Writers

My First Rejection on a Full

I have achieved another milestone with my writing. It was not a fun one. Yesterday, I received my first rejection on my full manuscript. It stings. It is disappointing. There are questions I have that will never be answered. Most of them begin with “why.” You’d think that the feedback in the email would be telling. In true writer fashion, I’ve read the rejection email more times than is healthy. And then I tried to pick it apart piece by piece. It’s what writers do. We stare at words and imagine subplots between the lines. The spaces widen to include offstage characters. Entire melodramas with series potential are explored at the periods. Commas become crossroads in a choose-your-own-adventure story arc.

When I couldn’t make sense of the feedback, I asked trusted family to read the tea leaves with me. I continued to ask questions with no easy answers: Is this normal? What does this mean? Why?

And I am having a Neil Gaiman moment. Neil Gaiman has 8 (brilliant) rules of writing. Number 3 is my favorite. But number 5 is the rule of the day: “Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.”

And this is quite possibly where I am with this manuscript. There is a camp that is telling me, “It’s not quite there.” And no one in the camp can put her finger on what isn’t there. I’ve had beta readers say, “It needs tightening.” I’ve had beta readers say, “You’re 90-95% there.” And then of course I had this agent say it needs a good polish. Couldn’t quite explain what or how though…

Lest anyone think that I’m crazy and started the querying process prematurely, I’ve also had trusted beta readers tell me that I’ve arrived. They ship my book with fangirl passion. They’ve encouraged me to find agents, attend conferences, query, and pitch. I’m glad I sent out those fulls. I’m also glad I had my tub of Rocky Road in the freezer. Because rejection isn’t fun.

My BIL tells me that it is important though. He’s a storyteller too. His medium is film. BIL is encouraging. He says that it comes down to proving it. When I’m not smarting from my new rejection badge of honor, I pragmatically see the need to prove it. Prove that you are talented. Prove that you can learn from feedback. Prove that you won’t give up. Prove that you can start the process of building the labor-intense platform. Prove that subsequent agent won’t have to spend her limited time holding your debut-novelist hand. Prove that you can write a book in a profitable timeframe. PROVE you are not a risk but an asset.

Sigh. That’s a lot to prove.

My dad has good advice. He tells me to move forward and turn it into a win. I’ve given myself the day for the feelings. It’s okay to have them. But I’ve decided to share my rejection (with the incriminating details removed) below because I spent some time googling manuscript rejections to try to make sense of my own. I’m also sharing my thank you reply. Those can’t be forgotten.

THE REJECTION:

Hi Amelia,

I had some time to read a good chunk of YOUR MS today and while there was a lot I liked it, I’m sorry to say I didn’t feel compelled enough to move forward. Something was holding me up about its execution that I’m trying to put my finger on. I really liked a lot of your writing, which felt unusual and sophisticated (in all the right ways) at times. But I think it’s something about the characters interactions that didn’t really gel with me. In places I felt like I didn’t believe the ways they were interacting. Not big things, but their turn of dialogue in places. I also felt that some of the relationships and interactions between characters felt rushed. I liked that the story moves along, but I couldn’t help thinking that I wasn’t getting time to relax into the story, somehow. Ultimately, I think it’s a combination of lots of small things that made me feel like this isn’t quite ready or polished enough for me to take it on yet. It’s something I feel needs a good polish before I could offer representation.

But I’m really glad to have seen it, and even more glad to have connected to a ***** friend!

I wish you the best of luck with this. I hope someone else connects with it.

Warmest,

AGENT

 

MY THANK YOU REPLY:

Dear AGENT,

It was wonderful to [discover] our shared *****! If [I] uncover any more *****, I promise to share.

Thank you for the kind words and helpful feedback regarding my story. I appreciate your time and am grateful for the insights you’ve shared. I look forward to improving my MS and to applying your good advice to my other WIPs, which I hope to query you with once they are polished to an impeccable shine.

