Well, we’ve already received a response from the Nelson Agency regarding the first 30 pages of On Common Ground and they decided it wasn’t right for them. Certainly, I’m disappointed, but not at all despairing, nor derisive! The rejection hasn’t changed my opinion of the agency; I still think they are good people. I just have to keep looking.
I wonder, sometimes, if perhaps “rejection” is a poor choice of words for this process. Yes, the process is nominally called submission, because you are throwing yourself to the mercy of the agents and publishers, much like a slave casts his eyes to the floor and silently hopes that he receives a pat on the head instead of a sword to the throat. However, back to the term rejection, in many cases, the agent or editor isn’t saying the work is no good, nor even saying they don’t want it. They may just already have signed with half a dozen novels about Shapeshifting Teacher-Monkeys Taking Over the School and so, even though my Shapeshifting Teacher-Monkeys are the best ones, they need something different. (Self-note: write a great novel about Shapeshifting Teacher-Monkeys.)
I think a better term might be “Returned.” A manuscript can be “Returned with Respect” or “Returned with Love” or “Returned with a Bag of Garbage that Smells Better than this Prose!” Thus we know why it was Returned, or at least the general impression of it, and there isn’t the automatically negative connotation of it being rejected.
So, in summation, I say thank you, Kristin and Sara, for being interested enough to request the partial, and thank you for taking the time to read 30 pages that I wrote.
(Let’s hope it was Returned with something other than garbage, though they didn’t actually specify!)
(Yes, I am struggling to contain my hopeful excitement, but don’t tell anyone. I’m trying to stay dignified for the kids’ sake!)
So, with a little luck, they will decide to help Gabe, Luke, Grace, and crew to find a good home. Cross your fingers!
I’ve been having fun! This week, through some click-throughs, I discovered a blog that I quickly joined and have been actively participating in. Come In Character, run by BunnyGirl and Mira, is a blog that regularly posts discussions or topics or questions, and the commentors are expected to respond in the voice of one of their characters. So far, Gabe and Nezbit from On Common Ground; Derek Daniels, The Nanite Chaser; and Jeff Turnage from ANTHRO have all posted already and are having a grand time interacting with the other characters, you should totally check it out!
I just finished a writing project with several classes and I was very pleased to see the length and quality of many of the short stories that were turned in. (Yes, I was also disappointed by the half-page, scrawled before class versions.) Each student was assigned a plotline to write, but told they could, if they chose, write a second story, for a bonus grade, using whatever plot they liked. I had several to choose that option. The Friday they were due, the longest story turned in was 16 pages of good writing. I was thrilled! Then on Monday, another student turned in her bonus story. 35 handwritten pages of bonus story! Wow. On top of the length, the quality is excellent. She’s an undiscovered diamond just waiting to shine. Since this is the last week of school, I don’t have time to work her as much as I would like, so I wrote her a nice long letter offering some general advice and a few sources for more information. I decided it might be good to have that information here as well, for any of my other students that happen to take the time to check it out. The non personal excerpt from the letter is below:
Most English teachers will be happy to help you with your writing if you can ask a specific question, or even give a general direction for discussion, such as asking about subplots, or how to use a semicolon properly. Unfortunately, they will rarely have time to proof or edit a full manuscript for you. Fortunately, there are some alternatives. First of all, even your friends can read and give feedback for you. They know what they like and don’t like, even if they can’t express why. You just need to know what questions to ask them. Otherwise, they will most likely just say “It’s great.” and that won’t help you hone your skill. Try asking them specific questions like “Did you get lost anywhere?”, “Was there any part where you got bored?” or “Do you believe the characters?” This is called a ‘Wise Reader’ and can be very helpful in getting a good reaction to your work. However, you needn’t create a Wise Reader from scratch if you don’t have one handy.
There are Writers Groups all over the country, and many in the metroplex area that you can be a part of. You would be able to associate and read with established authors as well as hopeful writers. Depending on the genre you want to focus your work in, there is the North Texas Speculative Fiction Writers (you can find them on MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/ntsfw and at http://www.ntsfw.com/) or DFW Writers Workshop (http://www.dfwrite.org/). Groups like this may have a small annual membership fee that helps cover their organizational expenses. There are also online sites/groups that are similar to these. One of the biggest (and free) is NaNoWriMo.org, which celebrates National Novel Writing Month in November. They have a Young Writers Program you can join if you choose, or go for the big, grownup version! (Either way, don’t forget to look me up if you join NaNoWriMo.) You can also check out critters.org and sfwa.org (Sci-Fi Writers of America).
In addition, there are loads of books that you can find in the library on the skill/art/business of writing. I could personally recommend Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft by Janet Burroway, Fiction Writer’s Handbook by Hallie and Whit Burnett, and How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card. There are many more than just those, however. Some high schools have creative writing classes, which you would do quite well in and can be very helpful, depending on the teacher. When you get to college, there will certainly be opportunities for writing classes. While in college, I took two creative writing classes and an Intro to Fiction Writing course. I didn’t manage to take many of the others that were offered, including poetry writing, script writing, and novel writing.
I do want to caution you, however. There are just as many people out there happy to scam writers as there are people happy to help writers. For the most part, you should not have to pay someone for your writing. If you are talking to an agent, and they want you to pay them upfront, get another agent. Agents get their money after they sell your book, not before. Don’t let some scam artist try to tell you differently.
There are some exceptions to the pay upfront thing, though. If you self-publish, you’ll have to pay them to print your book, and then you’ll have to do the marketing for it yourself. So Print-On-Demand publishers are an exception, but be careful, some charge way too much for what they provide. There are workshops and classes that you’d have to pay for, and getting inside a conference of writers, agents, or editors will cost you the price of the ticket at the very least.
There are also many contests and events that pretend to be legitimate but are only out for your money. The best thing to do is check out any event, service, or agency before giving them your money. You can check out evil monsters of the writing world online at places such as Preditors and Editors (http://www.anotherealm.com/prededitors/ ) and WriterBeware.org (a watchdog group founded by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America). Both of these sites report scams and keep track of reputable agencies and publishers.
This is just some base-line information to get you started. If you want to talk more about this, or any other part of writing, I’ll be happy to try to help. There’s a Contact Me link on the front page of my website (www.davidjace.com) that I check frequently, and I promise to respond quickly if you want to send me questions.