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Archive for December, 2010

Rejections are a part of life. Every writer experiences them at some point in their careers. But what does a rejection mean? What are the signs that some improvement is needed? This was a topic that came up during a Twitter discussion through YALitChat (http://yalitchat.ning.com/). Some of the participants included Michelle Wolfson (Wolfson Literary Agency), Elana Roth (Caron Johnson Literary Agency), Tamar Rydzinski (Laura Dail Literary Agency), and Jill Corcoran (Herman Agency). I’ve summarized their comments and this is what I took out of the discussion.

First, I want to say that the comments below are assuming the following:

1. You’re spelling the agents name and address correctly.
2. You’re submitting to agents who represent your genre.
3. You’re submitting to one agent at a time and not spamming.
4. You’ve written a decent query. Check out my article on Query Letters http://tinyurl.com/2aaolsk

If all the above is true, then here are some things to consider:

In most cases, if you’ve received 150 form rejections then there is a problem with the concept of your book. You have to begin to ask yourself some tough questions. Is your idea unique or is it overdone? Are your characters one dimensional? Is your story predictable? Here is a great quiz regarding Fantasy Clich├ęs http://rinkworks.com/fnovel/. I wouldn’t take it too seriously, but if you answer yes to every question, then I’d take it seriously. I would also suggest joining a critique group. Get some opinions on your work from someone who is not in your life (family, friends, etc.). A good critique group will give you their honest opinions and help you take your work to the next level. Meetup is a great place to find a group in your area. http://www.meetup.com

In most cases, if you’re submitting partials and not getting any bites then there is a problem with your style or the flow of your novel. If you get to this point, many agents will offer suggestions when they turn you down. Cassandra Clare (NYT Bestselling Author of the Mortal Instruments series) said that she reads her entire novel out loud before she turns it over to her editor. She said it’s time consuming, but helps her to identify holes in her manuscript. If you don’t understand the agents suggestions or read your manuscript and still aren’t sure what’s wrong then consider taking a course in writing. During the course, you’ll submit your writing and receive feedback on subjects like style, creativity, and pacing. You can usually find them pretty cheap at your local community college or online. Writer’s Digest has some excellent online options. http://www.writersonlineworkshops.com/

I hope this helps you in your journey toward publication! Good luck and Happy Writing! You can read my other articles for writers here: http://tinyurl.com/34fechk

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A popular topic among writers is whether you should write about what you like or what’s popular? In every case my answer is always write about what you like, but I do understand the debate. To be fair to all my distinguished colleagues, I think we should look at both sides of the argument.

You want to become a successful writer so you figure that you should write about what is working right now. Not to mention that you’ve heard about the massive publishing deals given to authors like Stephenie Meyer or Dan Brown. All those dollar signs would make any struggling writer start to ponder ideas about sparkly vampires and the mysteries of the bible. Okay, well let’s just hypothetically say that you write something that’s based on what’s selling right now. We’ll assume that it takes you a year before you’re happy with the product. Now it’s only a matter of time before you hit the bestsellers list, right? The problem with that plan is the amount of time in between you writing the novel and you actually getting published. Most literary agents will tell you that it takes roughly eighteen months to actually get from their desk to the bookshelves. I’ve even read recently that it can take up to two years. My point is that anything can change in three years. What’s popular today may be completely out of style by 2013.

That’s why your writing should always come from a place of passion. Write what inspires you regardless of popular opinion. I guarantee that your writing will be better because you care about the story. I’ve only ever written fantasy because that’s what I like. I grew up watching fantasy movies and television shows. I’ve even collected comic books with my little brother. If you could see my bookshelf, then you’d know it’s filled with adult and YA fantasy novels. My point is that if you’re enthusiastic about the Civil War era and you want to write a historical romance about a union officer and a confederate nurse then you absolutely should. If you know everything there is to know about extraterrestrials and you want to write a dystopian novel about the world after an alien invasion then go for it! Why? Because you’re already invested. You’ve done the research, and on some level, you’re an expert. Going with what you know and love will always beat out what’s popular. Your novel could end up starting a trend like Twilight or the Da Vinci Code. No one has the ability to predict what’s going to be popular in three years so why not write what you love?

Passion Art Print by Paula Scaletta

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