The week of rejection letters

Three weeks into NaNoWriMo and my word count stands at … 28k. Yup, just as I expected. I’m not going to make it in time.

 photo guilty_zpsbexnixre.gif

 photo misha guilty_zpscwnnzmsj.gif

 photo sorry_zpsorolsa86.gif

As Chuck Wendig said,

It’s harder just not to create art than it is to actually sit down or stand there and commit. It’s easier to think about creating something, or to talk about creating something, than it is to actually will yourself to that act — a very difficult, transitional, sacrificial act. It’s easier to think about stories or dream stories or imagine your published stories than it is to actually carve them letter by letter across a piece of paper.

Thinking is easy; dreaming is easier. It’s the doing that feels like carving out your skin inch by inch, but it’s also what gives you the most satisfaction. Now, if I could just hold on to that thought…

Literary agents, however, have had a very productive week in terms of responding to emails. At this stage, any response is better than none. I’m not really a fan of the whole “We’ll reply only if we’re interested” policy more and more agencies are adopting these days.

This week, I’ve had three rejection letters. Nice ones, but crushing nonetheless. I don’t think I’ll ever be immune to the sting. It’s nothing personal, I know. It’s just … you feel like you were soooooo close, you know? They’d already requested the full manuscript for consideration. They liked it. It JUST. WASN’T. GOOD. ENOUGH.

 photo merida face tear_zpsvdmmy4ui.gif

 photo merida headdesk_zpsihqlvm6d.gif 

 photo zooeyweeping_zps00ecfc0f.gif

It’s enough to make a writer want to give up sometimes. If your best still isn’t good enough, does that mean you’re just not cut out for this after all?

At least most of the agents are really kind. I’ve had one who called me Joshua and some who responded with just one line: not for me but thanks.

 

 

Rejection Letter #1:

Dear Joyce,

Thank you so much for submitting Until Morning to Giant Squid Books. Your novel is a fresh take on romantic YA and I have not seen many like it! However, the switching perspectives and long dream sequences did not resonate with us, so I do not think we are the right fit. I am confident that you will find a home for your novel and I wish you the best of luck.

Warmly,
Rachel 

 

 

Rejection Letter #2: 


Dear Joyce,

Thanks again for sending me UNTIL MORNING, and for your patience as I read it. I’m a big fan of Haruki Murakami, and your use of magical realism really reminded me of his work. I loved the way the characters’ lives were interlaced, and how they meet inside Lexi’s dreams of Sam’s paintings. I thought the way you constructed their worlds was very fresh and interesting. I loved the twist of her being in a coma. Overall, I thought the concept of your book was very imaginative.

I felt like I had an immediate impression of each of their characters. Lexi seemed very free-spirited (in her dreams), while Sam has always had a lot of structure in his life and pressure from his father. I wanted to learn more about their characters, to see them develop and expand as I continued reading, and unfortunately, I didn’t see that as much as I would’ve liked. It was interesting to learn that Lexi is much less free-spirited in real life, because it helped give more nuance and depth to the version of Lexi that appears in the dreams. However, I still didn’t feel that I got to know either of their characters as deeply as I wanted to. I also felt that the way they appear to be complete opposites in the dreams, yet become close so immediately, felt a little too perfect and unrealistic. The similarities between them as well (both having a sick mother) felt a little too coincidental to be realistic.

As much as I admired the overall concept of your book, I’m afraid I didn’t connect to the characters in the way I’d hoped, so I have to pass. I wish you all the best in finding the right agent and getting this published.

Best wishes,
Annie B

 

 

Rejection Letter #3: 

Dear Joyce,

Thank you so much for submitting to the Collaborative. Unfortunately, while your concept is intriguing, we recently sold a project that involves a romance conducted via dreaming, and as a small company, we need to be very careful about taking on projects with too much overlap to titles already on our list. I’m sorry this wasn’t a match but I wish you the best of luck in finding the perfect home for your work!

All my best,
Annie S

 


Rejection Letter #4: 

Dear Joshua,


Many thanks for sending us Until Morning.
I am sorry I can’t offer to represent you at this time, but I wish you every success with your writing in the future.

Best wishes,
Gillie

 photo donghae exasperated_zpsr6ay2lfe.gif 

Can I go wallow now??

NaNo-ers, power on anyway! It’s a daunting task, seeing a novel through to the end without getting held back by rejection or self-doubt, and writing is a much less lonely business during NaNo. But nothing beats reaching the end, you know that.

