How To Handle Rejection: “It’s not you, It’s me.”

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If you’re writing books, you’re probably going to decide at some point to take a gigantic risk and query an editor or agent to find out if your writing has any chops. What will you do if it gets rejected? Because, it will. Sorry. Hard truth.

I attended the NJRW Put Your Heart in a Book Conference this past October. Great conference. I pitched my women’s fiction novel, A Second Chance House, to four editors and agents. Three of them loved the premise. I had read my pitch, perfectly acceptable way to pitch, and one agent said she loved my writing! Hot dog, things are looking up. Nah. I’ve been down this road a few times. I know the drill. She liked my book, but not enough to rep me. At least that’s what she said after she and others in her agency read it.

I received another rejection yesterday. From an editor. And though she said some nice things about my writing she felt the book wasn’t for her and passed.

Getting rejected in the publishing industry is the equivalent to breaking up a relationship. “It’s not you. It’s me.” That’s what I heard (and have heard with other books) from these two rejections. Not right for me. Not a fit for me. It’s not you. It’s me.

Where does that leave me? Besides standing in the snow without a coat and holding only my wet and soggy manuscript?

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There are many choices when the rejections hit. Eat tons of peanut M&Ms. A serious possibility. Hide under the bed until your computer battery runs out and you can safely walk past it without torturing yourself by rereading the rejection. Or dust yourself off and keep going. The last option boarders on insanity, but hey, who said authors had any sanity? (As if hiding under the bed states normal psychological behavior? Of course it does! What? You haven’t done that?)

What do you usually think when someone you’re dating says, “It’s not you. It’s me.”? (I can’t answer that because I haven’t been on a date since 1990 and he didn’t say that. We ended up married with two kids and a dog. He said something funny and I laughed. The rest is history as they say.) Anyway, if I were dating and someone said it’s not you, it’s me, I’d probably say, “Hmph. What do you know. It’s not me, It’s you!” Yes, very mature, I realize.

But that’s exactly what I’m saying to these rejections, because it isn’t me. Now, having said that, there are times when it is your book. Never you, but your book and it takes time and lots of writing practice when to know it’s time to let that book sit in a drawer and rest and when to keep going. If you’re not sure which one you are, email me, we’ll talk.

But I’ve been around the block a few times and have a decent idea that my novel is worth publishing. My critique partners won’t let me embarrass myself. They’re good like that and I love them for it. Another reason why critique partners are invaluable, they won’t let you walk around with your dress stuck in your underwear.

So, where are you in the publishing process? Are you ready for an editor, ready to pitch or ready to shove that book in a drawer and start a new project? Or is time for M&Ms?

Any questions?






Editing Tip Tuesday

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Have you started thinking about your 2017 writing and publishing goals? What are your year end goals, monthly goals, weekly goals? I invite you to make a list of your intentions for the new year. And to keep you accountable, keep me posted with your progress. Post here at the blog with word count goals, finished novel goals, marketing goals, and any other writing goals you have.

Did you join that writer’s group? Sign up for a new conference? Send me your manuscript to edit? Start that new book? Finish the book you’ve been working on?

Let’s make 2017 a happy and successful year.

Any questions?

It’s Editing Tip Tuesday!

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I hope everyone had a very nice Thanksgiving. I’m trying to get back into the swing of work this week, but I’m still suffering from Turkey Coma. (That’s a real thing. Ha ha.)

I’m a big believer everything happens for a reason. Probably because it lets me think there’s some sense of control in the world. Random activity is a scary thing for me.

And random activity in your novel is also a scary thing. Events cannot happen willy nilly. Everything in your novel must be there for a reason. And the reason can’t be, “But Stacey, I needed that to happen!” You might need your character to get across a lake in a boat, but if you told us the last boat on the lake was in 1920 and its 2016 a boat can’t randomly appear for your benefit.

