Sunday, September 7, 2008

But You're Still One of Us

I've been a good doobee and joined SCBWI, gone to conferences, joined critique groups, gotten an MFA in Writing for Children, read tons, written reams, edited, edited and edited. Yet all I get is rejected, rejected, rejected.
What am I doing wrong?
You're doing all the right things. Unfortunately, one of the right things (for a bunch of people) is collecting rejections and working for years before getting published. Sorry about that.

This is why I hope writers are doing this work because they love writing—because there's no guarantee you'll be published (though working hard and being patient make an important difference), and if you do, there's truly no guarantee that it will ever make up for the time and effort in dollars.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Question in case you are lucky enough to have an editor show interest but you are not agented...and want to be: is it kosher to bring an agent into the mix once an editor bites?

Kathryne B Alfred said...

Great answer, EA. Something I've finally come to terms with. It's heartbreaking, but true.

Anonymous said...

I know critique groups come in all different flavors, but as an editor I have to wonder how critical some critique groups are really being. On numerous occasions, I've gotten mediocre submissions from people who claim their critique partners loved their story or thought it was perfect. I would encourage all critique group members to actually be critical of one another. Then it's an actual service and not just a support group.

MyVerbocity said...

Paula Danziger used to say that she never had a book rejected.... but that is definitely an anomaly!

I considered a wailing wall for my rejections, but decided that's been done. Plus, tucking them in a filing cabinet is far less depressing! :-P

Kristi Holl said...

I loved this comment: "I would encourage all critique group members to actually be critical of one another. Then it's an actual service and not just a support group." I just blogged about this today. If your group isn't being critical enough, encourage them to do so. It can be done in a way that doesn't devastate anyone. And a GOOD critique is invaluable!
Kristi Holl
Writer's First Aid

Colorado Writer said...

Thank you for the reminder.

Georgie B said...

If you get tired of getting nothing but rejections, what about going the self-publishing route?

I mean, there has to be a limit on the amount of rejections one gets before saying, "Enough!".

Isn't there?

ae said...

No, there isn't! Especially if they are getting better. Perservere, my dear. :)

christine tripp said...

Georgie, I think there sometimes is a rejection limit and once reached it may be best to shelve the manuscript, at least for a while and go forward with something new. Of course there can be one storyline/character that you just CAN'T let go of. I have that feeling for a dummy I did up and I just really do love it and funny enough, it has nothing to do with me having written and illustrated it. It was hard to give up on it, but after a couple of rejections I filed it and worked on other things. I pulled it out about 2 weeks ago, intending to use it only as an example in a presentation I was asked to give and low and behold, I could see all it's flaws and I think I fixed many of them.
I'm even pumped to start sending it out again, so I wouldn't say there's a point where you have had enough rejections that you should consider self pub, as numerous rejections could very well mean the book is not ready. Take a break from it and go back to it with a fresh eye and perspective.

Georgie B said...

Personally, I think the book is ready as I did enough rewrites on it for my own satisfaction, so it should be out by the end of September.

I am by nature, a relatively impatient individual, so the fact that I stuck out the submission process for two years, is in and of itself, a remarkable accomplishment.

That said, I will be using this as a carrot down the road when I start the submission process (yuck) all over again next year.

In the meantime, I'll still keep marching to the beat of my own drum and will pick up good advice (like from here) wherever I can get it and find it.

And if anything, my writing has improved, even though I don't have a single word published.

Anonymous said...

If the original poster is writing YA (as opposed to pic books) I urge him/her to get the screenwriting book, SAVE THE CAT, or another structure-based book on screenwriting. The structure works fine for novels as well -- just disregard the "page number" parts.

Your problem may not be your writing at all, but the underlying structure of your books? Sometimes when that "rythmn" is off things get rejected though the writing is otherwise fine.

Anonymous said...

One thing that no one ever seems to talk about but may be a factor is sensibility. I've read work by talented writers -- beautiful language, not a comma out of place -- but they just don't get kids. Their work is either too nostalgic, cutesy, or just plain boring.

Likewise, I've read work by writers who are dying to be the next Sharon Creech -- but their strength is more wacky (and less Newbery-oriented) picture books. They write what they want to publish, not what they're best at.

I think both of these scenarios can contribute to a strong writer going unpublished. However, neither is really the type of thing you're going to learn in a rejection letter without reading between some major lines.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:41 has made some really good points. And I wonder if EA can discuss them in a future post?

I've personally read at least one Newbery that I thought had zero "sensibility." The entire book seemed a caricature of real book -- trite plot points and stock characters.

But YA has this issue too.

NYT bestsellers ARE looked at by struggling writers as a guide. So are the lofty Printz winners. I'd hate to be the author (but let's face it, I probably already am) that has horrified editors rejecting my manuscripts right and left as they mumble, "Oh, God, another idiot writer thinking she'd going to win a Printz."

In a way, it seems as if you can't win. As trashed as Stephenie Meyer's last book got in reviews, I recently heard an editor say she was "looking" for another Stephenie Meyer. What is a writer SUPPOSED to take from that?

Anonymous said...

This is the difference between writers and editors, isn't it? When editors go to school, and work hard they find an editing job where they can make a living, but writers, often, can't. So sad, that. And in certain cases it seems that an editor's talent lies not in their ablility to edit, but only in their ability to find a good writer. So many editors luck out by snagging someone who needs little editing, and then you read that next book theyv'e edited (by a different author) and you say THAT editor edited this?

I wish it wasn't so.