Personal Rejections

Submission protocol, query etiquette, and strategies that work
BlancheKing
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Personal Rejections

Post by BlancheKing » June 14th, 2010, 11:03 am

I've been getting a few personal rejections lately... they all say the same things, mostly along the lines of "great stuff, made me pause, but ultimately, I had to pass."

Is that a sign that I should change something? Rewrite? Re-word?
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Quill
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Re: Personal Rejections

Post by Quill » June 14th, 2010, 11:24 am

Sounds like maybe the story is good but writing is not quite there yet. You may need to put it through yet another draft of tweaking. Or two. It appears you're on the right track, though. Also that you might possibly be too close to the work for a real objective look, suggesting at least a short break before that next go-through. Good luck!

Krista G.
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Re: Personal Rejections

Post by Krista G. » June 14th, 2010, 11:55 am

BlancheKing, were these rejections on the query, or on a requested partial or full?

In either case, it sounds to me like you just haven't found the agent who really *gets* you yet. There's nothing in that feedback that pinpoints a specific problem with the query or manuscript, so I wouldn't change anything (yet), if I were you. And even if there were specific feedback, another agent might feel differently about that, too.

Case in point: The project I last queried got quite a few requests, but most of those requests came back as rejections. Several agents said the characters were weak and/or the plot confusing. Then there was the agent who thought everything was really polished, she just wasn't totally into it herself (and asked to see my next project, if this one didn't land an agent). Then there was the agent who really liked the project, wanted me to make a few revisions so it would fit more definitively within the genre, and resubmit it.

So I don't think you need to do anything too drastic just yet. But that's just me.
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BlancheKing
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Re: Personal Rejections

Post by BlancheKing » June 14th, 2010, 12:12 pm

Initially, I thought it would be the writing too, but one of the agents who called for a full ms said it was "better than most of the stuff that came across my [her] desk". So I'm going to guess it's not the writing... is it?

@ Krista: That could be possible. I've been getting my share of requests, so no complaints there. Also, i think I know which agent is asking for your revisions because she asked for my ms too. =) (saw your post on query tracker) Who knows, we might get the same agent? =D *optimistic*
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Quill
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Re: Personal Rejections

Post by Quill » June 14th, 2010, 4:31 pm

BlancheKing wrote:Initially, I thought it would be the writing too, but one of the agents who called for a full ms said it was "better than most of the stuff that came across my [her] desk". So I'm going to guess it's not the writing... is it?
"Better" meaning this is pretty good and deserves my personal rather than form rejection? Or "better" meaning this is publishable I want to represent this? You may be near the cusp of the two; if the writing was a teensy bit tighter...

Just guessing.

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Re: Personal Rejections

Post by BlancheKing » June 14th, 2010, 6:46 pm

The exact quotes were: "There's some good, smooth prose in these pages - in fact, the quality of writing is better than most of the material that crosses my desk. I also thought these pages had a great narrative pace." and " While I admired much about the writing, I'm afraid I wasn't..."

The problem before was "better developed" character and "as completely engaged ... as I'd hoped to be". I think I fixed that by giving the protagonist more lines and thoughts, but I'm starting to wonder if there's something that's neither prose nor character that's keeping my manuscript from being a good book. (Hence this post.)

Has anyone received any critiques not pertaining to prose or characterization?

Too bad there's no machine that can scan through a manuscript and tell the writer what's missing...
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Quill
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Re: Personal Rejections

Post by Quill » June 14th, 2010, 9:18 pm

You're right, it could be difficult to determine exactly what is missing or not as strong as it could be!

Myself, I plan to hire a freelance editor when I'm ready, to try to avoid such a quandary.

Short of that, I would think a really trusted, talented beta reader might provide the same sort of diagnosis.

If your ms. is really that close to acceptance I wouldn't try a scattershot reading by friends, though; less likely to isolate the problem.

Must be frustrating...

BlancheKing
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Re: Personal Rejections

Post by BlancheKing » June 14th, 2010, 11:18 pm

Quill wrote:You're right, it could be difficult to determine exactly what is missing or not as strong as it could be!

Myself, I plan to hire a freelance editor when I'm ready, to try to avoid such a quandary.

Short of that, I would think a really trusted, talented beta reader might provide the same sort of diagnosis.
Currently, one of the nice people I've met here is beta-reading my manuscript, so I am waiting for that.

Are you sure a freelance editor would catch all the quandaries? From what I can gather via research, they rarely improve a manuscript any more than a beta reader can.
Quill wrote: If your ms. is really that close to acceptance I wouldn't try a scattershot reading by friends, though; less likely to isolate the problem.

Must be frustrating...
I was told that we weren't suppose to start querying until our manuscripts were close enough to what we thought would result in acceptance.
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Re: Personal Rejections

Post by CafeCliche » June 15th, 2010, 12:01 am

BlancheKing wrote:Has anyone received any critiques not pertaining to prose or characterization?
Haha, I don't think any of the critiques I've gotten have been about prose or characterization! I've gotten reasons for rejection like "all the elements didn't come together in the manuscript for me" or "I'm sorry to say that the voice and the protagonist's age would make this a hard sell," etc etc. I hope that even if my current submissions don't go anywhere, I'll get some feedback I can use to work on the MS.

