Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Facing Rejections and Learning from Mistakes

Christmas song of the day: Little Drummer Boy

Most of you know I started querying in September, but what only two of you (hey, lovely betas!) know is that I got nothing but form rejections.  It was frustrating and extremely disheartening.  I had a good query, thanks to Matt Rush and his readers.  And I thought I had some pretty decent sample pages.  I'd gone through extensive revisions already and vamped up my first chapter to address issues my beta had.  I even won a critique from Shannon Whitney Messenger and applied the changes she suggested.  I was sure I had a perfectly polished novel.

But alas, my query and pages didn't pique anyone's interest.  About a month and a half in, I happened to win another first chapter critique, this time from Elana Johnson.  I'll be honest here, I hoped (and kinda expected) to receive praise.  After all, I'd already gone through revisions and had a polished chapter to give to her.  I was querying this for crying out loud!  Unfortunately, Elana pointed out issues Shannon had pointed out and my beta had pointed out before her.  I thought I'd already addressed and fixed those issues!  Apparently not.

I completely rewrote the first three chapters of my novel.  I sent the first chapter to my beta and she basically said it didn't work in any way.  Sigh.  So I rewrote the first chapter again.  Better, she said.  Phew!

Then I acquired a few more critique partners and I decided to really look at ELEMENTAL again.  I mean REALLY look at it.  It was darker than I remembered it being.  After not reading most of it for a couple months, I was able to see it through the eyes of a fresh reader.  So I took a look at my query and saw a glaring problem.  The query was good, but it wasn't for my book.  It was far too peppy and didn't match the tone of my first pages (original or new) at all.

No wonder I got nothing but form rejections.

I rewrote my query in the tone of the book and sent it to one of my betas for approval.  After some suggestions on her part, I think I finally have a query that works for my book.  Plus, I'm pretty pleased with my new chapters.  No, I'm not querying anyone this month because I really need a break.  After rewriting so much of ELEMENTAL (not to mention all the other edits I did throughout), plus writing and editing MORCAH all throughout November, I'm a tad tired.  And of course, getting rejections in your inbox can be a little draining.

Facing rejections can be tough, but I'm glad I had a chance to learn from what I did wrong.  As some of you are preparing to start querying or finishing up edits in your novels, I hope you take the opportunity to learn from my mistakes.  I'm sad I wasted months in ignorance.  Don't rush into it like I did (and believe me, at the time, I didn't think I was rushing into it).  And if the rejections DO start piling up, remember that they're not always a bad thing.  Sometimes they can be the best lesson you can receive.

Happy querying, everyone!
~Emily White


  1. Reading posts such as this (and others) is one reason why I'm not querying yet. After more than a year of working on my manuscript I'm still learning things about it...and me...that alter it. I finally think I'm close though, and after one more round of revisions I'll know for sure.

    I know what you mean about being a tad tired. Although I'm not backing away for the holidays, I am on cruise control. :)

  2. and it might help after december has passed, and you have a bit more distance (again) to check over it one more time. i know the longer i'm away from a project- the more clearly i see the "flaws" or areas for improvement. my problem is too much time away from the project- the whole thing looks like flaws now!!! :)
    you might also post that new query and see if anyone has any suggestions???
    hang in there! elemental will find a home!
    and morcah!!! !!! !!!! :)

  3. It's such hard work sometimes, but still really worth it I believe. Good work sticking with it Emily. You rock.

  4. *hugs* Rejection sucks, but good for you for not giving up. You'll get there and one day find the agent that will be a perfect fit. How can I say that? Because you didn't give up. You went back and looked at it until you found what you could work on to make it better.

    Good luck!

  5. Is this a Goober post? LOL
    Yes, you're a hard worker! Keep it up. Learning to revise is an important skill cuz an agent and an editor will have you revise too. And YES, you deserve a break, so take it. It's a great time of year to do that, and reacquaint yourself with your family. *grin*

  6. I hear ya, hon. I started querying in September too. I did get three requests for full, but so far no offers of representation. I really thought I was ready after doing over 30 revisions, but I feel that it's lacking something. But I couldn't see what it was until I got so many rejections. Now I think I've found the key and when I start querying again in January I'll have better luck.

  7. Melissa--Good luck! January will be our month. I feel it! :)

  8. Hey Emily- I also wanted to add that I read your first chapter from your Nano project, I think it's Morcah and I loved it so much. It's really stuck with me. I think about it often. I know you're going to find a home for both of these stories, it's just finding the right person.

  9. Hey Emily, I'm glad you made some progress in finding out what was not jiving with the query that led to the form rejections. Hopefully, the changes you've made will lead to something else.

    Definitely take a break during December. I hear most agents take breaks during this time anyway so it's a great time to take a rest.


  10. Sorry to hear you've been having such a difficult time, but WELL DONE for sticking at it and not giving up. I've also had a tough time, starting a creative writing course and realising I'm not as good a writer as I'd thought I was, and that most people on my course are better than me. Also, it seems harder to write creatively for assignments, rather than just for pleasure. Your query is good - it makes your novel sound like the sort of book I'd be interested to read.

  11. Revisions seem to be the answer to everything. I'll be querying in January too and I'm not looking forward to it!

  12. This is an attitude that will take you far!

  13. I love how you've stuck by your story and kept working to make it better. I'm sure it'll find a home. Don't give up. And when you get it published, I'll do my darndest to make it to your first booksigning. I'll stand around with my thumbs in my pockets like some hick and go, "Yup. I knew her back when this here story was still in diapers, dontcha know. Isn't such a big book now?" Hehehehe.

  14. *grin* I thought that would make you giggle.


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