, but to suggest something constructive we can do about them. Have a great end of week, Roland

  21. Hi, Roland,

    I love the last bit at the end. And you are absolutely right about researching the agent and it is a long road ahead.

    One agent told me that perseverance will get your novel published.


  22. Thanks, Michael : Be careful tomorrow, and thanks even more for liking that last part of my post. It is a hell of a trip, isn't it? Roland

  23. I think the best advice I'd received about writing is to "just write." Someone told me, "just write your heart out, and never mind about what others will think or everything else. Then when you're done telling your story, start cleaning your house, before you let others read it."

    In other words, write without any inhibitions, as your best stories will come from this raw point of view, and then clean out the paragraphs that don't pull the story together.

    It's interesting how you pull different analogies into your point of view.

  24. Imagery Imagined : Truly, we must write from the truths inside us. We will ring authentic that way. We may not sell, mind you, but if we do, then we continue to write. If we pander, soon the ability to write will leave us. Good thoughts you have there.