Fun with Rejection

Is there really anything fun about rejection? ummm, nope. But if you’re a writer pursuing publication, rejection is going to get as familiar as a dog is with its own butt.

However, here are a few fun things that can help take the sting out of your rejection letters… maybe, REJECTION BINGO?rejection bingo - revOr maybe you’re more active, and YOGA FOR WRITERS is more your style? I’m well acquainted with many of these poses… or mentally because let’s be real. Carpal Tunnel and Yoga do not mix.

 

CPEwjNaW8AAUylT.png-largeEither way, learn your coping mechanisms because rejection doesn’t stop after you get out of the query trenches. It’s a way of life for us writers because subjectivity is a bitch.

Dear #Pitchwars 2015 Mentees

Hey you… yup, I’m talking to you.

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I know, weird that  you’re now a mentee (which btw is a weird word and always autocorrects to menthe when you’re typing. So annoying). If you were anything like me last year, I was specifically choosing NOT to look on Brenda’s blog because I didn’t want yet another disappointment.

Then my Twitter feed started blowing up and just like that, I found out I was chosen by the amazing Trisha Leigh!

My writing life has never been the same.

In an effort to pay it forward, here are three things I would like to pass on to you as an alumni (that sounds WAY fancier than it really is).

I ended up signing with an agent who requested from #PitchWars, but SO many of my amazing fellow PitchWarriors signed with agents who didn’t request from #PitchWars. So I guess that’s the first thing you need to know. Don’t let yourself be consumed with getting requests. The amazing thing about this contest is that it focuses on craft rather than reward… The entire point of #PitchWars is actually not to get you an agent. The entire point of #PitchWars is to give your manuscript the best shot it has in order to eventually get an agent. If you have a kick butt manuscript, then by default, you have a WAY better chance of finding an agent with it! FOCUS ON THE CRAFT, NOT THE REWARD.

Second thing… LEAN IN.

This process can be tough. If this is the first time you’ve ever revised with an edit letter, it can be REALLY overwhelming (I wrote about how I tackled it here). But the revising process doesn’t stop with your mentor. You may be asked to revise and resubmit by an agent or you may choose to revise based on similar reasons for rejections… then once you get an agent, you may go through several rounds of revision (*raises hand in solidarity*), and then when your book sells you’re going to have to revise some more! Lean in to all of it. Throw yourself into it (I always think of this scene from Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken when I say that).

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Fear of failure is going to try to weave it’s shriveled, gnarled fingers into your confidence. Drop kick that fear in the face and — Like my grandma always says — fake it till you make it. Because here’s a secret, NONE of us ever feel like we know what we’re doing. Every book scares us just as much as the last one.

Lastly… say no to competitiveness.

When a big chunk of the 2014 PitchWarriors got a private FB group, something magical happened. We all left our egos at the door and purposefully chose not to be competitive with each other. This meant that we shared stats, we shared when we got rejected and by who (so that others with materials out with that agent could know where they were on the reading list). We shared the dates of requests so we could let others know where the agents were at in the query inbox. None of us played things close to the chest because we were ALL getting rejections and victories and we ALL needed to celebrate or cry with THE ONLY OTHER PEOPLE WHO ACTUALLY UNDERSTAND! We shared it all. We asked for query critiques, first pages critiques, even full manuscript reads when we made changes. We helped eachother with email wording, we bounced twitter pitches off each other, we talked each other off the ledge when we felt like we were NEVER going to get an agent or no one would EVER fall in love with our manuscripts. Then we would scream and squeal when we started getting agents and book deals. oh and laughed. We laugh a lot. It’s been almost a year, and none of us have any intention of ever leaving 🙂

None of that could have happened if we went into it thinking that the other mentees were competition. They aren’t. Even if they write in the same genre, they aren’t competition. Quite the opposite actually, they’ll be your lifeline to the reason you started writing in the first place if you’ll let them.

So welcome to the #PitchWars club! You’re going to have a blast!

Oh and one last thing, remember that finding an agent is just like making base camp on your climb up Everest. You need to make it to base camp, but you can’t stay at base camp. Celebrate when you get there, but keep your eye on the prize (aka total world domination… er I mean a lifetime of published books!)

