Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Rejection Project - Jo Schneider

Jo Schneider
I'm actually surprised that my friend Jo Schneider has never visited the Blog Mansion before. We share a publisher and we've hung out together at events. We're friends. She has a new book out Fractured Memories (Volume 1), and so I rectified the situation by asking to join Rejection Project. Jo bring up another aspect of rejection that authors hate but really need - rejection from editing readers. There really is no end to rejection. Let's listen in....

The First Line of Rejection
(And the Second)

I had a very personal experience about this just the other day. Right now I’m trying to write a handful of short stories that will draw people into my first novel, New Sight.  The stories are about how the supporting characters got to where they are at the beginning of the series. Considering two are kidnapped by different sides of the battle, one has come willingly and the other is hiding in Vegas looking for a cure, they’re pretty good stories.

I spent some time last month blasting through a couple of them just to get that horrid first draft out of the way.

Here comes my first line of rejection. Are you ready for it?

It’s me.

I’m an outliner. I’ll think the story to death, then I’ll write it. At this point, I’m certain that the story is brilliant. Simply breathtaking. Then I read it a few weeks (okay, sometimes hours) later, start what I always optimistically think will be simple edits, and find that…well…it sucks. The plot isn’t twisted enough, or the characters are flat, or I introduced so many new things into the story that I now need to write a novel to explain it all.

At this point, I usually rage. Raging can include going to Kempo class and kicking and/or punching things, chocolate, reading a book that I know isn’t great so I can then say, “I can do better than that!”, watching TV, avoid doing chores or—and this is the very last straw—actually doing chores.

Once that cycle repeats itself a few times—I’d pay handsomely if anyone can figure out how to make this part of my life easier—I finally have a story I’m ready to send forth to my beta readers.

Beta readers are generally writing buddies. Family and friends are often only curious about what you’re working on, and they have no desire (or knowledge base) to critique it for you. Other than finding the six spelling mistakes that the spell check left. They’re comments usually consist of, “I love it! Where’s the rest?”

While it is delightful to get nice feedback, that’s not really what I’m looking for at this point. Well, I wish that’s all anyone could say about one of my manuscripts, but alas, that hasn’t happened yet.  Nor is it likely too.

At this point what I need is a few fresh pairs of eyes on the story. Harsh eyes. None of  this, “I really liked your story.” Nonsense.

I need the mean beta readers!

And I have them. Lucky for me, the meanest of the bunch, is a good friend of almost 20 years. She generally rips my stories to shreds and sends them back to me with a “Read at your own risk” e-mail. When she feels like she’s getting too mean, she puts in nice comments, just to make sure her critique doesn’t scar me for life.

The scarring only lasts a week or two, at the most.

I sent her my first short story for New Sight, and she got back to me with the following comments:

Sorry I took so long.  I mostly liked it.  It did give more info about the two and made them more into real people.  However, I really hated your world building with the village and Kamau and Damasi, so I got stuck a few pages in and needed time away to finish it.  I tried to figure out why.  I have attached my reasons.  I took most out of the comments because I wanted to finish it.  I started buzzing over the parts that irritated me.  Read at your own risk :)  

This is when I flinch, and ignore it for a few days.

Here are the headings to her complaints. Under each are 4-6 lengthy paragraphs about why. I spared you that bit.

1) The whole set up of the village is to me illogical.  It is more a cult set up, and those usually dissolve as soon as the cult leader dies, and most start disintegrating even before then.  I cannot understand why this village/group of villages still exist.

2)  The whole situation with  Kamau and Demasi frustrates and angers me.

I read all of this (when I’m in a good mood) and decide what is pertinent and what is my friend’s very quirky view of the world and won’t bother anyone else. Then I decide what to address first.

Because she rarely sends me a comment that isn’t justified. Yes, I do discard some, but less than 20%. Especially if one of my other beta readers mentions the same section.

This is my second line of rejection, and it tends to sting a bit. Why? Because I’ve sent out a manuscript that I think is pretty good. I know it’s not perfect (if that were the case I wouldn’t be sending it to beta readers), but at this point I’ve re-written it to death, and I’m sure that only a few minor problems will be found.

As you can see from the comments above, that is not always the case. It’s so easy to get into a single-minded rut while writing a story, and never see a twist or a character that could change it all for the better. To make the story closer to what you really wanted to say.

