Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The ten things I learned from a rejected manuscript

Like anyone else who is brave (stupid? crazy?) enough to query literary agents and submit mms upon request, I have racked up my fair share of rejections. In no particular order, here are the ten things I learned from that process. Also, I would not be where I am now today (signed with a wonderful agent) without all those Rs.

1) My ms was rejected: Translation: I was actually able (despite what my fourth grade teacher said about me) to finish a ms, write a query letter that created some interest, and write well enough that my partial ms generated a request for a full! (I like to start with something positive.)

2) I am not Ernest Hemingway. It is true, I am not, and it is best to learn this early. Flowery or overly stylistic prose is a big turn-off. (Trust me on this one.) The idea of writing is to communicate; the more straight-forward the better. This was a painful lesson for me; because I love stylistic writing. But most readers do not. Believe it or not, this has been studied. Having said that, a little style goes a long way. Every time I need a reality check (usually on the hour) I go back and look at my first ms and compare it with the third! (Smack!)

3) My second ms got rejected by one agent who said he loved my writing but the premise was a deal breaker. The following week another (also very reputable) agent said she loved the premise but she didn't love my writing. Ok, which is it? If you plan to pursue this process, you will simply have to put up with disparities such as this, because they happen. To get past this, you have to throw out the outlying comments and focus on the common denominator.

4)Pacing! Pacing! Pacing! It is isn't my place to instruct you on pacing--and there are many good books, websites, seminars etc. on the issue--but I wanted to point out how important it is. And here's the best part: you can learn pacing by doing a lot of writing, and a lot of reading. The best part of writing a book is that it makes reading books 10 times more enjoyable, because you notice and appreciate things--like pacing--that you hitherto did not. I have heard Dan Brown be torn apart by many writers (jealousy?) but I will tell you this. He understands pacing. And he's living proof that a well-paced book with a good premise sells. (Think DaVinci code!)

5) Transition. (It's hard!) Simply put, encouraging the reader to go the next scene/chapter. As with pacing, 1) I have no business telling you how to do it 2) it's important and 3) you can learn by reading and writing. By way of a suggestion, read Daniel Silva. Daniel writes international thrillers about a art restorer/spy named Gabriel Allon. Daniel writes well. Period. And he is a master of transitioning one scene into the next. Read The Kill Artist (first of the series) and you will know what I mean--and you will thank me for the introduction.

Once again, thanks for your time. Please share the link with anyone you want, and follow/request me on Facebook/Twitter if you can. (@phogenkampVT) I will post again in a few days. I have enjoyed the comments, so keep em coming.