Lament of the rejected writer

In what has become a trifecta of crappy days, I got another rejection today that pretty much sank my battleship.  It indicated that, although I had a rich setting, they couldn’t “connect” with the main character.

Apparently this book is an epic fail.

We’re up to 43 submissions, 17 of which are rejections.  Two are still under consideration.  The rest haven’t responded.


I don’t even know what to do at this point.  Okay, I guess there are three choices:

  1. Give up (tempting)
  2. Publish it myself and just forget about this whole submission thing (marginally tempting)
  3. Completely revise it and try again (recommended by the latest rejector and just…basically depressing to me)

Not helping this conundrum is the fact that my driveway washed away this week.  Literally, washed away.

Let’s set the scene:

So, on Wednesday, we got some rain.  I get up at 5:45 in the morning, have some cereal, and then hop into the car of all cars, the best vehicle ever made by vehicle manufacturers: The 2003 Chevy Cavalier.  It’s a tank.  A beast.  Groundhogs have eaten the wiring harness; deer have bounced off the front hood: this baby’s still going.

When I left for work, it was sprinkling.  In between my arrival at work at 6:55am and The Hubs text at 11:42am, and completely unbeknownst todriveway me, Storm-aggedon hit and the very driveway I drove across but hours prior, washed away.  And when I say washed away, what I mean is the pipe that allows the creek to flow under the driveway was wrenched out from under the driveway, and 90% of the driveway collapsed.

See that little strip of flat surface?  Currently, that’s how I scamper up the driveway: I park at the bottom, stroll down the hill, cross the little strip of what I assume is crumbling earth while simultaneously emitting this weird, “nuuuuuuurrrrrr” sound while bracing for impact, and then hike a quarter-mile up the rest of the driveway.

My cankle muscles are intense.

Looking down on the destruction as I run, it looks like a sinkhole.  Everything is just falling into the creek.  And my brain says, “Dude, how safe was it to be driving over that pipe in a CAR if it just washed away like a turd in a river?”

And then my brain says, “You have lived in the country far too long if that’s the first metaphor you come up with, weirdo.”


Then the next day, we got news of a family member with a colossally serious illness.

Then the next day, one of the publishers who’d requested my novel rejected it.  Crap week trifecta.

Then today, one of the publishers who’d requested my novel that I was really, really excited would accept it….didn’t.  And further depressed me by saying the best character I thought I’d ever written was…not connective.  Does that mean dull?  Does that mean flat?

I swear, if I didn’t have bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.

In the grand scheme of things and in comparison to my driveway washing away/serious family illnesses, another book rejection is just that: another book rejection.  It’s not the first, it’s not the last.  And  yes, I probably sound a lot more confident than I’m currently feeling.  Currently I feel like a bad writer who ate way too many desserts at The Hub’s annual family reunion today.  And I consumed those desserts before I got the rejection in my email box, so yeah, self-control was actually at its peak today.  Its peak!

Oh, and ew, my awkward bodice sunburn is peeling off my right wrist.  It looks like some kind of creeping crud, as my late father would say.  So not only am I a bad writer who ate way too many desserts, but I’m a bad writer who ate too many desserts and apparently has mange.

Here’s what I’m thinking is going to happen: First I’m going to get aloe for my wrist because, ew.  Then I’m going to just focus my attention on Manuscript II, because I’m pretty stoked with it right now.  I texted my mother, lamenting about my ongoing rejection/fragile self-esteem and said:

Me: Maybe I’m just not meant to write historical fiction.  Maybe I love history too much.

My Mother: Stop it.  Don’t let someone else’s opinion take the joy out your writing.

It’s true, guys.  History makes me happy.  Anything You Ask of Me makes me happy.  It apparently doesn’t make any agents or small press publishers happy, but I guess that’s okay.  I guess it has to be okay, kind of like the driveway.  Yes, it’s a disaster.  Yes, it’s frustrating.  But…it’ll all work out in the end.  Somehow.  Eventually.  And if it doesn’t, I told The Hubs we’re either putting in a rope swing or a pole vault.

So there.  I guess that’s what I have to do with my writing: pole vault over rejection and just get over it.  Move on and try again.  Or go back, revise, and try again.  I’m still not sure what the best course of action is, but maybe after I work on Manuscript II for a while, I’ll go back to Anything You Ask of Me and have a better idea.  Or not.

Okay, lament over.  Thanks for listening.