Also, BIIIIG thanks to everyone who stopped by with an encouraging note or remark – you don’t know how much it means to a writer. *kisses you fervently*

PRETTY is a lovely word (as is LOVELY)

Ex-literary agent and author Nathan Bransford dishes out some hard truths:

The thing people should really be worried about is whether they have the willpower to write a novel. That is the hard part. The setting aside of time, powering through when it stops being fun, and getting the whole thing written and edited.

I think I’ve said before that writing can be lonely at times. It’s just you and your words. You slaving over your story. You and your own thoughts that can easily morph into doubts. You don’t know if what you’re writing is any good, if anyone will ever get to read it, much less love it. And because of that, you’re hesitant about showing anyone your work. And then it becomes REALLY just you and your story. After a while (usually around the middle), your story starts to get tiresome, and you’re not sure if you should just give up on the whole endeavour.

But then you remember how immensely gratifying it had been to complete your previous stories. And you decide to push through.

Aww thanks, Ryan!

So that’s where I am now, trying to keep up my flagging enthusiasm for Neverland, keep my eye on the finishing line, so to speak.

Thank goodness for little reprieves such as these:

This has to be one of the most hilarious interviews of McFly I’ve seen. Alan Carr + the boys = a total riot!

This one NEVER gets old. Some people say this is a terribly display of how spoiled First World kids are, but I think they were crying about the injustice of losing what they’d earned (how much trick-or-treating do you have to do to get two bags of candy?)  more than they were crying about the candy itself (though, of course, they were crying about the candy too).

And this! Another classic: Dominic Monahan prank-interviews Elijah Wood.

I died laughing.

And to those who say Orlando Bloom is just a pretty face who can’t take the piss out of himself, check out this video:

Still love him. Once my Legolas/Will Turner, always my Legolas/Will Turner!

 photo Donghaeprettyeyes_zpsb88cf928.gif

Oops. Those eyes though!

.

.

.

.

.

Sigh. Is it any wonder why the writing’s going slowly?

Anyway, remember Graffiti Moon, that wildly beautiful contemporary YA book by Cath Crowley that I raved about a while back? I only just discovered her blog (how did I only find it now?!) and OMG it might be one of my favourite blogs now, along with Laini TaylorNathan Bransford and Maggie Stiefvater’s. I mean, just look at these random gems Cath posts!

Some prose (click on the link for the full piece!):

Someone will offer you the last page of your life today. You won’t know it’s the last page. They won’t say and you won’t ask.

They’ll be waiting for you on a corner that you walk past every day. You’ll think maybe you recognise them. It’s something about the way they’re clicking the thumb and index finger of their left hand together when they speak – you do that all the time, you’ll think.

So you’ll take the page, they know you’ll take the page because you’re that kind of person. You say sorry when it’s not really a sorry kind of situation. You say sorry at least five hundred times a day. You counted once. It’s a habit. You don’t even know where you picked it up.

You’ll get a strange kind of feeling when you walk down the street. The sky, an uncut blue overhead and the mist coming out of your mouth like a ghost. At one stage you might get the idea that you can suck the cold air right back inside. You can’t, you’ll realise. Air that’s breathed is breathed for good.

The paper will stay in your pocket all day – maybe along with a couple of chocolate wrappers and a piece of gum you didn’t know what to do with because you couldn’t find a bin.

You’ll probably touch it a couple of times during the day – feel the corner when you talk to the one you want but spend most of the time looking at the air just to the left of their ears. Maybe you’ll touch it when your boss says you messed up and you believe him.

In the end you’ll take it out and read it on the train. You’ll be coming home like everyone else, watching the blur of lights out the window, the glass between you and the night, between you and the breath of stars.

Some poetry:

You is my mad aching ship

My sad puzzled light

My honey ocean

My late night, impossible wish

I’m sure the grammatical choice (“is”) is there for a reason, but I don’t want to delve into literary criticism here.

And some more prose:

You’ll look up today. You’ll notice the sky. It might be streaky or blue or brushed with white buckled clouds but there will be a piece of it that seems exactly right. You might take a photograph so that you can remember.

You’ll think about the words that you love – maybe nova and opal and shadow and nest. Maybe flicker and frost, kismet or linger. Maybe bliss. Maybe kiss.

SO MUCH BEAUTY in her words. All that imagery! So tender and sweet it’s almost heart-breaking. I just want to hug those words…

Like this!

 photo samtoopreciousforthisworld_zps0c3e47eb.gif

MAD MAAAAAD LOVE! I wish I had her sensitivity for words. Graffiti Moon was gorrrrgeous. It’s just the kind of intense, bittersweet, funny, poignant contemporary YA romance centred around two characters looking for themselves and each other that I wish I had written. Or will someday be able to write with much much aplomb.

Speaking of pretty words, there’s something soothing about finding pretty art in the sinkhole that is Pinterest on a lovely blue-skied morning.