In my heart, I want my beta readers to love my manuscript. In my mind, I know that if they do, then they’re all just being nice. A single mind (mine anyway) cannot come up with every idea for a story. I have to swallow my pride and send it out into the world so it can get better. So hopefully I can get better, and then readers will love it.

My latest release, Fractured Memories, (my first Indie venture) is a kick a**, YA Post Apocalyptic, Sci-Fi, Adventure about a lone survivor of a Skinny attack, and her quest for revenge.  The manuscript went through the beta reader process, and after they got back to me, I re-wrote a good 1/3 of it. Then I hired an editor, and she told me to be meaner to a few characters. Which I did, and now that particular section is one that almost everyone tells me they love.

A New York editor actually ripped apart the first chapter of Fractured Memories for me. That wasn't super fun, but she is the one who suggested that I do some heavy research into PTSD, because the main character has it bad. That rejection led me to several days of research about PTSD and how it manifests and how it affects people. I was amazed by not only PTSD as a problem, but also how some still think it is a myth. That whomever has it is somehow weak and just needs to get over it. Soldiers, in particular, seem to have it rough. I learned a lot, and incorporated it into my story. At the end of this book, Wendy still isn't over it. This little problem will haunt her for a long time. It's one of the most important aspects of the story...all because of a rejection.

So rejection is painful, but important. As an author, you never have to change a single thing that someone doesn't like about your story, but it would be wise to look into the reasoning behind the critique/rejection. Maybe there's something there you need to learn so you can improve your next tale.

About Jo:

Jo Schneider grew up in Utah and Colorado, and finds mountains helpful in telling which direction she is going. One of Jo's goals is to travel to all seven continents—five down and two to go.

Another goal was to become a Jedi Knight, but when that didn't work out, Jo started studying Shaolin Kempo. She now has a black belt, and she keeps going back for more. An intervention may be in order.

Being a geek at heart, Jo has always been drawn to science fiction and fantasy. She writes both and hopes to introduce readers to worlds that wow them and characters they can cheer for.

Jo lives in Salt Lake City, Utah with her adorable husband, Jon, who is very useful for science and computer information as well as getting items off of top shelves.

Amazon-Fractured Memories

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Rejection Project - Jenniffer Wardell

Jenniffer Wardell and I are old friends. We started about the same time and share a publisher. She's visited the Blog Mansion several times and she's still alive which means something. 

Jenniffer took time away from the publicity tour for her new release BEAST CHARMING to offer share in my little project here. I like her style, in storytelling as well as handling rejection. I'm going to adopt #2 forthwith.

Rejection Survival Guide for Writers
by Jenniffer Wardell

Being a professional writer requires a skill set similar to that of Wile E. Coyote's – the focus and determination to pursue your goal past the point of (emotional) injury and good sense, the ability to stand back up again after you've fallen off a cliff, and the willingness to do something over and over again no matter how many times it hasn't worked.

Sound appealing yet? Of course not. Ready to give up?


Then you're in the right place.

Though there's no way to save yourself the emotional bruising – or the well-meaning comments from concerned loved ones questioning your sanity – there are tricks you can do to help make the process of receiving rejection letters a little less bloody than it might be. All of these come from my personal toolkit, so feel free to add to them and pass them on to any other writers in need you might know.

After all, we coyote types have to stick together.

1. Before you send something out, do your research
We may run off of metaphorical cliffs for a living, but it's always a good idea to make sure that our Road Runner is actually waiting for us at the bottom. Check out the publisher or magazine you're considering submitting to and see if your writing would be a good fit. Some have very specific genre or style preferences that might not be compatible with your work, and it'll save you time and heartbreak to focus on the ones where your work would be a better fit.

2. Get a human shield
Any rejection letter is less painful if you get someone else to read it for you. Not out loud, of course – that's probably a form of torture in some countries – but just scan it and have them tell you yes, no, and any necessary details. If they love you, they'll probably say something like "Well, these people are clearly idiots." Whether it's necessarily true or not, it'll make you feel better.

3. Remember you're not alone
The majority of all writers, everywhere, have their own stacks of rejection letters they've either lit on fire or stashed in the back of a drawer somewhere. Even the most famous authors – yes, including J.K. Rowling – sent their writing out time and time again only for it to be ignored and rejected. If someone was stupid enough to say they didn't want to publish the Harry Potter books, then that suggests that there are certain publishers/magazines out there who simply can't recognize a work of genius when they see it. Remind yourself of that the next time you open up a rejection letter.