  1. Don’t give up! JK Rowling got tons of rejections. Steve Berry told a group of us at a book signing that he could wall paper his house with his rejections but the key is to keep going and keep trying. I think it’s part of the writing process. I saw an agent on Twitter this week remind people that if someone sends the book back and says revise it that’s a positive sign. I’m sure it doesn’t feel like a positive sign right now. Don’t give up!

    1. Thanks! 🙂 I try and tell myself that, but I guess, in the end, I wish one of these rejectors would flat out say, “Look, lady, your writing is terrible and only about twenty people actually care about the Civil War.” The last rejection was the closest to actual feedback, but I still have no idea what that means. Doesn’t connect the way they thought she should? Hmm. But yeah, I guess the plan as it stands is to hang out and see what the last two considerations are. Then, it’s either completely revise and try again in six months OR just find a super small ebook press/self publish it. So…I guess really, the plan is no plan at this point, lol!

  2. First, your mother is absolutely right…never let anyone else’s opinion take the joy out of writing for you. Second, never give up…regardless of the path you choose to pursue in your writing (self pub, re-write, query more agents) just keep writing and moving forward. Third, I’m sure you’ve heard this about a million times before, but brighter days are ahead! We can never truly value the joy of being “up” or appreciate when everything is going “right” if we’ve never experienced the “down” and times when everything that could go wrong, does. I wish you the best of luck as you move forward and also a quick recovery from the creeping crud, lol!

    1. I think I wouldn’t mind the creeping crud as much, if it would stop taking my tan away with it, lol!! Thank you for your comments! They really mean a lot! I guess I feel what a lot of authors feel–confusion. I mean, I have no idea if it’s the writing, the plot, or what that no body seems to care about. The feedback “doesn’t connect” isn’t terribly helpful. I just don’t know if it’s better to revise it for the 5th time and try again, or leave it as it is/self publish/keep querying. It’s always darkest before dawn, right? Maybe if I let this one sit around long enough and go back to it, inspiration will strike again and I’ll see what I’m apparently missing.

  3. I’m in your boat (about the rejections.) I’ve got about 30 out, and about 20 rejections/no responses. I have only had one agent/publisher ask for more of my manuscript. I know my novel is too long, and that’s maybe one of the biggest problems.

    Here is my plan. Keep trying until the end of the year. Send out as my queries as I can until December 31.

    Then, if I’ve still nobody who wants it, I was going to hire an editor to go over it, and a book cover designer, and self-publish. I think my story is good, I think it could be better with an agent/editor who cared about it helping it along. But I’m not going to give up on it.

    Don’t give up on yours. Even if you have to rework it.

    Good luck!

    1. Thanks for your comments AND good luck to you, too! It’s such a frustrating process, isn’t it? I’ve edited this novel about three or four times and I really, really was happy with it. Obviously, I’m not having much in the way of fondness for it today, lol. It is exactly how I wanted it to be and, I hate to think I’d change a certain aspect of it, just because one person didn’t like this part or this part or whatever it is that is making agents/publishers reject it like it’s plagerized JK Rowling.

      I have considered self publishing, but I don’t even know where to begin with that one. At any rate, I try to keep the mindset that if an agent rejects it, it means they don’t think they can sell it. And I don’t want to work with someone who doesn’t believe in my book as much as I do.

      So, where does that leave me? I don’t know. Limbo, I guess. For now, I’ll just keep working on my next novel and take it from there.

  4. Wow, you’ve had quite a week. 😦 First, I vote to put up that rope swing or a pole vault and make use of it while you stuff your face with more dessert. That will most definitely help get you through the initial sting of rejection, your driveway catastrophe, and your creeping crud all at once!

    Seriously though, please don’t give up writing. So far, I’ve queried two novels and one novella (which doesn’t make me an expert at all), and I think the “didn’t connect” thing is just standard phrasing for a rejection. I received rejections with those exact words all the time. I wouldn’t take it to heart because someone WILL connect to your character, whether it be an agent, a publisher, or a reviewer. Whatever you decide to do, I wish you the best of luck! 🙂

    And if you need a beta reader if you do decide to revise, you know where to find me!

    1. If you’re up for some beta reading (and with the caveat you might be bored to tears by the main character), I would be insanely grateful!! Just let me know when you’re ready for say, three chapters and I can make that happen!!

      As the three year old says, the driveway is still “broken.” It’s now…it’s hard to explain, but whatever it was, it felt like quicksand when I scampered across with him. While the 18 month old peed on me. Lets hope it was some kind of damp crossroads to a better week, lol.