Wolf painting by chantelyoung on Etsy
a painting by Carson Ellis for Wildwood, a lovely MG book series by Colin Meloy
Obviously, Quentin Blake.
The Little Prince by Woo Hee Kwon

Okay okay okay. Enough procrastinating. I’m gone. Have a great week, everyone! :0)

petal happiness (and other Monday mood-lifters)

Monday started off a little wet, but thankfully I managed to get some swim time in. Nothing like a good long swim to put you in a terrific mood!

It’s been a busy start to the week so far, with a writing assignment I’m doing on the side, a novel I’m writing on the side (more on that later), and my regular full-time job. Plus, blogging. Still, I’m not complaining, because all these tasks require me to write. And I’m just doing what I love.

 photo rapunzelinlove_zpse345427d.gif

LOOOOOVE! Happy happy Monday, everyone!

So, a quick recap of the weekend (hope yours was great!):

Saturday morning, I woke up to an email from a literary agent who had expressed interest in a manuscript I sent her previously (I think it was Blood Promise):

 

Dear Joyce,

Happy New Year! 

How is Neverland coming along…? If it is ready, may I request the manuscript? In the current market climate, I think it is the most saleable of the three.

Best,

Emmanuelle

 

 photo internallyscreaming_zps2a05750b.gif

Squeeeee! I think I squealed out loud on the way to the bathroom as I checked my email. It was seven a.m. Still, it’s never too early for good news.

Now comes the not-so-good news.

It’s not ready yet. Neverland is still half-baked. In the works. (And other annoying cliches.) It’s going to take me at least a month before I dare to send it out to an agent, to get it perfect. AT LEAST a month.

But I’m afraid her interest in my manuscript would have waned by then and she decides she’s not going to want to look at it by the time I’m done.

So I’m going to pound this monster out at top speed, notwithstanding my other assignments and tasks.

 photo madlywriting_zps55a755b3.gif

No time to wait for inspiration to strike. No time to wallow. No time to whine about writer’s block and complain about the mid-story goblin chewing up my story. (Yet, there’s still time for blogging. There is always time for blogging!)

Which explains why I spent the better part of my Saturday writing Neverland. After brunch with my dad, who had the weekend off (a rarity), I wrote.

My dad took evidence:

Why yes, I always look this gorgeous when I’m working. Thanks for noticing.

And here’s a piece of the result of my work:

I clocked in 3,500 words on my first day! Which, while has been done before (back in my Lambs For Dinner days), is rare. And you know how when you see good results upon embarking on something that you become more spurred on to keep it up?

So I did the math. To keep up this productive streak, I’ll write about 500 words on my lunch break, and another 1,500 after work, or just all 2,000 after work. An average of 2,000 words a day on weekdays, and an average of 3,000 on weekends, that would add up to 16,000 a week and *gasp* a full-length novel in less than 5 weeks!

Of course, give or take a few days, since it would be impossible to keep to this schedule everyday, what with Chinese New Year coming up (which means time for socialising) and what with the need to preserve my sanity (which means spending time with my family, reading, and ogling at pretty faces things).

Family
Reading
More reading
Pretty … okay, pretty faces.

I wanted to get the same amount of writing done on Sunday, too, but it’s not every day that my dad has a weekend off and we wanted to make good of it.

So after our brunch (yes, with my dad, there can only be brunch, not breakfast, because he likes – and needs – to sleep in), we rambled around town, ran errands, went shopping for flowers, then ran some more errands before finishing off with a simple but lovely dinner.

We didn’t get anything at the nursery because it’s still too early to buy the tangerine plant and everything would fall off the branches by the time Chinese New Year rolls around. But! We did get a little shutter-happy.

Shutter-happy and petal-happy!

Gotta love flowers. Such a mood-lifter!

(If you recall, When the Lilies Turn Orange, my first standalone novel I wrote when I was 18, was set in a nursery. I may or may not go back and rewrite it – hint hint – if I have the time. Which I don’t. At least, not now.)

Now for some lovely quotes to end this post:

Anne Lamott on writing:

Writing can be a pretty desperate endeavor, because it is about some of our deepest needs: our need to be visible, to be heard, our need to make sense of our lives, to wake up and grow and belong.

 

And Lovely Laini is inspiring once again:

I would guess that the major problem writers face when getting their novels finished is the doldrums. They lose their initial excitement and let this get the better of them. The most common question I get in emails is some form of: how do I get back into my story? How do I fall in love with it again? Well, this is my answer, these two methods. You could just slog it out as is, determined to finish at all costs, but the things is: if you are bored, your readers will be too. So don’t be bored! Ever! Shake your brain like a snow globe and make the glitter swirl. Yes, you will be picking glitter out of your brain for years to come, but it is worth it!