4. Don't ignore advice
Mostly, rejection letters will be impersonal form letters that took zero thought from the magazine or publisher. On very rare occasions, however, you'll get personal commentary from someone listing a specific reason why your work was rejected. While you shouldn't necessarily take this as gospel, the fact that you made enough of an impression for a personal touch means that comments like that might be worth taking into account.

5. Words of support are waiting
If you're feeling down, go online and get words of encouragement from famous writers who've never even heard your name. Writers love to talk about their experiences with writing, and a big part of that is dealing with rejection. Look up "writing quotes - rejection" online, and you'll find dozens of examples of support and commiseration from writers who have felt just as miserable as you do now. Re-read them as often as you need to.



Barnes & Noble 






Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Rejection Project - Kim Williams Justesen

Kim Williams Justesen
One of my all time favorite people has one of my all time favorite rejection stories. Today I bring you, Kim Williams Justesen.


I've been writing for close to 20 years now, and I've collected a variety of rejections in that time. I've received letters that were formal and came in the mail, post cards that were more generic, but also arrived in my mail box, and then as the internet grew in convenience and popularity, I received email rejections as well. I used to save my rejections in something I called “The Gilded Box” – a cardboard box I’d covered in gold paper and stenciled the words “One Step Closer” on the top. At first it comforted me to feel like I was a real author getting real rejections, but as the box filled, it began to depress me, and eventually I threw it away.

By far, for me, the strangest rejection I ever got turned out not to be a rejection at all. But that's how it started. I had written a YA novel called The Deepest Blue. The process of finishing that novel is another story for another time (it took nearly five years), but in the spring of 2010, I began submitting it. It went first to the publisher of my middle grade novel, My Brother the Dog: Tanglewood Press in Terra Haute, Indiana, and to my editor Peggy. She held it for a few months, and on June 1 when she had finished reading it, she called me.

"Your writing is solid, and I love the story, but this is an emotional story with a male protagonist and I think the market is too tough to carry that right now."

I understood what she was saying, and I even agreed with her, but I was banking on the fact that it would take close to two years for this book to be released, and I hoped by then the market would have turned around. With that thought, I began submitting the book elsewhere. I collected about 35 rejections from agents and publishers who all said the same thing that Peggy had - the market wouldn't carry this type of story, and until the market turned around, they weren't willing to take the chance.

I shelved the book and decided I'd look at it again later. In the meantime, I finished another YA novel, A dystopic speculative project, and I began working on a horror novel that I coauthored with a former student and friend. A very turbulent and challenging year passed, and I was doubting myself as a writer, but I kept writing and soon finished revisions on the new YA. In the summer of 2011, I was ready to submit it. Naturally, I contacted Peggy first. It was July of 2011. I also began submitting to agents and other publishers, just in case. I had about 10 rejections collected and I was beginning to feel doubtful and insecure again. It was December 1 when I heard from Peggy.

"I'm sorry this has taken me so long," she said over the phone. "I have some good news and I have some bad news, and I have a question. The bad news is, I like the new story, but I think I need to pass. The dystopic novels are on the downward slope, and I think it's not a good time for that one." She paused for a moment and despite my disappointment, I hung on for what might come next. "The good news is, I'd like to rerelease My Brother the Dog with a new cover and a new title and see if we can breathe a second life into it."

Naturally I was thrilled! We had both agreed that the book didn't get a fair shot at things initially for a number of reasons, and anything she wanted to try was a great idea to me.

"Now I have a question. Where is The Deepest Blue?"

"It's on a thumb drive," I said, a little bewildered.

"No, I mean, is it at another publisher? Is it under contract somewhere?"

"It's on a thumb drive, in my office."

"Good," she said. "I want it. Don't accept any other offers until I send you a contract."

She and I talked about the changing market, that she still felt the book was a risk, but she loved the story enough to take the risk. She told me that in the last year she had received hundreds of manuscripts that were emotional stories with a male protagonist, and that each time she read one, she would find herself comparing it to The Deepest Blue, and the comparison always fell in my favor. She said the story stuck with her, and she felt it was time to bring it out.

It occurred to me that her offer to publish The Deepest Blue had come exactly 1 1/2 years after I'd received her initial rejection. I'd never heard of this happening before - though no doubt it has to have happened to someone. Anyway - I received the contract within a few weeks, and in September of 2013, the hardback copy of The Deepest Blue was released and the launch party was held at the King's English bookstore.