Bonne Chance et Bisous!

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(Oh and on the day of the agent round, just take the day off work if you can because let’s be real… you’ll be checking your entry ALL DAY! #refresh #refresh #refresh)

For the other AMAZING PW2014 thoughts for the PW2015’ers, visit: 

Amanda Rawson Hill: On Doubt and Hope

Tracie L. Martin: What no one tells the PitchWarriors

Jennifer Hawkins: Last year at this time, I was you…

K. Kazul Wolf: Congrats on getting further into the insanity…

A.B. Sevan: Swimming with the Big Fishies

Tracie Martin: What No One Tells the PitchWarrior

RuthAnne Snow: 2014 Pitch Wars Mentee here, looking to offer…

Rosalyn Collings Eves: Most of you are probably sick with dread…

Peggy J. Sheridan: Welcome to the club…

Janet Walden-West: The Long Game

Destiny Cole: Yup, I’m talking to you…

Kelly DeVos: Confessions of a PitchWars Alternate

Mary Ann Marlowe: First things first…

Mara Rae: I’m going to keep it short and sweet…

Jen Vincent: Last year, on a complete whim…

Kip Wilson: Congratulations, lucky mentees…

A. Alys Vera: PitchWars is great, don’t get me wrong…

Nikki Roberti: 3 Things You Need to Know

Erin Foster Hartley: I’ve been putting this off…

How to Revise with an Edit Letter: Part One

My fabulous agent Kirsten did not miss a beat and just days after signing me, she spit out a pretty epic edit letter.

I’m not going to lie, when I read it I had a mixture of feeling like this:

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and then this:

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She had some very specific things she’d like to see addressed and although they aren’t huge, they are the kind of changes that have ripple effects. In other words, the first half of the book is going to get a pretty serious overhaul.

So how do you even begin to tackle a revision based on an edit letter?

Here is what I decided to do, part one.

First off, don’t do anything for a day or two. Keep reading the edit letter and start revising in your mind. I’m serious about this one. Just stew on it for a day or two.

For practical purposes, I pulled my revision plan together from three sources: the venerable Susan Dennard who’s writing advice is beyond amazing, Beth Revis who’s writing guide Paper Hearts is a must read for all writers and then one of my CPs Alexa Donne who has some pretty kick butt blog posts on revising.

The first thing I did was print out my entire MS and put it in a binder (though it’s also fun to get it bound!) I was trying to save on paper/printing costs, so I shrunk it down to 10pt font and put it in single space. That helped cut down the pages printed by over half. I could do that because I wasn’t actually looking to revise on the page, but just read.  I’m sure you could do this just by reading on your computer or maybe transferring it to your Kindle, but I wanted the option of scribbling on the page and I also revise a lot by hand. (Note: you’ll also need to revise your novel in 10pt/single space at the beginning because you’ll want your notes to match up, so keep that in mind.)

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I then read my edit letter probably 10-15 times. I wanted to get her suggestions down deep so that as I was reading through, I would know what to look for without having to reference the letter. The same goes for the plot/setting things she pointed out as well.

Then I had a separate blank sheet of paper for every main character (and plot relevant minor character) as well as a page for plot problems and setting problems.

As I read through my entire MS, I was looking for areas where I could deepen a character POV, flesh out a reaction, make the characters fuller. Instead of marking the manuscript, I would just mark it on the corresponding sheet. With plot/setting, I was looking at where I needed to implement my agent’s suggestions and would mark it down on the sheet. I also would mark paragraphs/dialogue in the MS that I didn’t like with “re-work.”

For example, on my plot page, I would write: “On page 47, get rid of “Roger” character and replace with Liam to tie in better with the Initiative.” For a character, I would write down, “Soften the Senator’s reaction on page 6, give him a moment where he is kinder to Willow in this scene.”

Note that I didn’t actually do any revising yet, I just plotted out on a broad scale where I would revise things.

So that is part one!

I’m writing this blog series as I go, so I’ll know what worked and what didn’t.