  5. I feel your pain, but in the words of one of my former (and favorite) managers, “If you jump high enough, you’ll get over it.” It seems as writers, jumping is all we ever do. Take the advise and look at revising things around your character. Be honest with yourself. Maybe solicit the opinion of some beta readers who will give you their honest opinions. If you all feel the character is strong, then maybe the issue was just this one person’s opinion. Also, don’t rule out self-publishing. I have been published by both small press and my self. I can honestly say, the self-pub route worked out so much better for me. (My 2¢.)

    1. Thanks! I think I’m going to try some beta readers and see what the consensus is on the main character. I’m at a loss, because I wrote her as strong and strong willed. Yes, she makes mistakes–but she’s not supposed to be perfect. She’s fatally flawed. I don’t know, maybe she’s too strong. Maybe she’s flawed in the wrong way.

      I have no idea where to even begin with self-publishing, but if I go that route I have a feeling I’ll have to do some major revisions. So…for now, I’ll work on my new WIP and save that frustration for another day!

  6. Actually, I think you dodged a bullet. I personally feel that if I cannot understand what a editor or agent says to me about my work because it is so poorly expressed, I’m better off without them. If one wants to be understood it is always possible. If someone doesn’t care enough to be so, they won’t find me in their circle. If you have concerns about your novel, ask someone capable of that evaluation that you trust to be honest with you to read it and give you feedback. Don’t worry it to death. Get some facts.

    1. Thanks! I think that’s where I’m at right now: beta readers. A few close friends have read it and one said the main character was her favorite from any book she’s read. I know the “experts” say you can’t trust the opinion of friends, but at least I know the character connected with someone.

  7. Yes, move on to the next project. If writing makes you happy, keep going! I’ve had more than twice that number for my first ms, and it finaled in over 90% of the contests I entered and won a few of those. But I moved on, kept learning craft, and got a 3-book deal and an agent with my third ms–on my first submission! Now, my first two ms’s (first of a trilogy) looks like it’s on its way to another deal. Personally, I gave myself a 5-yrlot deadline to pitch before considering self-pub. Only because I felt I needed to learn more. I’m glad I didn’t stop and I’m glad I moved on to other projects so I have a lot to offer a publisher or agent. Basically, it’s good to put the eggs in several baskets. And it’s not true that a first ms shouldn’t see the light of print. As long as the word ‘revision’ exists, you can get it shiny.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words! It’s been easy to feel hopeless these past few days. I agree though: I don’t think I’m ready to self publish. I think I need to better understand the tools and process. So, I guess the plan is to focus on my new WIP and hunt down some beta readers for the other one. I can’t see where I’m going wrong with the main character, other than maybe she’s too strong for what people think a woman in this time period should be. Which, they should have no business thinking, but other than that, I’m at a loss. I’ve had feedback from friends that she’s “the favorite” of any character they’d read; another said she was selfish (which is part of the plot). So, I don’t know. Hopefully more feedback will help!

  8. Hang in there, Heather. I went through 83 rejections for my first book before it got picked up. Want to know the common response? “Not enough sex” Really? Go figure, since there was none and it’s an Urban Fantasy. Sheesh. However, it took a year and finally found a home for it, so I know you will too. You’ve got a great plan. I was half way done with my second book when the first one got picked up. The same publisher picked up the second. Third is currently working the circuit and fourth is part way to the finish line before running the race. Don’t lose sight of why you write. Tell your stories. Take the rejections with a salt lick. If there’s something consistent through all your responses, think about it, but remember, you’re the writer and it’s your story. Be true to you. Good luck, I know it will happen!

    1. Thank you so much! So far, I’ve only gotten one rejection that specifically cited “not connecting” with the main character, so I’m hoping maybe that’s a fluke. The rest seem to be “just not what I’m looking for.” I don’t know, it’s the type of book I’d read, lol. There’s a crazy amount of people who are interested in the Civil War…so…who knows. I’m tired of guessing. So, just on to the next and hunt down a few more beta readers to give me a low down on potential issues with the main character; all of which I can read while drowing my sorrows in wine and cheese. Or, since I’m poor (thanks to our washed away driveway), it’s probably more like cheap beer and pretzels. Lets not be pretentious, ha ha!

      I feel like I need to write your last thoughts down and tape them on my lap top monitor: Be true to you. When it’s all said and done, regardless if only the beta readers ever read it, I still love it. I think the main character is strong and made some bad choices, which she had to based on the situation she was thrown into. To make her less strong or less self-assured would, I think, take away from the plot. And, in the mean time, this new WIP is a pretty good time. We’ll see what happens with it, too!

