Keys To Handling Rejection

Hi Everyone,

It’s been awhile but I’ve experienced tremendous growth since the last time I wrote.

You see, I got a rejection letter. Yeah, and the email came through on Valentine’s weekend. Needless to say my husband was at more than a loss.

Can I just admit? I took some time to cry and wonder why in the world a successful businesswoman in her own right would ever subject herself to this crazy publishing world?

We all process things differently. I did your standard sit-in-shock cry and—in typical me fashion—said a prayer and went to bed. Everything always looks better after you sleep on it, right?

I woke up, and the email was still there with a resounding “pass.” After wallowing for 24 hours, I sent off an email to my mentors and went back to my day job—the day job in which I put in fourteen hours, on Valentine’s weekend. (Are you feeling sorry for my husband yet?)

Here’s the reply I got back from one of my mentors: “Best rejection ever!”

What?

You got it. It’s exactly what she sent me via email. And you know, after my mouth hit the ground and I stared at the screen awhile, I saw that she was right.

Perspective, people. Perspective.

I wrote my first book, went to conference, got contracted with an amazing agent and submitted my work. I had accomplished something. I went back and re-read the rejection letter—and while I wasn’t jumping for joy, it could have been a lot worse.

Then I got my second perspective check. My agent said, “No = next opportunity.

So, I dusted myself off and started plotting a new story to be ready for the next opportunity.

I learned four important things that weekend:

  1. Allow yourself time to be upset, but move on. In that short twenty-four hours, I had friends praying and my family surrounded me with love and hugs and the ceremonial offering of Blue Bell Ice Cream.
  2. Pick your friends and mentors carefully. If I’d sent that email or contacted “certain persons,” they would have killed my dreams. They would have enjoyed saying, “What were you thinking?” Choose your friends wisely. Listen to the right voices.
  3. Get out of your head. You are your worst critic. Don’t live there. Get out and move on.
  4. Redefine no to yourself. No = next opportunity.

Oh, and I should tell you that my husband showed up at my work with a steak dinner for two that night. Yep, I will keep him.

So tell me, what wisdom have you gleaned from rejection letters?

4 Tips to Prep Your Writing Contest Entry

It’s contest season in the writing world! Perhaps you just submitted your entry to the ACFW Genesis contest earlier this week. There are lots of other contests coming up later this year for both published and unpublished writers.

Several writing friends asked me to give them feedback on their submissions, so I’ve been reading like a potential contest judge and making suggestions to strengthen their stories. With that in mind, I’d like to offer a short “consider this” checklist for any future manuscripts you might submit to a writers contest:

  1. Avoid starting a scene with dialogue. As the all-wise author of your manuscript, you know who is speaking. But the reader, who is new to both the story and the characters, doesn’t know who is speaking or why they are saying what they are saying or who they are talking to. Starting a scene, especially the first scene in your book, with dialogue creates a lot of questions for your reader — and for a contest judge.
  2. Avoid muddling up dialogue with multiple action tags. Dialogue, in and of itself, is action. Some writers like to crowd dialogue with a sentence describing some sort of action the character is doing, a.k.a. an action tag. Then comes something the character says. Then another action tag. Then more dialogue. It’s too, too much.
    1. EXAMPLE: Tony blocked the door, spreading his arms out wide. “You’re not going anywhere.” He glared at Mona, who tried to move past him. “I told you I wanted to talk to you–and I mean it.” Smooth the dialogue out by using only one action tag per segment of dialogue: “You’re not going anywhere.” Tony blocked the door, refusing to let Mona move past him. “I told you I wanted to talk to you–and I meant it.”
  3. Avoid rushing your story. Oftentimes, a contest entry is the opening scene of your manuscript, which means your Inciting Incident is included. Remember: the Inciting Incident is the event that shoves the main character out of their normal world. It can be negative (someone tries to kill them) or positive (they win the lottery). Once again, as the all-knowing author of your manuscript, you know everything else that’s going to happen to your main character(s) in the rest of the book. Don’t rush it. Pacing is an important element of good writing. Yes, you can slow your story down by dumping in too much backstory. But you can also rush your reader — and a contest judge — if you push the story ahead too quickly, writing too many pivotal elements into early scenes. 
  4. Avoid spending too much time in your character’s head. I blogged about avoiding too much  character introspection back in January, offering one tip to get out of your character’s head. Yes, there are times when your POV character is going to be thinking about things — a problem, a person, a decision. The question is: Can you rewrite the scene so instead of thinking, thinking, thinking for fifteen hundred words or more, your character is talking to someone about the situation? 

How can you apply these 4 tips to your next contest entry? 

[Tweet “4 Tips to Prep Your Writing Contest Entry by @bethvogt #tips #writingcontest #amwriting”]

 

To Self-Edit or Not to Self-Edit by Nick Kording

 

To be, or not to be: that is the question:

Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,

*          *          *

Be all my sins remember’d

I admit, I’m a bit of a Shakespeare nerd. I believe there is a line from one of his plays or sonnets to fit virtually every situation – even editing. For unpublished, unrepresented authors, you have to ask yourself, to self-edit or not to self-edit: that is the question. Albeit not as smooth as Shakespeare’s 35-line monologue in Hamlet, it is a fitting question every writer asks him or herself at some point in the process. No one denies the importance of editing a manuscript before submitting it to agents and editors. The question, then becomes, to self-edit or not to self-edit?

I wish there was an easy answer. There isn’t.

