​Four ways to recover from a devastating loss (or rejection from a publisher!)

Last week I was going to write an inspiring email about how you just have to keep trying. That you don’t know when one of your stories is going to hit with a publisher. Something about how it takes the right person, the right story, the right voice, and the right moment to get the novel published, and how you just have to keep throwing the ball, hoping for a completion until you get it right.

Yes, I was going to use the Minneapolis Miracle as a metaphor.

Image result for minneapolis miracle

Today, well…today is a different story. A different metaphor. But maybe one that is just as important because big losses come more frequently than miraculous touchdowns and we’d better figure out how to handle rejection as writers if we want to be successful.

Image result for sad minnesota viking

EVERY author gets rejected. EVERY idea can use improvement. EVERY novel has revisions.

The key is to know what to do after the rejection/painful editorial letter/bad review. Here are four thoughts to upping your game if you want to push yourself off the icy turf and keep playing.

  1. Go back to the fundamentals. The most common rejection from a publisher is because YOUR STORY ISN’T DEVELOPED ENOUGH. You’ve written a very good rough draft, with a solid plot and interesting characters but there aren’t enough layers, metaphors, character nuances and change and you just don’t nail the ending. This is a great rejection because it means you just need to go deeper. Start with your character and figure out what he wants, and why—and when I say WHY, I mean go back to that Dark Moment Story in the past and examine who your character is at his core. Then look at your character’s journey. Can he do something at the end that he can’t at the beginning? What is the theme of your story? Are there any metaphors embedded in your story? Going back to the core and putting the story back together helps you see the holes you might have missed. (BTW, if you need help on how to do that, check out The Story Equation)
  2. Show, don’t tell. Another reason your story might not catch is because your voice isn’t grabbing the reader. Voice is personality on the page, but it also involves the way you wordsmith, the way you describe the world, add in dialogue and most importantly, show versus tell your story. Do you “tell the story between the quotes,” meaning more dialogue, less narrative? (here’s a rule of thumb—if you can say it, do! Nothing moves the story faster, or causes more tension than dialogue!) Do you show the emotions through action, storyworld and metaphor? Don’t tell us that someone is smart, strong and brave. Show us.
  3. Add in an original twist. Have you ever heard from a publishing house, “oh, we just published a story like that?” You need something in your author’s hat of tricks that make your story unique. I have traveled extensively, as well as have lived some exciting adventures, and I often use those experiences in my novels. And since I write epic romantic adventure, it works. What unique element do you bring to your stories?
  4. Write a fresh novel, not book two! It’s common for authors to finish a novel and think—I can write an excellent follow up story. So they spend the next year creating book #2. Sadly, they’ve just (potentially) wasted their time. No one will read book #2 if book #1 hasn’t been published. Find a fresh new idea and go to work on THAT story. Your first story might still be contracted, someday, but don’t continue down the path of the same defeated story line. *Note: If your publisher suggests that you REWORK your current novel, then do THAT. But if you’ve exhausted the opportunities for that story…move on!

And, just for the record, if you need to take a day off and binge watch The Crown, or Travelers, or even Stranger Things, that’s okay too.

Just don’t stay down. Because that icy grass can turn your writing joints stiff and achy. Get back up.

You’re still in this game.

SKOL forever! Oops, I mean Your Story Matters.

Go write something brilliant!


Susie May

P.S. If you feel like you’re stuck on a story that’s been rejected, or your writing has stalled, or even, you don’t know how to develop a new game plan, then our annual Deep Thinker’s retreat will get you up and going again! We have 3 spaces left—and it’s one glorious month away, in WARM and SUNNY Destin, Florida. Check out the details and join us here!

Keep on writing, keep on writing

I wrote a novella last week.  31, 160 words.  That’s over 5K a day.  Now, here’s what we all have to keep in mind – many of these words will have to be rewritten or deleted.  I will have to go scene by scene and make sure I’ve inserted storyworld, and the 5 Ws to anchor the scene.  I’ll have to ask what the main emotion of the scene is, and how to strengthen it. I’ll have to tighten my writing, make it clearer, make sure I’m not overwriting.

I’ll have to make sure I am telling the story between the quotes, and that I am wrapping up my dialogue with the right meaningful action and body language, adding zingers.

