Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Good Rejection Letters

Always think of the WHY not the WHAT in a rejection. (Bottom of rejection letter from Natalie Fischer, Sandra Dijkstra Agency)

I’m on a roll with letters from agents and editors.

Mind you, none of them want my books, but they are so encouraging. Do they do that from some basic sense of human kindness to others less fortunate or am I really getting better at this writing stuff?

My friends love what I write—of course! But none of my friends is an agent or editor. Would that they were!

But, back to the rejections.

One of the members of my Desert Flowers writing group asked just what the agent’s letter-tail meant. She thought it obscure enough to be taken in multiple ways.

My first reaction to a rejection is like Snoopy’s when he gets back a rejection letter for his “It was a dark and stormy night” story. In one strip many years ago, Snoopy goes out to the mailbox and finds a letter from an editor. It reads something like, “Thank you for the opportunity to consider your story, but it does not fit our present publication needs.”

Snoopy is distressed. He yowls. He stamps his feet. He kicks the mailbox. After his tantrum has passed, he returns to the letter which reads: “P.S. Don’t take it out on your mailbox.”

Yep! I get that. I took her motto at the bottom of the letter to mean that it is pretty easy to focus on being rejected, the “what.” But the “why” is where the work is. The “what” is passive. It happened to me. Nothing I can do about it now, as that agent has closed the door on this manuscript.

The “why”, however, requires action from me. When she identified that I need “more sensory details in every scene” and “there was not enough set-up for the plot” and after the well-done sex scenes “the rest of the story breezed, and I didn’t get a chance to really savor and appreciate it”, well, that just plain spells out work. She has given me a template for re-writing that I hope will get the next agent or editor to want my book.

That’s what I thought the agent meant. But maybe not.

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