Thursday, February 26, 2009

Rejections on Partials

I'm going to break my own rule and write about rejections. I figure I'm not giving away any big secret here. You guys know I'm querying; I haven't announced an agent yet, so you know I'm getting rejections.

Problem is, these rejections are on partials. Requested partials. More than a few of them.

Rejected requested partials are a problem because 1) the agent was interested to begin with and 2) something about my writing disinterested them. They didn't want to see the rest. I did better than this with Forging a Legend. Something is obviously wrong with those opening pages.

I expected to do better than this. My readers--all writer-types who I know online, and who are unlikely to blow sunshine up my ass--used words like "I loved it" and "I couldn't put it down." I never got feedback like that before. Maybe I shouldn't have gotten my hopes up, but I am human, after all.

Yesterday, I finally got some feedback from an agent. Something I could work with. She said that she loved the premise, but I was showing more than telling and I had too much authorial intrusion. What brutal words for my fragile writer psyche!

I promptly wrote a thank you email to the agent for taking the time to provide such priceless feedback.

Then, I went in draconian mode and cut 12,000 words off the opening.

By this morning, I had come to my senses. I needed those opening chapters. They lay all sorts of foundations and set up a bunch of conflict. So I went back to the previous version of the manuscript. And I read the opening pages. And lo and behold . . .

Yikes! I was telling! For three pages--three out of five of the critical opening pages--I was delving deep in to my character's psyche with--yes!--authorial intrusion! My goal was to make my reader like the character. But if my character's actions can't make the reader like the character, than nothing can.

I skimmed until I got to the action. Then, I discovered a gem of a sentence. I decided to open my story with it. Here is my old opening sentence:
Mr. Julian Crain was late.
This evokes mild curiosity. Late for what? But nothing more. We aren't dying to know what this guy is late for.

Here is my new one.
I hurried up to the embassay as if I belonged there.
I like this better. I think it evokes curiosity. Why is she hurrying? Why is she going to the embassy if she doesn't belong there? And why is she trying to look like she does belong there?

Still waiting to hear back on some other partials, requested and otherwise.

17 comments:

  1. I hope you're going to drop that agent a line and ask if s/he'd like to see a revision.

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  2. I usually am not shy about that sort of thing. One thing I love about being over 40--I am much less hesitant about risking a no.

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  3. I went through the same thing with Battle of the Hexes, Tia, so I know where you're coming from. Those rejections can be killer when you honestly hoped for more.

    Good for you, getting back on the horse so quickly and fixing what the agent pointed out. And for talking about your rejections. Braver woman than I!

    And FWIW, I still say it's a great book. I couldn't tear myself away. =) And no, no sunshine up your ass from these quarters!

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  4. I am getting more partial requests for Starcaster, but none of them have converted into requests for fulls. With Forging, I got one conversion (as I call it) from a major agent. But an ultimate pass.

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  5. Oh, and thank you! Are you still querying BotH? Or are you waiting on that contest?

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  6. Oooh, conversion. I rather like that. Stealing it!

    I'm still querying on it, nearing the end of my list of agents. Which is really perfect timing, because I hope to start querying the next one in April, I think. I'm going to go much faster with this one, because the querying for BotH has dragged out for a year, and that's just ridiculous.

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  7. Well, I already responded to you at my blog. Suffice it to say, you're right about that personalized feedback being priceless! Cherish it always, frame it in gold, show your grandchildren one day. But, also, give yourself a few days to digest it and maybe not even look at your story for a week. Then, go back at it all with a fresh brain and decide if you can use any of it, if you really want to, and how.

    I've received truckloads of requests for partials and a few Fulls on all three of my novels. I have no idea how I made the leap from partials to Fulls, because none of the agents provided any feedback (except on one Full.) Maybe the agents who requested the Fulls were high on their morning coffee when they did it. Beats me.

    It seems the only way to get professional feedback, besides these few, free little crumbs, is to pay for it and who can afford it? Buying food for my children is more important. So, we muddle through the best we can with a little help from our friends.
    ;)

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  8. Just my $0.02 here, so feel free to ignore. :)

    I think you could make that second sentence even stronger. "I hurried" is telling. You're telling us *that* the MC hurried, not *how* it looks or feels to be in a hurry. Did she run up some steps? Did she attempt to blend in with the crowd? Is she checking her watch and pretending to be late for a meeting? These kinds of things create a stronger visual for the reader, and show us more of the character and what she's capable of, which draws us in faster.

    *shrug* Like I said, feel free to ignore. :)

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  9. I would never ignore feedback. Thank you. You are entirely correct, of course.

    "I hurried up to the embassy as if I belonged there."

    Hmm. She doesn't have a watch, because they haven't been invented yet. She's in disguise, trying to look like a servant.

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  10. Nicely done, Tia!

    With my novel, I got feedback from agents saying "your story starts here..." about 10 pages in. Oops. So I promptly slashed those pages and the next feedback I got was "you need more opening pages. It starts too abruptly."

    For the love of...!!!!

    So I went back and edited and realized the truth was somewhere in between. It's easy to over react and under react. It's hard to develop that eye that can see it yourself. But it sounds like you're doing it!!!

    Congratulations on even getting the partial requests. It's only a matter of time. :)

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  11. Thank you, Robin!! I'm just glad I saved a copy before I overreacted.

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  12. It's important that the reader understands when they are being told to question compared to it being accidental.

    I agree with Tabitha, in that the sentence didn't leave me thinking that I was being told to question, but it left me wondering why I was told more.

    I STILL love the story and there are plenty of published writers that don't have your skill.

    Sometimes it's the luck of the draw I think.
    Based on some of the Beta's I've read, we have quite a bit of talent out there, but only a few agents/publishers to publish them.
    sigh

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  13. Lisa,

    Thank you again! I agree with you about the talent to agent/publisher ratio.

    I'm not sure I understand your "being told to question" comment. I'm trying to interest the reader with something intriguing to start the book with. She's trying to sneak into an embassy.

    I hurried up to the embassy, trying to keep my stride brisk and purposeful--as if I belonged there.

    I don't know--is that going a bit too far? I wanted a short, punchy sentence.

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  14. I'm glad you saved a copy before you overreacted, too! I tend to overreact a lot, which is why I save every single draft I write, no matter how small the changes. It's saved me from myself quite a few times.

    I also like the idea of starting with a short, punchy sentence like, "I hurried up to the embassy as if I belonged there." I understand what Tabitha said about that being a telling line instead of a showing line, and maybe there's a way to show and still have a short, punchy sentence at the same time. I don't know. But having some telling isn't a bad thing, in my opinion. Sometimes, you just have to tell and launch the story forward. "I hurried" quickly and efficiently communicates to the reader what is going on right now. I like it.

    (And no offense intended to you, Tabitha, should you wander back here and find this. I'm merely babbling again.)

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  15. Thanks, Katie.

    I'm pretty obsessive about backups, too. My Writings folder is just huge. Plus I have some old hard drives on top of my computer with old manuscripts on them. Maybe one day I'll retrieve them.

    But then again, maybe not. I could probably rewrite them from scratch and they'd be much better. IF I ever decide to do anything with them.

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  16. No offense taken, superwench83 :) I think word choice is such a personal thing that the author should feel free to choose the ones she wants, without fear of being criticized. :)

    And I agree that some telling is perfectly fine. It's all about balance. :)

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  17. Which is what I didn't have in my original opening.

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