Get a Free Ebook

Five Inspirational Truths for Authors

Try our Video Classes

Downloadable in-depth learning, with pdf slides

Find out more about My Book Therapy

We want to help you up your writing game. If you are stuck, or just want a boost, please check us out!

Monday, December 26, 2005

Pick Up Your Pen and Step Away From the Ledge

With the new year quickly approaching, many of us, will hopefully be getting our first publishing contract. Or our second or third.

Many of us will be getting bombarded with a stream of rejection letters as editors get busy after the holidays.

The odds are stacked against us in the business of publishing, so unfortunately, more rejections--way more--will be on their way than acceptance calls.

Par for the course.

Still stinks though.

The worst rejection letter I ever received, and believe me I have a few to choose from, came from an acquisition’s editor in regard to my first novel.

I sent this kind sir a query.

He liked it and requested a proposal, which of course I sent.

He liked that and requested the first hundred or so pages.

I received a very enthusiastic e-mail about how tight my writing was. What a page turner. I’d like to take it to committee. And then a page of revisions he would like to see.

Hooray. I was as good as contracted!

I made the revisions, sent it back. The tumbleweeds began to roll...and then a rejection.

Now, up until that point, I had received rejection letters, but getting as far as the words, “going to committee” from the acquisition’s editor, well, the first cut is the deepest.

So, here I am a year or two or three, (it’s beginning to blur) later, my manuscripts, (two now) in the hands of editors, I am a bit more guarded. Hopeful, don’t get me wrong, very hopeful, but I’m tightening my stomach this time so the gut punch doesn’t knock the wind out of me.

If the rejections come, I will do what I have done in the past:

A. Run on my treadmill until I nearly pass out.
B. Get busy on something new and get my passed over manuscipts back out for another round.

C. Reread Ralph Keyes' The Writer's Book of Hope

The Writer's Book of HOPE [Getting from frustration to publication]
Ralph Keyes
Henry Holt & Company


In 1889, the editor of the San Francisco Examiner, having accepted an article from Rudyard Kipling, informed the author that he should not bother to submit any more. "This isn't a kindergarten for amateur writers," the editor wrote. "I'm sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don't know how to use the English language."

A century later, John Grisham was turned down by sixteen agents before he found representation-and it was only after Hollywood showed an interest in The Firm that publishers began to take him seriously.

The anxiety of rejection is an inevitable part of any writer's development. In this book, Ralph Keyes turns his attention from the difficulty of putting pen to paper-the subject of his acclaimed The Courage to Write -to the frustration of getting the product to the public. Inspiration isn't nearly as important to the successful writer, he argues, as tenacity, and he offers concrete ways to manage the struggle to publish.

Drawing on his long experience as a writer and teacher of writing, Keyes provides new insight into the mind-set of publishers, the value of an agent, and the importance of encouragement and hope to the act of authorial creation.

Reviewed by Gina Holmes:

The Writer's Book of Hope, released in 2003, continues to be a beacon of hope to those on the long and tumultuous path to publication.

Keyes gives antidote after antidote on writer's rejected who went on to become best-sellers.

"Ursula Le Guin sent out her first story when she was eleven. She got her first acceptance at thirty-three. James Dickey endured years of form rejections before he finally saw hand-writing on one that said, "Not bad."

According to James Lee Burke's agent, 100 editors turned down Lost Get-Back Boogie (including multipe editors at the same house) before Louisiana State University Press bought Burke's first novel for a pittance.

It's a rare writer who doesn't have to hack through a jumble of rejection slips before (and after) getting published. Some of history's best-known books were rejected many times before finally being accepted. The Ginger Man, by J.P. Donleavy--now considered one of the best 100 novels ever published--was turned down by thirty-six publishers before it found a home..."

Besides happy endings to rejected beginnings, Keyes takes us inside the world of publishing. Some of the Chapter titles:

~AFD Syndrome~ (before drinking hemlock)
~Dealing with Discouragers
~Rites of Rejection
~The Publishing Tribe (Why publishing Resembles High School)
and more...

This book is one of the few writing books I can't bring myself to give up. Every so often, I find myself discouraged beyond reason, and this book takes me back from the ledge of despair.

It's a must read for any pre-pubbed writer needing an injection of optimism.


  1. Great review, Gina. I'm going to order the book; I need that right now.

  2. This sounds like a great book, Gina. I usually paint something red when I get a rejection. Last time, it was my kitchen. :)

  3. Thanks Jennifer. Paint something red, huh? We're not talking in blood are we? I'm glad I stay away from the red paint. I just eat a lot of cheese and mumble under my breath, and leave depressing messages on all my friend's voicemail and run till I drop and then get back to work.

    Ane, your uncontracted novel, When the Wind Blows, is so good, you have nothing to be bummed about. That book is so going to make some editor very happy...and then the publisher when it goes on to be a hot seller. Boy, if you're getting rejections on that golden egg, what hope is there for the rest of us? :)

  4. Gina said (to Ane): Boy, if you're getting rejections on that golden egg, what hope is there for the rest of us? :)

    So I should just quit now before I get my first rejection? :-)

    Nope, sorry. I NEED a rejection. Then I will know I really am a writer. But of course, to get that rejection I actually need to send something out.

    I feel a new year goal coming on.

  5. Venessa: Get that ms out there! Rejection is horrible, but at least when you put your stuff out there there is hope for a contract. No queries, no proposals sent= No hope.