So many things go into an editor's decision to reject a book, and so many times we as authors have no idea why. I'm grateful to have had an editor who was willing to share the insight into why this story was being turned down, and why it was being accepted.

Born and raised in Utah, Kim was the kind of kid whose mom had to come in and take the flashlight away so she would stop reading and go to sleep. She has always been an avid reader and writer. Years of Public Relations work kept her writing on the job. Then, when her third kid came along, she decided to stay home and try her hand at writing professionally. In 2003, Kim earned her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at the prestigious Vermont College of Fine Arts, and the rest was - as they say - history. 
     In addition to writing, Kim loves being out of doors, whether it's in her garden picking raspberries, in the mountains camping or snowshoeing, or traveling to her favorite beach in North Carolina. Kim has taught writing and English courses at local colleges, and has presented various workshops on writing. She is the mother of three kids and grandma one grandkid. She has three cats and one dog, and one day she wants to have a pet snake!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Rejection Project - Jay Wilburn

Jay Wilburn is no stranger to the Blog Mansion. He visited back in 2013 when things got a little weird. He's an active, hard working writer with talent, connections and macabre tastes. I've followed his career with interest and envy for years. Jay's new project sounds great and his rejection story is one for the books.

“Twice Rejected Twice”
by Jay Wilburn

Rejection is a part of being a writer. Maybe it is a part of being alive, but it is really a part of being a writer. I’m more and more convinced that my acceptances mainly come from writing so many stories that I just beat the odds. In good times, my acceptance rate for short stories has been 1:1. Usually though, it is closer to two rejections for every one short story acceptance. I’ve gone through spells where it was just one rejection after another.

I’ve published two novels with small presses. One went through fifteen rejections or no answers for three acceptances and I picked one. I had three acceptances. Two came at once and I picked one which has turned out to be a great partnership for conventions and ongoing royalties. The third came after I sent an e-mail about pulling it. The second novel was requested by a publisher and then was accepted. The third novel I wrote has gone through about as many rejections and has not been accepted yet.

Two times though I had a story rejected twice. Let me be clear. I submitted the story. I got the rejection. I moved on. I don’t respond to rejections. I just rewrite and resubmit. But then I got a second rejection from the same publisher for the story submission that was already rejected. And this happened to me twice with two different publishers on two different stories.

That stung a little. I was a little confused because I went back to mark the rejection on my charts where I track where I submitted stories only to see it already marked. Did I accidentally submit it twice? No, it was rejected two times for one submission.

I imagine the editor waking up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night thinking, “Oh, God, that story was so awful. Did I reject it? I can’t remember. It was so bad that I should really go ahead and send another one just to be sure.”

If it had only happened once, I could brush it off as a mistake, but two publishers did that. I honestly don’t remember which stories got double rejected. I wish I had noted it because it is an important history, but maybe it is best that I don’t remember.

I don’t want my stories to have a complex. I just need to pick myself up and keep writing.

I still love my work with small presses, but I’m opening up to self-publishing again. I’ve worked with a number of great, full-time authors that are writing their own tickets that way. We’ve done collaborative pieces together. We hire our own artists and editors and do the work right, but we set the rules. There are some pieces that are not going to make it through the gatekeepers the way they are conceived. Sometimes that means a work needs to be improved, but sometimes it means if you believe in your vision, you put it out there on your own terms.

I did that with Dead Song and the music of The Sound May Suffer. Music and a book were more than most publishers were ready to take on, but that’s how this story had to be told, so that’s how I told it.

For all of these pieces, I have said that you only need one acceptance. The number of rejections doesn’t matter. You can learn something and revise, but that one acceptance is all you ever need. You beat rejection by keeping on working until you get that one acceptance and then you have won.

Check out the latest book and music from a new series by Jay Wilburn:

The Dead Song Legend Dodecology Book 1: January from Milwaukee to Muscle Shoals

The Sound May Suffer - Songs from the Dead Song Legend Book 1: January

Jay Wilburn lives with his wife and two sons in Conway, South Carolina near the Atlantic coast of the southern United States. He taught public school for sixteen years before becoming a full time writer. He is the author of the Dead Song Legend Dodecology and the music of the five song soundtrack recorded as if by the characters within the world of the novel The Sound May Suffer. Follow his many dark thoughts on Twitter @AmongTheZombies, his Facebook author page, and at