  9. Don’t give up. Beta readers is good – I don’t see that friends are a problem as long as you can also trust them to be honest, rather than to try to be ‘nice’ and not hurt your feelings. The more honest opinions you get, from people who are willing to give you decent feedback, the better idea you will have as to whether your book is great (but all publishers are blind idiots), your book is good (but doesn’t appeal to everyone – a bit like Marmite), or your book needs some further work on it.

    I certainly wouldn’t give up without getting lots of beta-reader feedback. The smaller your feedback group, the more one negative (or positive) opinion will change the overall result. You can never please everybody, so you need a big enough sample size that you can be reasonably sure that your reader group reflects the market you’re aiming at with relative accuracy. Remembering, of course, that the market you are really aiming at is readers. (No point publishing if publishers like it but the public don’t; on the other hand, if the public like it but publishers don’t, then self-publishing is the way to go.)

    It can’t be that only twenty people in the world are interested in ACW, because that would mean 10% of them live in my house. A truly disturbing thought.

    You want a beta reader who is an ardent deconstructer and critiquer of novels (although for personal amusement and edification only, usually), send it my way. Not being an author, mine would be purely a reader’s opinion.

    But persevere! You put too much time into it to abandon it.

    1. Thank you so much!! I will GLADLY take you up on the offer for a beta read. Is the gmail address you used in the comment the best to send it to?

      It’s true: if only twenty people are interested in the Civil War and 10% live in your house and 10% in my house, there may larger issues at hand for my book other than a boring/unlikable main character. The latter of that comment depresses me: I like her. I’d hate to think the public doesn’t like her.

      I think you’re right: I think the reader’s opinion is what really matters. The minimal feedback I’ve gotten from my rejections (other than the comment on the character) has been, “It’s just not what I’m looking for.” I guess that’s better than, “Some needs to take the pen away from you child, because, yikes.” but still. Meh, in the long run I guess that doesn’t matter. As a reader, I don’t know what I’m looking for until I find it. It’s hard to judge a novel by a few paragraphs in a query letter.

      Anyway, I look forward to your feedback. Deconstruct away!

      1. Yep, whiz it across. I agree, judging a book by a few paragraphs can mean you miss out on something really good. I tend to give it at least a couple of chapters – unless I feel my blood pressure rising to dangerous levels before then.

        I will pay particular attention to my feelings regarding the main character, and make sure to provide detailed feedback on how she comes across (good or bad) to me. Looking forward to reading it! 🙂

  10. Just mentioned this to my husband. He says he wants to read it (his eyes sort of lit up when I said ‘American Civil War’). Can I pass it on to him? He’s the one in our house who’s the real ACW buff – I’m just a pale imitation with enough knowledge to keep up. (So you get two sorts of reader demographic: the rabid enthusiast, and the interested layman.)

    1. Finally home from work, blah. He can definitely read it! Though, apologize to him right now that it’s from a female POV. But, I’m crazy for historical accuracy. So I have no fear in that regard, ha ha.

      Will send shortly. Currently resisting the urge to completely rewrite it before them.

  11. Only 17 rejections, Heather? Clearly this is your first novel. 🙂 By novel five your skin will be tougher. Nonetheless, fear not. I have revised and rewritten my first MS several times between writing others and the effort appears to be paying off. Renunciation, my sci-fi/fantasy epic is a finalist in the Pacific Northwest Writers Association 2013 literary competition among more than 1,000 entries from three continents.

    Put your current work away and come back to it six months from now. (Don’t trash the first version; save it). You will see it with new eyes and will be in a position to improve it.

    1. My novel is like one of my kids, I guess. And sending it out to an agent is like sending my kid out on stage with a microphone: just assuming everything will be fine!

      Congratulations on your success! Right now, I’ve got my novel out with some beta readers and focusing my efforts on two novels that are both demanding my attention. Can’t go wrong with creating!

      1. So nice to make your acquaintance, Heather. Keep on plugging away. That is not to say rejections don’t phase me at first. But the love you feel for your story, for your characters and the truth underlying your work should soon put that ache to rest. My best to you.

  12. One last thought: any time an agent takes time to provide any relevant comment or criticism, consider it praise of the first order.

      1. Most rejections go that way. To put another face on the rejection process, consider this quote:

        “Works of art are of an infinite loneliness and nothing can reach them so little as criticism.” R. M. Rilke

  13. Listen to your mother, Heather. Opinions are a dime a dozen, and an agent’s opinion isn’t necessarily more valid than anyone else’s. Be patient; rejection is part of the game.

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