Brainstorm brainstorm brainglittersnowstorm!

Some writing advice by Eric Vance Walton:

It’s very easy to romanticize the writer’s life but most times it is far from glamorous and is one of the most difficult things you will ever do. To be a successful writer requires a mega dose of hard work, commitment, good networking skills, optimism, and also a healthy dose of luck. If you have the discipline to hone your craft writing can be equally as rewarding as it is difficult.

And finally:

(Wow, this post was supposed to be a quick one. Where did all that time go?)

And have a great week!

And the responses stream in

I’ve been querying literary agents for BLOOD PROMISE, and while a lot of the response was promising, none of them quite hit the mark. I’m getting more personal responses (i.e. elaborate emails on why my work is rejected) rather than form rejections these days, but it’s hard not to get beaten down by rejection. If anything, the blow is harder because you realise you were THISCLOSE to getting a nod from an agent. You begin to wonder if your story is really not good enough to be published. And as my list of agents to query starts to run out, my hope of ever getting BLOOD PROMISE out in the world is fast diminishing.

Here are some personalised rejection slips from agents who have requested partials and fulls (as in, pages of the manuscript):

 
Dear Joyce,
 
Thank you so much for sharing BLOOD PROMISE with me. I would absolutely love to read the first 100 pages, sent as an attachment in .doc or .txt. format. Also, if you could let me know whether or not other agents are looking at partials of fulls, that would be helpful, as well. I look forward to reading more!
 
 
Warmest,
Jennifer
Jennifer Azantian
Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency
 
 
 
And here’s her follow-up after I sent her the pages:
 
 
 
Dear Joyce,
I really enjoyed these pages from BLOOD PROMISE. I feel your writing is very strong, but I didn’t connect with the story in the way that I need to in order to request the remainder. I also think the use of multiple POVs made it difficult to become invested in any of the characters. I’m sorry to not have better news for you, but I’m sure another agent will feel differently. I wish you the best of luck on your writing journey.
 
Warmest,
Jennifer
 
 
Here’s an initial response from Ms Sara D’Emic:

 
 
Dear Ms. Chua,

Thank you for your query. You have a great premise and I enjoyed your sample; I’d love to read more. Could you please send first fifty pages, along with a complete plot synopsis (each in a separate word doc)? I look forward to reading.

Sincerely,
Sara D’Emic
 
 
 
But it ultimately didn’t grab her. Here’s her reply after I sent her the full (after requesting for the partial, she asked for the full):
 

 

Dear Joyce,

Thanks again for sending this over. Unfortunately, I have to pass at this time. You’re a strong writer but the narrators of each section had very similar voices. And while the world was unique I felt lost in the mythology at times, and would have liked to be brought more into the world. April and her brother being changelings was one of the most intriguing parts of this and I wanted that to be concentrated on more. These were just my impressions though I hope they’re helpful. I wish you the best of luck.

 

Sincerely,

Sara D’Emic

 

And another:

Dear Ms Chua,

Thank you for the opportunity to review BLOOD PROMISE and for your
patience in awaiting a reply.

I enjoyed reading your sample pages and can sense that there’s a lot that
works well here: solid world-building, an interesting premise, and a
memorable cast of characters, just to name a few elements I like. I
particularly appreciate how you effectually capture the sights and sounds
of April’s environment, drawing me into the rich setting and her plight as
supplies dwindle. I think she really leaps off the page as a fully-fleshed
character; her relationship with her brother is both complex and belivable
— something readers will be drawn to.

Unfortunately, though there is much to admire, I just don’t love it enough
to represent it in today’s competitive marketplace. This is just my
opinion, of course, and hopefully another agent will have another
perspective. I wish you the best of luck with BLOOD PROMISE and all your
future literary adventures.

Best wishes,
Kathleen Zakhar
Harold Ober Associates Incorporated

And another:

Dear Ms. Chua:

Thanks for the opportunity to read the sample pages of BLOOD PROMISE.

With regret, I’m afraid I will be passing on this one. While I remain
intrigued by the concept of your novel, and found your opening
chapter compelling, I felt the motivations of some of the characters
didn’t always come through clearly on the page (e.g. Sean’s decision
not to tell his father about finding the body or being questioned by
the police).

Sorry I couldn’t give you a more positive reply. Thanks for thinking
of me, and best of luck in your search for representation.

Regards,
Jennifer Jackson
Donald Maass Literary Agency
http://www.maassagency.com/

Disappointing responses they may be, I’m still extremely thankful these agents took time to offer detailed feedback on my story. Now, on to reworking this damn book because heck I am going to make this work.