Friday, May 15, 2009

Nodding in Sage Agreement

Sometimes the fact that I blog on Fridays, after all the other lovely and talented Novel Girls have had their say, I find that - really - all I have to do is point downwards and exclaim, "Er - yeah! What they said!"

Seriously. My most valued contribution to this conversation would be simply to say, if you are - or if you want to be - a writer, if you are facing the prospect of rejection, if you really really really want to make a go of it in this loony profession, read over the posts below and soak in the wit, the wisdom, the pig-headed stubornness in the face of ridiculous odds, the quietly bloody-minded obstinance and the incandescent double-dog-dare-you determination of Tracy and Maureen and Lisa and Jillian. And me, too, I guess. And then think about all the ways in which you can emluate those behaviors. And do it.

I might be wrong about this - one tends to stop counting at a certain point, simply to save what little sanity remains - but I think I wracked up close to triple digits in rejections on the first book. And then, wallowing in the miseries of that acid-bath one night, I was gently brought to my senses by my boyfriend with words to the effect of:
"Would you shut up and write another book?"
"Wha? But! I am! I--"
"No you're not. You whining about not getting an agent for this one."
"Write another book."

So I wrote another book. And that one got me the agent.

And didn't sell.

But the next one...

Well, I quote the immortal wisdom of Galaxy Quest: "Never Give Up! Never Surrender!"

We didn't. You shouldn't either.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

What I Have in Common with Judy Blume and J.K. Rowling

As a writer, I've been rejected. A lot. The first novel I ever wrote got rejected by so many agents, that I gave up on it, and decided to write another one. That one (what would eventually be The September Sisters) was also rejected by scores of agents over a two year period. And then, when I finally got an offer of representation from my fabulous agent and she started submitting it to editors, we went through over a year of getting rejection after rejection from editors before the book sold.

But what always got me through and still does get me through rejection is this: stories about other writers who didn’t give up, who got rejected over and over again, only to later triumph. My new favorite story is about Kathryn Stockett, the author of the debut book The Help. I bought the book for my mom for her birthday after reading some great reviews, and now that my mom has finished it and continues to rave about it every time I talk to her, I’ve moved it to the very top of my to-read pile. My mom also told me about an article she read about the author, where Stockett mentioned that she stopped counting after 45 rejection letters from agents. 45!! And though I’ve never met the author and haven’t even read the book yet, I felt downright triumphant for her when I saw The Help was number 11 on the NY Times Bestseller list this week!

Here’s another interesting article that I came across this week: "30 Famous Authors Whose Works Were (Repeatedly and Rudely) Rejected." I love the part about J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter only being published because the daughter of Bloomsbury’s CEO begged him to publish the book, how Gone With the Wind was rejected by 38 publishers, and how Judy Blume said she got nothing but rejection for two years! Stories like these always helped me cling to hope: if other authors could be published after being rejected scads of times, then maybe I could too?

A few weeks ago my agent started sending my first novel for adults, THE TRANSFORMATION OF THINGS, out to editors. Actually, I should back up here. It wasn’t exactly my first novel for adults. The first adult novel I wrote was that one I mentioned in the beginning of this post, that got rejected by so many agents that I gave up on it. After that, there was THE SEPTEMBER SISTERS, which was originally intended for adults (until it got rejected by many adult editors), and then after that I wrote another book for adults that, on my agent’s advice, we decided to table for a while because neither one of us could quite figure out a way to get it to work. So here, a few weeks ago, she was actually sending out my fourth attempt at a novel for adults. I braced myself for more rejection, as I felt that unwelcome ball of nerves in my stomach. What if everyone hated the book? What if the fourth time wasn’t a charm?

But then a week and a half after she sent it out, my agent called me. We had an offer! The book sold in days, not months, not years. After my past experience with rejection, it felt impossible to wrap my head around! So here, in my post that is about dealing with rejection, I'm also announcing my insanely good news, that my first adult women's fiction novel, THE TRANSFORMATION OF THINGS, will be out from Avon in late summer/early fall 2010!

But don't think this is totally off topic, because it's not. Remember that part about this being my fourth attempt? That means three other attempts were thwarted based on some level of rejection, which also means, I've dealt with a lot of rejection over the past few years. And I've come to the conclusion that the best way to deal with rejection is this: No matter what, keep going. Keep writing. Keep trying. Get rejected. Then try some more.

And you don't have to take my word for it. Just ask Judy Blume!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Agony of Defeat (and cliches)

Rejections produce agony. Gut-wrenching, soul-piercing, torture. I've been there. Over and over again. But take heart, it's only temporary.

It might mean defeat with one agent, one editor, one reviewer, but the beauty is: there's always the next person. We get up, dust off, pull up the proverbial boot strap, and do it again. We send out another query letter, another manuscript, another galley. Because rejections are simply one person's opinion. And we all know the beauty of opinions. They are gloriously subjective. One man's trash is another man's treasure. Who said that? By George, it even applies to manuscripts.

I have saved all of my rejection letters in a rainy day file, hoping to be one of those writers touted in great success stories! Like Dr. Seuss. He is rumored to be the recipient of something like 75 rejections. Now I don't know about you, but I definitely take heart in that doctor's prescription for success.

I'm with Maureen on this one. I'm my own worst critic. I've rejected my book more times than all of the agents and editors who passed on me combined. If it were up to that red guy with a pitchfork who whispers "you stink, sister" in my poor little ear, I would not be a Novel Girl today. But I have learned to reject that irritating pest and push past him. At least until the next time he tries to shoot another thumbs down my way.

Rejections are part of the process. No way around it. In fact, I've heard it said many times that rejections are a writer's rite of passage...for most of us anyway. And isn't that the positive in the negative?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Worth It

If there's one thing I've learned about the publishing industry, it's that the dreaded "R"s (Rejections) never stop.