Depending on the editor, the cost for a thorough edit, providing feedback on the flow, plot and the structural elements can cost as much anywhere from $1,000 – $5,000 if you’re paying anywhere between one and five cents per word. Editors who provide this level of editing act as both editor and writing coach, providing feedback and questions geared at challenging you to reflect on essentially every aspect of the manuscript.

The result? Hopefully, a better manuscript. I would go as far as saying definitely a better manuscript if the author takes the editor’s advice, considers the questions asked and works at the revisions necessitated by the edit. After paying up to $5,000 for a 100,000-word manuscript, the manuscript should, at the very least, be better.

There is, however, a rub.

The rub is you, the author. Like everything else in life, you have a choice in how you respond to the questions and feedback of an editor. If you pay $5,000 for editing services but then disagree and disregard 90 percent of the advice, one of three things happened.

  1. The editor is not a good fit for your writing style;
  2. The editor is not a good editor; or
  3. You are too close to your work to receive feedback.

The first option happens. Sometimes an editor won’t mesh with your style. That is not the same as saying the editor doesn’t like the genre you write. The second is also a possibility, however, if you’ve done your research before hiring an editor, the first two options shouldn’t ever happen. A good editor fits your writing style because a good editor doesn’t suggest you change your style, but rather helps you improve your story within your style. The only exception would be if your style is to write grammatically flawed sentences and plots that make no sense whatsoever.

The third option is what I call lacking a teachable spirit. As a writer, receiving feedback is part of the job. You don’t have to agree with every suggestion or comment made to be teachable, but resisting the process, especially if you paid for it, makes no sense.

If you are thinking I didn’t answer the question, start over. To self-edit or not to self-edit: that is the question.

The answer is yes. It is also no. Yes, you have to edit your work, even after hiring an editor because editing and rewriting naturally result from having an editor give you feedback. Self-editing alone, however, is usually not a good idea. As writers, the story in our head will naturally fill the details when the story on the page falls short. Likewise, we will correct spelling, punctuation, and even plot holes in our heads without necessarily noticing them on the page.

There are those rare people who can edit their own work with no help – no huddle or critique group providing them with feedback. But, for most of us, those other eyes, especially ones attached to the mind of an editor by trade, offer advice we can’t or won’t give ourselves. Shakespeare might be one of those rare people. I, however, am not.

A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool. – William Shakespeare, As You Like It

~*~

Nick Kording writes contemporary and Biblical fiction with a touch of romance, as well as Christian living, Bible studies and devotionals. She writes for His glory because salvation is a matter of life and death.

Don’t Let ANYTHING Steal Your Writing Joy

I’m a member of several writing groups, and I’m always amazed at the different reactions people have to similar situations. For instance, one writer might leave a critique session in tears, questioning whether or not the call to write was real. Another writer might have just as challenging a critique and leave energized because she now has the insight she needs to improve.

I’ve begun paying attention to the way the writers I respect handle this writing life. I’ve noticed that even though life gets hard at times, they never lose their writing joy. I’m trying to take deliberate steps to guard my joy of writing and not let things and/or people steal it from me. Today I’d like to share what I’ve discovered with you.

Things That Steal Our Writing Joy

  1. Being a One Way Writer. By this I mean that we’re only happy when things turn out one way. We want things a certain way and in a certain time-frame. Truthfully, it’s the writers who are flexible that retain their joy in this business.
  1. Being Unwilling to Let Go of Expectations. This one word can derail us for months, or even years, if we let it. It’s fine to make plans, but we can’t hang our hope—or our joy—on expectations.
  1. Not Learning to Roll with the Punches. Hard times will come in this business. Landing a book deal and/or an agent is tough, and rarely happens quickly. When we have those two things, life can still blindside us. Contracts are cancelled, editors and agents move on without us. We’ve got to pick ourselves up and get back to writing, no matter what happens.
  1. Always Looking Backward. If we dwell on the way things used to be in publishing, we’ll always be miserable. Not because things were always better, but because we think we remember them being better. Whether they were or weren’t really isn’t the point. What we need to do is learn what we can from the past and then keep our eyes firmly forward.
  1. Chasing Trends. It’s tempting to tailor what we’re writing to what’s currently popular with publishers. But that’s a dead end road. There’s always something new, and it’s just not possible to pull out a crystal ball and write to what’s going to be hot when it hit the market.
  1. Listening to the Negative Voices. There are two types of negative voices—the ones that live in your head and the ones belonging to those around us. I believe it’s the ones inside us that are the most dangerous. For one thing, they’re much more brazen. They say things that we’d never speak out loud. But if we let others also talk us out of following our dreams, they can be dangerous too. Take constructive criticism, but don’t let the negative words bring you down.
  1. Giving in to Fear. No matter how much we achieve as writers, we’re still fearful. We’re afraid of failure, of ridicule, even of success. But those writers who keep their joy are the ones who continue on in spite of the fear. They even get stronger because of the fear they overcome.
  1. Perfectionism. We want to strive for our very best. But we need to understand that perfection is out of our grasp. Perfectionism can keep us from submitting our work for publication, and it can even keep us from writing. Aim high and always keep learning, but be willing accept the best you can do.
  1. Not Writing. I truly believe that if our purpose in life is writing, and we don’t make time to write, we’ll be miserable. I know so many people who want to write, know they’re called to write, and yet let everything else squeeze out the time to write. They are some of the most stressed out folks you’ll ever see.

10. Forgetting the Reason You Started Writing in the First Place. We can get so caught up in the chase, that we forget why we entered the race. For me, God made me a writer. I process life through words. When I hit hard times and good times, one of my first actions is to record it, process it, and cope with it through writing. When I return to that, no matter what else is going on, everything falls into place.