Friday, October 30, 2009

Dealing With Rejection

Sent out my first Query letter for my first novel, the one I wrote last year for NaNoWriMo. I've edited it 4 times through, and had it critiqued a couple times. I was pretty sure the story had a glow of its own.

I've got to hand it to the Agent. The email submission I sent was after hours and yet, the agent got back to me in less than 30 minutes with a form rejection email.

I've got mixed feelings about that. Disappointed that my submission was rejected, but grateful for the agent's quick reply.

I know that if I sent a request in and it took six months to get a rejection letter, that would be six additional months before I could send my story on to the next agent. (This is assuming I got a rejection letter at all - Some agencies state that if you don't hear from them in 6 weeks, they aren't interested. I guess that means, 'No News is BAD News').

Rejection is definitely a part of life for an aspiring author such as myself, so it's something I'd better develop a thick skin for, because I'll see a lot of it, most probably, before someone picks up my book and runs with it.

A form rejection really doesn't give me much to go on. This is unfortunate, but it's what most authors have to deal with EVERY time they get a reject. As Rachelle Gardner's Blog states in one of her posts, a form reject is almost ALL an agent has time to send out.

According to Rachelle's Blog, the agent's time is mainly spent tending to the needs of writers currently on their client list - sending out queries for their novel, researching publisher fits, matching requests from publishers with novels they currently are marketing, I suspect much like headhunters do in the business community when employers ask for a worker that fits certain requirements.

Many agents must spend their 'after' hours reading over manuscripts to see if they are gripping, compelling, and well-written. Their initial contact with a writer (the Query Letter) is in a stack a mile high, and they sort through the stack looking for a little gem in the pile of rocks.

This isn't to say that your manuscript is one of the 'rocks', but it might not be a gem to them.

After all, according to the 2009 Writers Market, the MAJOR publishers produce only 100-200 books a year. But agents are inundated with thousands of ms a month.

So, if your query letter isn't stellar, you'll probably not get a request for a partial.

But when faced with the inevitable rejection letter, the BEST thing an author can do is realize that this rejection is NOT a rejection of you as a person, or even of you as an author. Or, for that matter, even your ms as a viable sellable book.

So, I'll be re-examining my polished ms for some spots on it, create a cleaner Query letter (no, I didn't even get it critiqued, so I probably had that coming to me anyway) and send my query out to the next agent on my list.

Meanwhile, as NaNoWriMo approaches in just a day or two, I'll be continuing to write. Which is what you should do too, when you face a Rejection Letter - Send your query on to the next agent, and keep writing.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Choosing your words carefully

As a writer I find often that words flow out of me like a stream of water, rapid and refreshing. When I read back over the prose I pen, however, and consider the readers who will be enjoying my novels, I wonder how many of the words in my vocabulary as a 46 year-old engineer will be grasped by the 12-25 year-olds who will be reading them.

I'm encouraged by many writing blogs, books, and literary sources, to consider the vocabulary of the reader, and filter my words to reach their level (or below).

Counterwighting this is the knowledge that as we 'dumb down' our vocabulary for the reader, we inadvertently do them a disservice. Because we don't consider that these novels we write are the very sources many young people will use to expand their vocabularies.

Allow me to explain.

As a young boy, at the tender age of ten, I was devouring books by authors like Edgar Rice Burroughs, Rudyard Kipling, Robert Louis Stevenson, Andre Norton, Piers Anthony, Larry Niven, Isaac Asimov, and Robert Heinlein.

I was not studying books like The Dictionary. Or the Encyclopedia Brittanica. Call me an escapist, or a Walter Mitty.

But reading a big book of words in order to expand my stockpile of terms was just a waste of precious time, when I could be hidden in an apple barrel listening to Long John Silver planning to take over the ship. Or racing across the ochre moss of Mars with John Carter to save his precious Dejah Thoris. Or discovering new worlds with the half ship's cat, half ??? named Eet, in search of the Zero Stone.

No, my vocabulary came vicariously, through my exposure to these books i enjoyed so much.

Often, a term would roll out I didn't know, and I would consider the context, and learn a new word in the process. Did I look up the word in the Dictionary? Infrequently, but yes. More often, I reasoned out the word on my own. I was usually right, but not always. I didn't let these short hiccups stop me from enjoying a good read. I used it to expand my horizons.

I believe we must balance this desire to expand the reader's vocabulary with a healthy dose of realism - the average reader will quit if they have to check much more than a few words in the dictionary. I know I would have. But, we shouldn't expect the reader to simply check their brains at the door, either.

How do YOU find this balance as a writer? Do you write your novel in your own words, then do a Word check for reading level, and adjust as needed? Do you adjust it for the average reader at all, or risk alienating them?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Fantasy and the Real World

The writing of fantasy usually involves fantastic realms where dragons, fairies, wizards, and magic exist, and where the usual physical rules of the universe do not necessarily apply.

There is rarely any explanation of how any of this magic works or why. The reader is expected (and usually willing) to suspend his or her disbelief in the joy of a good story.

Often, the writer is encouraged to keep the fantastic of the story separate from the mundane, real world we live in. After all, those things don't happen in the world we live in.

Keeping it real, or Keeping it Imaginary
A writer feels more comfortable writing about things he or she knows about. Because of the risks of jarring a reader out of the story when something in the real world doesn't mesh with the reader's knowledge of that world, the writer takes the safe road of sticking to what they know, or avoiding the real world altogether.

But there is an entire real world out there that we can experience, and as writers, we can expand our horizons by visiting those areas, or researching them in the library or online, before writing about those areas of the world.

Many fantasy stories I've read begin in the real world, then an occurence, an accident, a planned invasion, a wormhole in space, a warp in time and dimension, leads the protagonis into a world where they are desperately needed, incredibly powerful, or perhaps basically ignored until their character blossoms and they begin to guide their own destiny. (At least, to their own perspective).

Other stories I have read bridge the gap between real and imaginary at points within the book (or movie, for that matter, like in Disney's Enchanted)

Question for you:
So, have any of you myriad fantasy writers out there ever had the experience of researching another area of the world, the real world, in a story you've penned?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Dreams and novels

I wonder how many authors get their best ideas for novels while they sleep. When the brain shuts down into deep mode, is it possible that things slow down enough that the 'back office' portion of the brain has a chance to process the cogitations of the day and complete the threads of the stories we've been agonizing over?

I know that, for me, many of my best songs have been penned upon waking up, in the early morning hours, when the sun is on the rise...

Also, my best ideas for stories so far have come from dreams. Sometimes dreams based on one small event of the day - For example, a story I'll be working on for NaNoWriMo this year is based upon a dream I had, after pondering on a bright blue door on a house a mile south of my home.

I've looked at that door as I drove down the quiet street, and thought that it was the single most bizarre thing on my drive. Brilliant blue, the azure of a rain-swept sky, and the only thing particularly colorful on an otherwise rather mundane home.

A door to adventure. A portal to danger and discovery.

Doors are curious things. They let things out. And they let things in.

More on the door when I get that story written, hopefully by the end of November.

But I digress. The basic thrust of this is that after a night of dreaming about that door and the very large crows congregated on the lawn nearby talking in muttering tones, I had the basis for an entire series of books.

I wonder how many authors get their best ideas in dreams?