Up next on my plan? NOTECARDS 🙂

How I got my literary agent!

This post is something I’ve been dreaming about writing for over a year, so you know what that means?

I’m going to be LONG WINDED!

I learned a LOT along the way, so pull up a seat and settle in, because Aunt Dee’s gonna tell you all about it…

So I revised my manuscript last May and then began querying for about a month until I realized that my manuscript was just not strong enough yet.

You see, I subscribed to the rule of send out more queries every time you get a request because that means it’s working. It’s not always a bad theory, that is until you start getting form rejection after form rejection on your fulls, which is agent speak for “I stopped reading because it didn’t keep my interest.” Yeah.

Do you know what a form on a full feels like? Like this:

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Then something exciting occurred, I got an R&R (or in layman’s terms: an agent who says this is what I didn’t like about it, why don’t you try to fix it and then I’ll read it again). I totally agreed with her thoughts and so I immediately pulled my manuscript from consideration from the remaining agents who hadn’t gotten back to me and started working on it, but I was having a lot of trouble trying to fix certain areas of the book.

It wasn’t until I decided to enter #pitchwars and was selected and then mentored by the amazingly talented Trisha Leigh, who gave me such a comprehensive edit letter, that I kicked back into full gear. This book became an entirely different beast than the one before. I added almost 20k words, combined characters, changed up plot points, etc. It was a total overhaul!

I ended up getting several requests out of that contest and then additional requests in #pitmad a few weeks later. Then I began querying (not as widely this time) and got a really encouraging response on that as well.

I had silence for most of January. Just nothing but crickets in my inbox. I had basically stopped querying in December, so I was twiddling my thumbs, waiting on responses to requested materials.

Then, one afternoon an email from an agent I was really thinking would be a good fit pops up. Negative nancy over here immediately assumed that it was a rejection. I was already mentally preparing myself for the epic pity party I was about to throw myself because I had really thought that my manuscript would be right up her alley.

I took a deep breath and clicked on the email.

It was only 2 paragraphs… totally a rejection.

BUT THEN I READ IT! In those two paragraphs she gushed about my book and my characters and then told me she wanted to set up a call.

So what did I do?

I started balling my eyes out.

I called my husband and not being one to normally resort to tears, he immediately thought someone had died. It took him a few minutes to calm down from the scare and then he started crying too 🙂 I then called my mom and my sister (who cried), texted my CP’s and just jumped around all night long and consumed some champagne.

We had our call the next morning and we absolutely clicked. We laughed a lot and she GOT my book and my characters. It was like oxygen to my soul to hear her discuss Aniq and Willow like they were real people. Her vision for the book really echoed my own and it just felt right.

Ahhh! I probably talked way too much and interrupted too much (I do that when I’m nervous), but in the end, I didn’t scare her off because she offered representation.

I wanted to accept right there, but I still had requests out and so I needed time to be able to nudge.

Then came the longest ten days of my life.

I had several step asides throughout the week ranging in reasons from didn’t have time to read or didn’t feel passionately about the project to throw their hat into the ring. I then had one agent who read it and loved it and said she wanted to offer, but didn’t think she was the best agent to take it to market. She very graciously told me to go with the offering agent as this agent was just getting into YA and wanted to give me the best shot. It wasn’t until the very last day of my deadline that I got a call from a very amazing agent who has been in the industry a long time. Our call was almost an hour and I was beyond impressed with him and his vision for the book and my career. Both agent #2 and agent #1 had very similar revision ideas and it was absolutely not an easy decision, but in the end, I had to go with what my gut was telling me all along. So on Valentine’s Day (aww!) I accepted representation from Kirsten Carleton at Waxman Leavell.

I’m so incredibly excited to start this new phase of my career and roll up my sleeves and start revising my manuscript again!

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Right after I signed the contract!