Nope. You’ll have to explain there was an ordinance in place because a young man drowned in that lake never allowing boats to sail there again. Your main character can’t swim, and it would take too darn long to walk around the lake. If he’s going to save the maiden in time he needs a boat so he’s been planning, since the maiden’s kidnapping which is your inciting incident and happening early on in the story, on how to get a boat in the lake. The boat can’t just appear. Or, a long lost relative can’t show up on the scene with that boat. Too convenient. Your character has to fight and kick for that boat knowing if he doesn’t get it in the lake in time, that maiden is going to die. Got me?

Leave random acts for kindness. For your novel, every word counts. Say it with me, EVERY WORD COUNTS.

Any questions?

Editing Tip Tuesday

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World Building

One of the things I loved about writing fantasy novels was I got to make up the entire world. All the rules of the world were determined by me. I didn’t have to worry about where Route 80 intersected with Route 66 (if that even happens, see?) My world didn’t function within the laws of the real world. It was very freeing. And scary at the same time. The rule of thumb when creating a fantasy world is; whatever rules you make up have to be consistent throughout the book. You can’t change the rules to suit the needs of the scene. In my series, the three main characters can’t do magic. The world around them is magical. When I placed them into difficult situations, they had to use their smarts to get out of it. Magic was reserved to the creatures that lived in the world I created. Unfair odds? Maybe. But my characters learned a lot about themselves along the way.

Here are some things to think about when creating your own world:

  • Climate
  • Terrain
  • Money
  • Educational system
  • Technology Level
  • Transportation
  • Rights and privileges
  • Crime and its punishment
  • Government
  • Values
  • Good vs Evil
  • Right and wrong
  • What is worth living for?
  • Add your own rules for your world. The sky is the limit!

Any questions?

Editing Tip Tuesday

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I teach a creative writing workshop to middle school students about writing in the active voice. Active voice gives writing more punch. Passive writing makes writing weak. Even if you don’t write fiction, all writing can benefit from active voice.

The easiest way to learn how to write in active voice is to avoid the passive. Stay away from the verb “to be” and all its conjugations. Am, are, was, were, be, being, been. In passive voice the subject of the sentence is being acted upon. In active voice the subject does the action.

“I am getting a divorce.” vs. “I divorced his sorry behind.” See the difference? Using active voice will also tell a lot about the character speaking. What kind of words does this person choose to use?

You might be sitting there saying, “Stacey, I absolutely must use a “to be” verb in this sentence.” If you can’t live without “to be” in a few sentences, leave it in. I would encourage you to rewrite the sentence until it is active. A way exists. (As apposed to: there must be a way to write a better sentence.)

Using the passive voice also makes sentences wordy. See sentence above. Active voice will trim your words making each one work hard for you. You want your words sweating by the time you’re done.

You can do a search and find for all “to be” words in your document or read it out loud. Your words will surprise you.

Any questions?

I still have two spots available for anyone who would like the first five pages of the WIP edited for free. Comment below and I’ll send you an email with more details. I love hearing from you. Happy editing.


Editing Tip Tuesday

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There are many ways to do it. (That should have your attention.) Of course, I mean editing. You could read fifty books, attend conferences and you will hear a hundred different ways to edit. Basically, they’re all correct. You just have to find the way that works for you. Having said that, even with all your experience going through draft after draft you still need a professional editor to take a pass through. If you are traditionally published, your publishing house will provide said editor for you, but if you’re going the self-pub route then you need to hire one yourself. It’s worth the money. You want your novel to be as good as possible and we can’t do that by ourselves. Not even us control freaks.

So how should you go through your first draft and polish it up? I’m slightly anal retentive. (You should see my organized cabinets and I wrote tariffs for phone companies for several years, which spoke right to that side of me. It was a really boring job, but I learned a lot about grammar, how to write an outstanding letter and I got the color code to my heart’s content.) I like to apply those skills to my editing process.

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Yup, this is an example of my cabinets. 

I have printed out the entire novel, three hole punched the pages and put it in a binder. Then I used color coordinated sticky notes to identify the POV characters and made notes on all my stickies. That allowed me to see each person’s story line individually. I liked the color coding, but it was time consuming and I was still a baby writer at the time so I don’t think I benefited enough because I didn’t know enough.

I also love my red pen. Ask my critique partners. I have printed out the novel and red penned myself through out. Like grading papers. That might be okay if you’re righting a very linear story. I made tons of notes in the margins of the pages and added pages then went back and fixed all that I had marked up.