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Quill
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Re: Personal Rejections

Post by Quill » June 15th, 2010, 12:08 am

BlancheKing wrote:
Quill wrote:You're right, it could be difficult to determine exactly what is missing or not as strong as it could be!

Myself, I plan to hire a freelance editor when I'm ready, to try to avoid such a quandary.

Short of that, I would think a really trusted, talented beta reader might provide the same sort of diagnosis.
Currently, one of the nice people I've met here is beta-reading my manuscript, so I am waiting for that.

Are you sure a freelance editor would catch all the quandaries? From what I can gather via research, they rarely improve a manuscript any more than a beta reader can.
My research (unscientific!) tells me that many editors can, in fact, be the difference between getting published and not getting published. Not to say that a great beta couldn't equal that. It stands to reason, a professional editor who does it full time...
Quill wrote:
If your ms. is really that close to acceptance I wouldn't try a scattershot reading by friends, though; less likely to isolate the problem.

Must be frustrating...
I was told that we weren't suppose to start querying until our manuscripts were close enough to what we thought would result in acceptance.
Right, but if we are not accepted, what do we do? I'm just saying raise the game (via the best beta or a pro editor), NOT submitting, at that point, to friends and relatives. In other words, my suggestion was to maybe get professional help for the ms.

Or, go work on another project, and let this one perk for a while. It might come to you, with time and more writing practice, what you can do to improve it.

Just ideas.

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sarahdee
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Re: Personal Rejections

Post by sarahdee » July 8th, 2010, 11:13 pm

It could simply be that your ms is great as it is but the agents are just looking for something different. As someone who has only had firm negative form rejections so far, I am impressed by the feedback you have had. It sounds very much as if they really struggled to say no (which is a good sign).

Do you have a good communication going with the agents? Would it be feasible to ask them if its a definite 'no' or would they be interested is seeing again after a re-write, and in the case of a latter, is there any particular weaknesses you can work on? Or perhaps try more agents?

Good luck, it does sound like you are close.

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HillaryJ
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Re: Personal Rejections

Post by HillaryJ » July 9th, 2010, 1:49 am

BlancheKing wrote:The exact quotes were: "There's some good, smooth prose in these pages - in fact, the quality of writing is better than most of the material that crosses my desk. I also thought these pages had a great narrative pace." and " While I admired much about the writing, I'm afraid I wasn't..."
Funny (read: not funny). I received that exact same rejection on a full and also thought it was personalized. I think that's just an enhanced version of a certain agent's form rejection. Message me if you'd like to confirm who I received it from.
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Re: Personal Rejections

Post by Margo » July 9th, 2010, 11:06 am

If you want to go with Quill's advice, I can recommend a fabulous freelance editor. I've worked with her, I've talked to others who have worked with her, and I've seen the before and after results on someone else's project after she's worked with them.

Downside: not cheap.
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Re: Personal Rejections

Post by Margo » July 9th, 2010, 11:23 am

Quill wrote:My research (unscientific!) tells me that many editors can, in fact, be the difference between getting published and not getting published. Not to say that a great beta couldn't equal that. It stands to reason, a professional editor who does it full time...
While I wouldn't agree that every freelance editor out there is better than a really good beta, I definitely think there are some freelancers out there who are better than any beta reader and worth the money a hundred times over. And we're talking several hundred for a partial, a couple thousand for something more thorough. The good ones are that good.
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Re: Personal Rejections

Post by GeeGee55 » July 9th, 2010, 8:44 pm

Hi BlancheKing:

I had a response from an agency that included suggestions for revision of my manuscript and the offer to resubmit if I chose to make the changes they suggested. You can see the thread under Revision Suggestions By Agent in this All Things Finding An Agent category. Nathan posted a response including a link about the various levels of edits he provides if he's interested, from vague suggestions to deep edits and how he thinks about them as he is responding. It was very helpful to see the situation from the agent's side.

I received a two-page letter which said the story was beautifully written and deeply moving, however, there were points in the story where I had failed to use the major events as power-shifting devices and some themes that were undeveloped. It's my guess that if you are not getting any specific feedback that your manuscript could benefit from some further revision, but how do you know what to revise, what is working and what is not? Here's where the decision becomes tough. If you have the money and the inclination a professional editing service might be worth the money and the effort. Otherwise, a trusted reader or two might put you on the right track. Another option is to enroll in an on-line writing course. Humber School for Writers has a good one, students work one-on-one with a well-known author on a project such as a novel. That's not a cheap option, either, but a writer learns a lot which they can apply to future works.

Or, maybe, the right agent has just not surfaced yet. It seems you are getting positive responses to your query. There is a lot to consider and I wish you luck in making the right decision for yourself and your novel.

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