Monday, May 16, 2011

"Womance Witing"

Recently, I went to Vegas and met up with two writer friends. We had a blast (but that's a whole 'nother story). At one point, one of the writers revealed she can read tarot cards and offered us a reading.

It was terrific and created a nice bonding moment for us all. Reading the cards is often subjective and I felt our friend did a fabulous job. The moment opened up to us talking about the industry, trying to stay the course, and our rejections. I even dug through my old email for my first rejection letter so they could share in my very first smack down from an agent.

They laughed their asses off and then sat in shock. Even at the time I received it, I didn't take it seriously. I laughed. Looking back, it is kind of odd a professional used made up words when giving any writer a rejection. My friends encouraged me to share the entire letter with other writers, not just snippets as I have before, to inspire them not to give up and to never lose faith in what you've written.

Before you read it, let me point some things out. First, My work was edited and the chapter she received had been re-written like ten to fifteen times.  It was the same chapter I had entered and finaled in contests with and the one which gained me over 600 followers on Facebook. With very few tweaks, it is the same work that earned me "fan favorite" and second place in the huge Dorchester contest in January '10, first place in another, and landed me an agent in March '10.

Second, the agent answered my email query in thirty minutes from when I sent it out. I was giddy with excitement but also slightly sick to my stomach. To be honest, the full MS wasn't ready yet. I had bargained on a response time of three to six weeks.

So, without further ado, here is my very first rejection letter, which helped me qualify for PRO status at my first RWA national writing convention, a mere four and half months after typing "Chapter One":

Hi C.J.:
I think you hit part of your target, but didn't land in the best place.
"If it's not your cup of tea, then I completely understand.  Having read a lot in the urban fantasy, paranormal, and erotic genres, I can assure you it is not erotica, but very erotic at times."
OK, it is very much not my cup of tea, but not for the erotica element--what you describe as the erotic element could be OK.
This plot/setting/character of innkeeper is not a bad idea but I can't get with the narrative.
A present tense narrative entices the author to fill the prose with ignorable, non-memorable details and you fell into the trap.  This combined with the narrator's voice which talks as much about how she receives sensory information and thinks, as what she sees and thinks, places the emphasis in the wrong layer of experience. I suggest you study (not just read) some Raymond Chandler to see what he leaves out and what you've put into this draft. Ex: "I mentally counted the guests..." It is much easier to read:  "I knew we had ten guests..."
Real people's interior monologs don't reach so hard for lush, romance-novel-expressions to describe what they are seeing and hearing and saying. So the narrator doesn't sound like an innkeeper or a vampire, but a script that has been shoved through a Romance Novel Thesaurus machine.
My free editorial advice is to revise by removing any word, phrase, or stock expression that even smells like Womance Witing and you might have a nifty Vampire Mystery. Then remove any prose that describes the character operating like a hydraulic system or computer.
Finally, the fact that the vamperoine has a warm (ha) relationship with her husband should provide the romantic element without carving each paragraph from Romantistone.
You might check out XXX by XXX as an example of an Urban Vampire series that worked for us. If you like XXX, you'd likely like this one too.
Other agents may feel differently.
Here are some links to help you survey agents and avoid scam agents and subsidy publishers.
and you can follow our blog at: XXX

And there you have it. My first rejection letter. I was grateful she took the time to write back and share her thoughts with me. As I later learned, it's rare to get anything other than a stock rejection form letter. 

It was good that I had enough confidence to shake her email off. I can see how writers can easily be crushed by a stranger telling them to get a book and learn the craft, or "here, read what I think is clearly a better writer than you", or being told their prose is carved from "Romantistone."

What do you think? Would you have been humored when this showed up in your inbox? Or cracking open the seal on that bottle of whiskey and starting before lunch?


I'm running a unique pre-launch promo contest. I plan to give away ten signed and numbered copies of 
The Hunt (numbers 3-12, 'cause I'm giving my brother the first two). They will be mailed to winners one week prior to the book going up for sale, which is slotted right now for June 30th, 2011.

Here is how you enter: 
You comment on any blog I do for the next six weeks. I will notify readers when I post on my Facebook business page, and I will Tweet about it. Each comment counts as one entry (only one entry per post, but you can comment more if you'd like). The comments must be made within the first 48 hours of the post going live, and I will post a "closing" comment when the entries for that day are closed.

All entries will be tossed into a drawing, and the participants with more entries have a higher chance of winning.
BONUS!! Every entrant who comments on at least six blog posts and does not win a signed print copy will receive a free ecopy when the book goes up for sale.

Let the games begin!!


  1. Wow. They did take some time on this one, huh? Thanks for sharing it. No so fun getting that first, second, fiftieth rejection letter.... :)

  2. If this was my first rejection letter, I might have cried. Mostly because I hadn't a thick skin back then. Now I just toss rejection letters in the trash and move on.

    Kudos for not letting that person stop you! Writers have to be a special kind of determined in order to make it. :-)

  3. Thanks Lynn! I was out of the office all day yesterday and didn't get a chance to check in and see who commented... and I forgot to post my contest details, so I have to go back and add them in.