For my last two novels, Welcome to Bibliotheca and Welcome to Skull Mountain I outlined each chapter on a note card. I did this by hand, but if you write in Scrivener (which I’m thinking about switching to. Thoughts?) the program will outline for you. All you have to do is print, cut and paste. I hung each card on my wall with tape so I could move them around. I used different colored pens to identify plot layers that needed to be fixed, holes that needed to be closed. The note cards helped me identify when I dropped a story line, repeated myself (a real disappointment when that happened) or when I needed to add to a story line. I tend to need to add in draft two.

For my current WIP, a women’s fiction novel about home and family, (like my middle grade fantasies, by the way) I’ve got the note cards ready, but this time I’m going to put them on a binder ring so I can take the cards with me. (I got this idea from a blog post about editing. I couldn’t find it to share. Sorry.) I’m also thinking about using small colored sticky notes to identify plot layers that I may have dropped or need expanding on or deleting all together. Never be afraid to delete. Just cut it out and place it in another document. You might be able to use the work later. Or not, but at least you have it. I haven’t used any of the work I’ve deleted so far, but it’s still available to me.

Some authors like to use white boards so they can visualize the entire story at once. Great idea. Some authors only use sticky notes because they like the idea of moving the notes around to rearrange chapters. I love an idea that allows me to “see” what I’m doing. I’m a visual person so colors and pictures are big helps. My story line in Welcome To Skull Mountain had a gigantic plot hole in it and I was having trouble fixing it. I grabbed brown paper bags, the kind we used to cover books with, cut them open and spread them out on my kitchen island. (I didn’t want to waste time running out to get big sheets of paper.) But I had to see what was happening, so in the form of a family tree graph I wrote out the plot line and what branched off from it. This allowed me to see the plot holes, which I also identified in different colored pens, but I knew where to take the story when I didn’t before. I hung that project on the wall too.

I am sure there are many other ways to edit and I’d like to hear about them if you do things differently. As a matter of fact, I want to hear about it so much and in celebration of my new editorial business, the first four people who comment on this blog post will get the first five pages of their novel edited for free. Unfortunately, I don’t edit picture books, early readers, or short stories. Can’t wait to hear from you.

Happy Writing!

Editing Tip Tuesday

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Just get on with it.

I’m reading a book now for pleasure. (Yes, I still do that in addition to all the other stuff I read for work.) I won’t mention the title or the author, but I will tell you it’s categorized as a thriller.

Right up front we know one of the 4 POV characters has a secret. (Let me digress for a second and say I don’t love the fact the book has 4 POV characters. Who am I suppose to get attached to?) The author mentions repeatedly this character, a girl – age seventeen, has a secret, but the author doesn’t tell us what it is.

She wants us to wonder and keep turning the pages. Honestly, the fact that she keeps mentioning this big secret, but won’t give us a hint (though it’s in photo form now so we know someone else is going to get their hands on it) just annoys me. Say it once. Character Number One has a secret. Then be on with it. Author doesn’t have to keep hinting. It’s like kids on a play ground, “I have a secret and I’m not telling you.” At which point I want to shut the book.

Yes, you have to create suspense if the secret is somehow connected to the arc of the story. But I like books that hit the ground running and don’t slow down. This book also gets bogged down in the beginning with a lot of setting. It’s a very nice setting and one I might even want to visit some day, but I’d rather learn about the secret or what led up to this horrible thing hanging over Character Number One’s head. Because once she’s faced with the fact her secret is out she’s going to be forced to make a decision. One hopefully, she doesn’t like. Now we have conflict! And the race is on.

Since I can’t turn off my editor brain while I read, I often say out loud, “Get on with it.” Give me something new. And I don’t think having multiple POV characters is the answer to something new. I see what the Author is trying to do. Each character has a secret and I guess we’re supposed to keep turning the pages until someone’s secret blows up.

Honestly, I don’t care enough. I want action. I want characters shoved into making choices between two evils. I want to see how they respond under pressure.

I want you to get on with it.

Any questions?