And, I’ll have to make sure I all the ingredients of the Scene Tension Equation.  

All these things are in my brain as I’m writing, trust me.  But, if I want to forget ahead and give myself something to work with, then I have to be like Dori in Finding Nemo.

Don’t look back.  Forget everything but my goal….reaching the end. (or, P Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way)

(and, if you want a fun break, here’s that little scene:)


But how do we keep that focus?  I know it can be hard, because even in the middle of a scene you suddenly think: WAIT!  I just came up with something BRILLIANT and I need to add it into chapter 3!

No. No you don’t.  NOT YET.

OR, you might get to the middle of your story and think…wait! Is this really going to work? You’ll be tempted at this moment to stop your fast drafting, go back, read through your story, and start over, fixing it. After all, you know your character so much better by now, right?


Speak these words into your brain:  Don’t worry (Susie, but feel free to insert your name here). You’ll fix it AFTER your fast draft is finished.

In the meantime, here’s what you’re going to do:

You’re going to write down what you need to do either in the comments of your WIP, or in a notebook – or wherever you choose to store your brilliant ideas. (Wouldn’t it be great if we could use a Pensieve, like Dumbledore?  But short of that…a notebook would work…)

You might also write a note to yourself in the MS, like, “Insert Storyworld Here.”  or “Deep Emotion here.”

Basically, you’re giving yourself permission to just keep writing.

Here’s another fun trick I do to motivate myself. I write each scene in a separate word doc. Then, I combine all the scenes into the chapter at the end of my daily writing session (which gives me my daily word count).  THIS, I post on Facebook, to my friends, shout it down to my family and wait for the cheering. 🙂  Then, I take that chapter and paste it into my master doc.  It calculates my total word count for my WIP.

And that reminds me that if I just keep swimming, I will eventually reach P Shermon, 42 Wallaby Way.

Go! Write something Brilliant!




Writing Over the Holidays

It’s the holiday season and if you’re anything like me, you’re busy. In fact, you’re probably more busy than I am because I don’t have children.

I have a book due February 2 and it’s overshadowing the Christmas season. But it’s not the deadline’s fault, it’s how I write. I fast draft a very ugly novel, then I rewrite. Almost from scratch. I layer and fine tune, change and deepen.

I write fast but nevertheless, it takes me awhile to think things through. To figure things out. To take the norm and turn it upside down, inside out.

Friday my husband and I are taking off for Tennessee to be with my family over Christmas. It’s going to be loud and wild but I cant wait.

But when I calculate how many pages I can rewrite and edit a day, and how many days until the deadline, adding in a visit from a friend and a short visit attached to a business trip, I come up a wee bit short. I can’t afford to take off the holiday!

But I’m going to anyway because despite how much I love writing and how much I am bound by honor to make my deadline, there are moments when “other things” are more important.

Ack, I know. From a writer’s perspective, what is more important? It’s taken me eight years to admit it’s okay to take a break for family, for a vacation or for other worthwhile causes like ministry or even lunch with friends.

But did you now the Lord gives to His beloved in seasons and times of rest? He does!


Psalm 127

Unless the Lord builds the house,

its builders labor in vain.

Unless the Lord watches over the city,

the watchmen stand guard in vain.

In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat

for he grants sleep to those he loves.

Sons are a heritage from the Lord,

children a reward from him.

Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are sons born in one’s youth.

Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.

They will not be put to shame
when they contend with their enemies in the gate.

The Lord impressed this verse upon me the other day. He proved His Word true by the fact that when I awoke from a brief nap, I had the perfect opening line for my rewrite!

Then a pastor friend talked at dinner the other night about “rest” and letting the Lord use him even in a season of rest.

It’s hard for most of us to step back and not do. We feel like it’s more holy and Christian. Or it’s the American way. We may even feel like we don’t know what to do with the rest and quiet.

Maybe we should learn to get used to it. God does want us to rest. He blesses rest. Especially when we rest in and on the Him.

I know that when we writers are not at our computers working, no one covers for us. If I don’t get my 20 pages done, a co-writer isn’t going to take up my slack.