    Thanks Jen! It was pretty harsh, eh? I'm just thrilled to be able to look back on it and know I laughed when I opened it. I won't reveal names, but she's a pretty well know agent and was on my 'A' list, so I was kinda bummed. But not crushed as a lot of others might have been. She really could have toned it down a bit, I think.

  4. Wow. What a detailed rejection! At the same time, though, some of the comments are like, "huh?" Good that you were confident and kept pushing ahead.

    I entered the opening of my first book Sex University: Physical Education in a contest for erotic novels. Feedback was basically, "Too much, and why would someone want to read this." Went on to selling to an agent/publisher so I guess *someone* wanted to read it!

  5. I'm so happy that you got over the initial rejection and went on with the project. Any rejection is horrible to begin with, but the extra criticism in this one, I personally feel, was overdone. Rather than refer you to other authors to "copy" their work, I feel the rejection should have been more subtle. Again, kudos for moving forward!!! -- Chelly Pazdan

  6. Wow, she really told you what she thought.. however, I do agree with everyone here, she could have said it nicer or put it into words that didn't sound like she was telling you how to write. She took the time to tell you her 'negative' thoughts about it but never took the time to say what she liked.
    I however, love your writing and the way you have her thinking makes her sound like she has lived, is well educated, and in touch with the way she feels.
    Now, I am done with my ranting... I am SO proud of you and I think that this letter is behind you and you have shown her.. you are producing your books and making your dream come true! So happy and proud of how far you have come!!

  7. Congrats, Louisa!! Honestly, the judges in those contests must read a very narrow scope of erotic/erotica writings. I've read some that turn my stomach with the detail, others who rev up the heart rate, and more who sound like it's been possibly years since they've had sex. I'm happy to hear you're now published with the work and I wish you many sales. Thanks for stopping by to comment!

    Chelly-- yeah, my peers agree with you. They felt the agent went a little over the line with her made up words and slams. Like I had done something *to* her with my writing, you know? Thanks for commenting my friend!

    April-- You brought a shine to my eyes when I read your kind words. Thank you! And hey, that's not ranting, that's just stating what you think... and the fact it happens to be very nice words and aimed my way... well, that just makes it all the sweeter. Thanks for being with me on this journey, I'm forever grateful you took the time to read my work.

    You guys rock!

  8. rejection letters :
    The one thing that i swear keeps me from letting other read my stuff i write.

  9. Well lady as I have said to you before , to each their own. I remember when you got that negative and it really did not knock you back too far. You already had so many of us, with you on facebook saying bs, we know you can and will achieve what ever your goal or goals are. Just think I bet she is now looking back or will shortly be looking back and saying "oh crap I screwed up". I hope that maybe when she realizes what a talented author she lost out on representing that she will think twice before she passes judgement in the future. If you had not been as strong in your belief her choice of words could have done you some real damage. Rock on lady.

  10. First I would like you to know I loved your book. Second if she edits like she writes, she sounds like a very poor editor. As was mentioned earlier, her made up words were over the top. Since she took the time to write, she could have provided helpful criticism. So glad you moved on and didn't let this stop your creativity.

  11. Wow, I am so glad that you didn't take it to heart and revise it in any of the ways she suggested as that is what made your book so wonderful and fun to read. I enoyed all the things that she slammed in the book.

    Keep up the good work I can hardly wait for The Hunt to be finished. I for one know that I will be purchasing it for my Kindle if I am not one of the lucky ones in the drawing.

  12. I would have sit and cried when the rejection came.Your books are awesome and they didn't know it!!!Poor judgement!!!
    All of us can't be wrong.We Love Your Books!!!
    I am glad you didn't give up!!!

  13. TRV - You want an eye on your work you can send it to me. Despite what my buddy Greg thinks :-), I can be very positive and give polite pointers. Email me if you want to take me up on it. I used to do a Pay it Forward Friday and edit for new writers, but I would still be happy to look over something short.

    Val - Thanks! Maybe someday when I sell lots of books she'll do that... if she even remembers me!

    Irene - Thank you! Glad to hear you enjoyed it as much as you did. She was an agent not an editor... I actually sent the email to my editor who got angrier than I did! She felt insulted by all her hard work and the agent's lack of decorum.

    Laura - I think I revised that first chapter somewhere between 20-25 times, so I may have taken some of what she said to heart when i went back and cut stuff/re-worded it. As most of you in my old beta group can attest, I became a better writer as I progressed deeper into the story... so I *had* to go back and keep re-doing the beginning to try and get it to match!

    DLynn - Thank you!! It's beacuse of readers like you all that I never gave up. If I hadn't had the (excuse my crudeness) balls to post my stuff in public and wait for the fruit throwing to begin, then I never would have known my work was even appealing.

    Without all of you, maybe I would have listened, maybe I would have been crushed... but it's a moot point since I had readers telling me from the get go they wanted more. I'm forever in awe of how people all over the internet have such kind and big hearts and aren't stingy in sharing a kind word.

    You all honor me with your time, and I hope I can always spin a tale worthy of it.

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  15. Contest entries closed from here on out.... but you can pop back by my Facebook page ( for notice of the next chance to enter!