There's overcoming the self-rejections while you're writing your book. That little inner editor that whispers, "This book is crap. Stop writing now and do something productive like watch television or research random movies on" But, you manage to punch your inner editor in the face, knock him/her out and finish the damn book.

Then you move onto the rejections during editing. This is where you re-read your book and hate it. Where you can't possibly imagine any edits that could make that puppy readable. Where you gnash your teeth, kick, scream and lament how you just wasted several weeks, months, years, on writing this piece of crap. But, you manage to stop the dramatics and get down to business.

So, now you have a book. Time for the agent rejections! From "not for us" to "too hard to sell women's fiction" to "my client list is full." After a few heartbreaking close calls, you land an agent. Dreams accomplished right? me while I laugh hysterically.

Your precious baby goes out on submission. You spend the first few blissful days dreaming of auctions, six-figure deals and huge pre-publication tours for your book. Editor rejections trickle in, but you remain steadfast. After all, your book is OMG BESTSELLER MATERIAL! After a couple of weeks, you start to worry if that auction just ain't gonna happen. Then, you start to worry if it'll sell at all.

But then...huzzah! Your book sells! What's next?

You get to start all over again and write another book! Which, at any stage, could be rejectified by yourself, your critique partners, your agent, your editor or the dreaded marketing/sales committee.

So, you see, you never really outgrow those rejections. (Unless, of course, your name is Stephenie Meyer. But sadly, mine is not.) Because nothing is 100% certain in publishing. But, when I'm bummed out about my latest revision or stressing about book promotion, I remember that No Guarantees can be a huge blessing.

For every story we hear about a writer's editor leaving or their agent dropping them, we also hear amazing Cinderella stories about the overnight pre-empt, the multiple books sold at auction for a debut author, the book that got so-so reviews that became a bestseller. And that excitement, that possibility, is what makes all those "R"s totally worth it.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Chocolate, Good Books, and Friends

Rejections are tough, no matter where a writer is in their career. I've had rejections in the past that have nearly crippled me emotionally for a few days, and I've had plenty that have barely gotten through my not-so-thick skin. Regardless, my way of dealing with rejection is the same.

  1. I read the rejection letter once, take it in, and set it aside.
  2. I feel however I'm going to feel...I mean, it's not like I can stop my emotions, so I don't even try.
  3. I give myself no more than 24 hours to be a total mess (if that's where my emotions are taking me).
  4. I focus on comfort for those 24 hours. Yep, sometimes that means chocolate, sometimes that means reading an excellent book, and sometimes it means commiserating with friends who are also writers. Often it means all three.
  5. When the 24 hours are up, I get back to work. That means I write.
  6. If I'm feeling strong enough, I'll read the rejection letter again. This is especially true if it isn't a form rejection, but contains reasons for the rejection. I let these reasons simmer while I do my, kids, writing, whatever that is.
  7. At some point, I'll revise if I agree with the points made.
  8. Rinse and repeat.

Okay, so I'm the first to admit that a numbered list of actions doesn't take into account the bone deep grief I've felt with certain rejections. What the list does do, though, is show a methodical way of dealing with that grief and then moving on. Moving on is important. Continuing to write is crucial. So yes, I definitely give myself time to mourn, but then I pick myself back up and keep moving forward.

Having incredible friends and their support is also key.

Here's hoping everyone has a terrific (and rejection free) week!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Tardy. And Heartfelt.

Oh look! I'm late posting, again! What a surprise. Or not.

Althought, given the topic of the week, it is somehow entirely appropriate. You see, my mother has been waiting for me for pretty much my entire life plus some. I've been told that I even took my sweet time being born and was days late for the event.

"Lesley Time" is a concept that Mom is all too familiar with. Apparently, I dawdle. When I was in junior high school, my mom would pick me up from school every day. We had moved to another part of town in-between elementary and junior high and I had bewailed my fate at having to leave behind my bestest pals SO piteously that my parents gave in and kept me registered in our old district. And then drove me there. Every day. I should probably take this opportunity to apologize to dear mumsy for being such a jerk back then. (Er... sorry... really really sorry...).

Now, on these daily pick-ups, my mom would patiently (heh) wait in the car for me to appear. All of the other kids would pour forth in a frenzied stream from the front double doors of the school, running pell mell, realeased from bondage and eager to get the hell away from the place.
The stream would slow to a trickle.
And then stop.
And then, some protracted length of time later, I would emerge.
I would amble dreamily in the general direction of the car, where I could already see my mother shaking her head in tragic frustration.

"Hi Mom."
"What took you so long?"
"I've been waiting out here for fifteen minutes. Everyone else is gone. Where were you?"
"What TOOK you?"
"Um... I dunno. I had to get my stuff?"
"You don't have that much stuff."
"And... I had to go to my locker?"
"The school's not that big."
"Trans-dimensional time warp?..."
"Get in the car."

This week, I have a VALID excuse. No seriously. I have spent the last several days locked in a small, isolated room with padded walls. I know what you're thinking. It's not that.

I was actually recording the narration for the audio-book version of WONDROUS STRANGE!!! Over 400 script pages later and, man... am I exhausted. And a little hoarse (insert high-pitched whinny for bad-pun effect here). At the end of each day, I could barely crawl home - let alone string a coherent sentence together. I've done a fair bit of voice acting before but nothing anywhere NEAR as intense as this. But it was also really really cool!

Anyway, they finally let me out of the little room, just in time for me to say, HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY to my awesome, ridiculously patient mom, and to my fellow Novel Girls (moms or not - because they have also had to be wonderfully patient with me on occasion - xox, ladies!)