But wait, if the Lord is my co-writer, maybe… just maybe… He will make up the difference. So I can enjoy time with my family over Christmas. My grandmother is 98, almost 99 and time with her is precious. She is worth setting aside a few days of writing.

So if you’re debating writing over Christmas, reconsider. At least for a day or two. Trust the Lord to take up the slack, give you words and story in your rest.

Now do what your therapist says… Enjoy Christmas!


Rachel Hauck, Write a book proposal

Best-selling, award-winning author Rachel Hauck loves a great story. She excels in seeing the deeper layers of a story. With a love for teaching and mentoring, Rachel comes alongside writers to help them craft their novel. A worship leader, board member of ACFW and popular writing teacher, Rachel is the author of over 15 novels. She lives in Florida with her husband and her dog, Lola. Contact her at: Rachel@mybooktherapy.com.

Go forth and write!


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Go forth and write!

Finding the Truth of Your Character

Watching an interview with Brad Pitt on Inside The Actor’s Studio, an acting student asked, “What are your processes and how have they changed?”

Pitt wisely answered, “My processes is always changing.” He talked about the journey of discovery, of finding truth.

As an actor, or in our case, writer, grows and changes, they should be able to hone the process of finding a the heart of a character, of discovering the truth.

Pitt went on to say, “Find a moment of truth and the character will come.”

This is a profound truth for all of us who deal in character. Find the truth of your character and let it breathe, let it come.

Let it shine on the page.

We talk a lot about processes and tools here at My Book Therapy, but we also talk about what I call, “the ping.”

That’s the emotional or even spiritual sense you get when you’ve hit upon the truth of the story. Of the character’s journey.

When I write, I put all the building blocks in place the best I can. Character wound, lie and fear, contrasted with the secret desire/true identity.

I figure out the black moment, the epiphany, and what the character can do in the end she can’t do in the beginning.

But it’s in the writing, in the quiet of my mind and the push-pull of the character developing on the page when the truth of the story is birthed.

Sometimes I sit with my eyes closed and just type. I see the character, I see the scene and I recored what I see.

I let the planning and processing fall away. Pitt speaks to that during the interview, too. “If you plan the scene, you’ll miss it.” My translation of what he said. But you get what I mean. Over planning can ruin the core heart of a scene or story.

In my book coming out in May 2013, the heroine Susanna was a planner. As I read through the story before submitting it to my editor, I was bombarded by scenes and dialog centered on “Susanna The Planner.”

There was no subtlety to it. Just blah, spit out on the page.

I had to back up and let the “planner” in Susanna come out in other way. In her inability to change, in her rootedness in her home town, in her hesitation about life.

Even after the clean up, my editor wrote in her substantive letter to me, “we get that Susanna is a planner.” Ha!

I over thought it. I didn’t let the truth come out.

It’s been my experience after 17 novels, that my processing will some how collide with my pinging if I just relax and let it come. Let truth arise.

Research, plan, process, dream, write an outline, do a character study, go through whatever process works for you.

But at the end, all those processes must reduce all the information down into a truth that is displayed and evident in your character and story.

If you’re stuck, take time to just write. Let the words flow regardless of where you are in the story process.

Call someone and brainstorm. Or just talk out your story with anyone willing to listen. Sometimes they will respond with a small tidbit that unlocks truth to you.

Pray. Ask the Lord for His heart about your characters.

Play music or if you play an instrument, do that. Sometimes I sit down at the piano and sing about my characters.

Go to the gym. If I’m really struggling, the process of working my body instead of my brain causes clear ideas to surface. In my book Love Starts with Elle there’s a really romantic scene with Elle and Heath dancing on the back porch to a Gladys Knight and the Pips song. And I got the idea in spin class.

Read. Diving into other’s story often unlocks your own creativity and underlying truths.

Above all, work it. While finding truth can’t be over processed, it still must be mined. Like fine gold. Like rare gems.

Happy Writing.


Best-selling, award-winning author Rachel Hauck loves a great story. She excels in seeing the deeper layers of a story. With a love for teaching and mentoring, Rachel comes alongside writers to help them craft their novel. A worship leader, board member of ACFW and popular writing teacher, Rachel is the author of over 15 novels. She lives in Florida with her husband and her dog, Lola. Contact her at: Rachel@mybooktherapy.com.

Go forth and write!