    Girl, you're in trouble now that I know. I'll be keeping you accountable. So what you got that you're going to pitch this year? Inquiring minds want to know!

  6. A half finished murder/mystery. But now that I have read Ted's comments about mysteries, I think I might go and make it more thrillery. But who really wants to read a murder mystery/thriller set in the lake district of N.Z.?

    So, 2006 goals:

    1) Finish the manuscript.

    2) Find an agent.

    Holding me accountable is good. But can you hold off until February? N.Z. closes down over January, and I plan to use my holiday time working on a supernatural short story for a planned anthology.

  7. I wanted to comment on a trend I'm seeing with prospective authors: they're not writing their hearts. You know what I mean? Why not write that murder mystery, Vanessa? Or why not write that chick-lit story about the crazy lady you mentioned was climbing around in your head, Gina? By the time you finish (and I'm just using you two as an example, so don't take me too literally here) the market might have changed.

    I hear too many authors holding off writing the story that's burning in them just because they think it won't sell. Or they're too worried about branding themselves. Hey. I don't know about you guys, but I don't want to limit myself this early in the game. Not to be devisive here, but I really want to encourage all of you to write the story YOU would want to read. If you want to read it, I bet others would, too.

    Listen to the opinions of other writers, weight their words carefully, but then follow the Lord's leading. It may be that He's calling you to blaze a trail others haven't dared to blaze. Or aren't called to blaze. Maybe God's plan for you is totally different from what "they" say would work. Of course, this isn't to say we ignore sound advice. But I think you know what I'm getting at.

  8. Hey CJ. My thoughts for myself are that the type of story I enjoying reading most, and writing most is a thriller. Has always been since I was a teenager. Before that the Hardy Boys were the bomb.

    Now, I do have a crazy chicklit story in my head, but branding is a valid concern for me. I want to write thrillers. I've written two and have about a half dozen more ideas, so then I come out with a chick-lit. Not good for business. And I try not to forget that is a big and legitimate part of this.

    I'm trying to compromise by finding a way to put my crazy chick-lit character into a thriller circumstance. I'm all for trying new things. For blazing new trails. But, I'm at the point where I know what I want with my life and my career and am taking steps toward that goal.

    I see what you're saying for new authors to try different things and see what fits but changing the type of product I sell in my store front every few months is a good way to go out of business.

    CJ, you are always a great encouragement and source of wisdom.
    Thanks for that!

  9. Oh, I definitely see the merit in that, Gina, and I know so many respected people suggest branding. I guess what I was trying to say probably applies to me personally more than anything. I know I can get too bogged down with stuff like this, when what I should be doing is writing!

    Thrillers are my favorites to read, by the way. So I'm looking forward to reading yours when they hit the shelves (and I'm sure they will).

  10. CJ,
    I think what you said has great merit. I couldn't imagine simply writing to market. My heart wouldn't be in it. And my writing wouldn't be its best. I think if I could take the supernatural element out of my writing, it'd be an easier sell, but I don't think that's the story God gave me to write. He may later. But not now.

    What you said is really a good point. There are some who do try to write what the market is buying today. But, I think most of us would call that hack writing. Now, maybe they're so good they can pull it off and enjoy all genres. Kudos for that author. I couldn't do it.

    Though it would be nice to just write whatever story line that comes to mind helter skelter. The key is to know thyself.

    I think I could jump from supernatural thriller to medical thriller or even suspense and be okay. But a jump from thriller to chick-lit or romance might be a bit too much for the readers if that makes sense.

    I feared writing that chick-lit and having it be great, selling like crazy and then be expected to write a series of chick-lit. Uh, that might prove a problem, when I only had the one in me, you know?

    But, you're right. Sometimes we spend so much time worrying about the marketing, or business end that we aren't doing what we ought to be doing~writing!

  11. Yeah, that could be a problem! Sounds like you have a great balance in mind. Ms. Crazy-chick-lit-lady will make an interesting character. And if you really get tired of her, just put her in your thriller ... and kill her off.

  12. Interesting discussion.

    When I completed the first draft of my wip, I was right into mysteries. Since starting on the rewrite, which is changing it into a completely different story btw, my reading choices have become quite diverse. Now I'm more into the thrillers, suspense, and supernatural. I will even dive into a romance or chick/mom lit, so you get the idea. I read widely.

    When it comes to my writing, I have ideas in most genres too. I guess I haven’t really thought long and hard about marketing or branding because, like others, I choose to write what’s on my heart.

    I’m going to take a long, hard look at my wip and see where it’s headed. I really want to take it up a level. :-)

  13. Great review, Gina! I'm with you on the guarded aspect, too. Here's to all of us in 2006!

  14. Camy, mark my words, this is your year!


    I'm looking forward to taking a look at what you got. (Mostly so I can steal your plot ideas, 'cause I'm like that ;-)
    Writing in every genre would be cool. Wouldn't that be a goal. I'm going to write one of everything. This year a gothic romance, next year a who dunnit. That's my natural personality, give me a little of this, little of that. Must focus...

  15. LOL, crap! I'm a nurse so I do that kinda thing all the time. I'm laughing so hard I'm going to pee my pants. I'm running over to amazon right now and fixing it. You all know me and realize I'm a bit of a knuckle-head but strangers don't need to know too! Thanks for pointing that out.

    Stupid medical terminology.

  16. Great review. I need this book.


Don't be shy. Share what's on your mind.