Good luck with the ***** Workshop! I am sure it will be a big success, and I have no doubt that you will inspire [lots of writers].

May joyous reading abound.

Happy Summer,

Amelia

 

So what do you, think? If this had landed in your inbox this weekend, how would you have responded? What do you think of the feedback? Helpful? Confusing? How would you move forward and turn the experience into a win?

Moving Forward…

    10 COMMENTS

  • Leona June 11, 2017 Reply

    I think you’re doing great. I think you’ll find that within the next weeks or months, you’ll have an agent who’s eager to take you on. I think coming back to this agent is still a possibility.

    I also think rejection sucks. You’ve got to be made of sturdier stuff than I. I chose a profession where the risk of rejection was almost 0.

    You are brave, and I admire you.

    Also, your book is awesome.

    • Amelia Hollingsworth June 18, 2017 Reply

      Or maybe just stubborn? But I’m very lucky to have intelligent, gorgeous sisters who believe in me. Thank you!

  • Arianne June 11, 2017 Reply

    This is Arianne here–wow that response is both detailed and vague at the same time! I personally never would have considered the characters’ interactions to be rushed. Which characters? Henry and Kate? That’s the vague part. It is so hard to find that last 10 percent that makes a work feel totally “done.” I totally feel you on that. Sometimes I think I won’t get there till I get a professional editor lol. But the more rejections, the more time you have to tweak and revise, and the better things get. It will be cool to see if this feedback is similar at all to the feedbacks of other agents. And who knows, maybe an acceptance is coming soon. Thanks for the blog post!

  • Amelia Hollingsworth June 18, 2017 Reply

    In any case this experience has cured me from compulsively checking my email. I definitely want to know what the other agents have to say before I proceed, but I can wait to check that inbox on Monday.

  • Ronelle June 27, 2017 Reply

    The agent had great feed back for you to consider. What a gift! It will be interesting to see if the other agents have similar suggestions. What I’ve read of your MS is lovely so far.

    • Amelia Hollingsworth June 27, 2017 Reply

      You’re right. Now that the sting has worn off, it is for sure a gift. I can polish and buff, and knowing that there are not bigger demons to tame in my MS is for sure encouraging.

  • Hope Ebel June 30, 2017 Reply

    Rejections are tough. Rejections for fulls are tougher. The one nice thing that you have is that you got some feedback. I’ve dissected feedback on fulls before, and it’s not fun. I’ve never read your manuscript, but I read this to mean the agent felt you should work on making sure your dialogue is believable and pacing realistic. I would check to make sure dialogue is not stilted and rings true of each character – that each character has their own unique voice. Also, make sure you don’t have any events that are unrealistically happening too quickly, like two characters falling in love after a day or something like that. That’s my interpretation, but it is tough because you don’t have specific examples. Either way, to me it sounds like this agent may be willing to work with you in the future if you make some revisions.

    • Hi Hope! Thank you VERY much for these insights. They started some rain drops that turned into rivers of revisions. Have you been querying long with your MS? Rejections are tough, but it is part of book writing. I’d rather learn how to cope now in the query trenches than later on when the stakes are higher.

  • Anya July 2, 2017 Reply

    I think it is amazing that you are writing. Please don’t give up I look forward to buying your book one day. I know the sting of regection can be hard. My dad wrote a book when I was a kid and was reflected multiple times. Sadly he gave up and I wish he hadn’t as I loved the story. Keep working on it, but enjoy your ice cream while you are at it.

    • Hi Anya! Miss you here in the Mojave Desert! Happy for you and your team though, and judging by your IG, mountain life looks good on ya!

      Never give up. NEVER. Tell your dad to join #pitchwars and get inspired. He can do it. Tell him I will read his query and first chapter if he wants feedback. Life is about trying and failing, and trying and failing-not-so-epically the second time, and persisting until you win. My dad told me that wins don’t matter if you haven’t experienced the suck of failure (not that he described it that way). If your dad needs to rewrite his MS because it has gone missing, he CAN. It will be even more beautiful.

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