And now for the thank you part of this speech (cue Oscar music):

I have so much to be thankful for, but want to give special shout outs to Ashley, Rachel and Alexa who let me show my crazy during this intense period in the query trenches and for somehow making me feel normal 🙂 To my amazing husband who saw my crazy, got scared, but still loved me. To the insanely supportive community of PW writers that I’ve been able to share this journey with! Our “secret” FB group has been a God send! And obviously thank you to  Trisha Leigh for taking on my MS and helping it get shiny enough to catch Kirsten’s eye! And finally, thank you Kirsten for taking a chance on me and believing in my writing! I think we are going to make a wonderful team and a force to be reckoned with!

And for the stats for those of you who love stats:

Queries sent: 25
Contests: 2
Requests: 26 — 11 cold query requests (7 fulls and 4 partials – 2 of which upgraded); 15 contest requests (all 15 were partials and 8 upgraded)
R&R: 1
Offers: 2

Total time in the Query Trenches: 4 1/2 months (2 months for the first round and then 2 1/2 months in round two)

Nudging with an Offer of Representation

In light of so much good news happening with #PitchWars, I thought it might be great to do a post about nudging with an offer of representation!

There are tons of resources for this, which is where I pulled my info from (mainly HERE and HERE), so I’m not going to re-invent the wheel here and have nothing profound to add. I think one of the best posts on this is Dahlia’s, so go there for more detailed info!

What I will say is that nudging is exciting and dreadful at the same time.

I loved Kirsten, but I knew that I needed to be respectful of the other agents (and I had read over and over that agents don’t like it when you accept rep without giving them a shot to read/offer). Even then, those 10 days felt like SOOO long!

But it also feels good to finally put someone else on a deadline after languishing in the trenches with only vague time references on when you’ll hear back 🙂

Nudge for an agent who has your full:

Hi AGENT!

Thank you again for your interest in MANUSCRIPT. I just wanted to let you know that I’ve had an offer of representation and I’ve told the offering agent that I needed until DATE to consider.
If you’re also interested, could you please let me know your thoughts by DATE? 
Thank you so much!
Nudge for an agent who has your partial:

Hi AGENT!

Thank you again for your interest in MANUSCRIPT. I just wanted to let you know that I’ve had an offer of representation and I’ve told the offering agent that I needed until DATE to consider.
If you’re interested in continuing reading, could you please let me know your thoughts by DATE? I have attached the full for your convenience.
Thank you so much!
(P.S. This might be a little presumptuous to attach the full (I got contradicting advice on this), but I figured, why the heck not? If they are interested, it will save a back/forth, if not, they would have passed regardless.)
Nudge for an agent who has a query only:
Hi AGENT,

I know you may not have seen this query yet, but I wanted to reach out to you because I received an offer of representation today. I told the offering agent I’d get back to her/him by DATE so if this query seems like something you’d be interested in representing, I can give you until then with the full. However, I completely understand that you may not be able to rush.

Thank you for your time and consideration.
Gentle deadline reminder nudge:
Hi AGENT!
I just wanted to check in to see where you’re at with MANUSCRIPT and if you needed anything else from me. I really appreciate your taking the time to look at my MS, particularly on such a sped-up timeline.
(You may feel totally comfortable with just waiting until the last day and hoping all the agents remembered your deadline. I’m too much of a control freak and would rather get instant step asides than just never hear back, so I sent this last reminder 2 days before the deadline. An agent who is really interested is going to remember to get back to you, so this is honestly unnecessary, but writers are a paranoid bunch! In the end, every agent who told me they would get back to me, did.)
Best things about nudging?
  1. They don’t say “pass/reject” they say “Step aside” 🙂
  2. Your inbox is dinging a lot and it’s exciting
Bad thing:
  1. Getting a lot of rejections in a short amount of time. That’s not fun for anyone, even with an offer on the table. It can weirdly affect your confidence so you need to have a good group of support around you and keep reading your emails with the offering agent to remind you that you and your book are awesome! 🙂
  2. If you get another offer, having to tell someone who loves your book and believes in you, that you are choosing a different agent. That sucks. No getting around it and you’re going to feel bad about it, even if you love your chosen agent and have no regrets.
Random:
Some agents will ask who the offering agent is. Tell them! It’s definitely not something you need to keep a secret. I wouldn’t offer it up in the initial exchange, but if they ask, there’s no reason not to tell them.