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smallthunder
06-17-2005, 05:37 AM
Greetings --

After 12 requests for chapters of my novel, and 5 bland/generic rejections, I finally got a rejection that contained a critique explaining why the agent was turning down the manuscript.

At first, I was delighted that I had received some comments -- I had read here at AW that getting concrete criticism meant that you had a "near miss." So, I was pleased to make it that far, and took a long/hard look at the critical comments of the agent (Susan Schulman) ...
to discover that my novel is hopeless?

Here's what Susan Schulman wrote:

Thank you for your patience while I read and considered your manuscript. The strength of your material at this stage is the historical presence, the research and the integration of it into the material. The writing however needs, at least for me, to be line edited, the texture and background and layer of character strengthened. Thank you for the opportunity to read and to consider your work.

As I see it, she's saying my writing is amateurish -- from word/sentence/paragraph problems to uni-dimensional characters.

I know there are six more agents out there who have yet to weigh in, but I'm not very hopeful. In fact, I'm thinking of giving up on novel writing -- I have a musical instrument under my bed that I've been meaning to pull out and finally learn to play. A much better use of my "free" time, I'd wager.

:cry:

I think the only thing that could cheer me up is to learn that Susan Schulman almost never provides critiques with her rejections -- exceptions made only for those manuscripts that really have potential.

Anybody want to lie and cheer me up?

Torgo
06-17-2005, 06:46 AM
First off, that isn't such a bad rejection as you make out; she's saying you have the bones of a good book there, and she took the time to say that.
If this is your first novel, there's a good chance that it is amateurish in some ways - rather like your first efforts on that musical instrument are going to be amateurish. Keep playing those scales! Your writing will only get better with practice.

Susie
06-17-2005, 08:54 AM
Hi, Smallthunder & all,

Don't get discouraged. If you really want to write, you'll keep writing and sending out your novel. Almost everyone's writing needs editing, if not by themselves then with a professional editor. That the editor took the time to give you some constructive criticism is great, and really does mean your writing has potential. Your novel could be, with some editing, a published book. Go for it! To coin a phrase, "Winners never quit, and quitters never win."

Warm regards, Susie:)

blacbird
06-17-2005, 11:33 AM
In addition to what sherri said, remember that it is also possible that the agent is replete with masculine bovine intestinal extrusions.

As I may be, also.

bird

brinkett
06-17-2005, 03:55 PM
What Susie said. It's the opinion of one agent, so what I'd do is wait and see if you get any feedback from the other six. If you do and any of them say the same thing, then it's time to flesh out the characters a little more and to tighten up the writing however you can.

I certainly wouldn't give up after just one critique. It's unrealistic to expect that your writing is perfect and that your manuscript needs no work. Even the pros have to edit after their book has been bought. You're in a better position than many in that the agent has given you some idea of how you might improve your manuscript. I have a book on query letters in which one published author says it was the comments of an agent that led her to revise the manuscript, which she believes led to it being bought.

Good luck!

Skipp
06-17-2005, 04:32 PM
I'd say keep writing AND get that instrument out! I know playing mandolin has taught me a lot about writing and even life, and there's no better way to take a quick break from writing than by playing a good tune.

dragonjax
06-17-2005, 04:35 PM
Picking up on what Torgo said, is this your first book? If so, then this was a very, very encouraging rejection. Really.

I recently dusted off my first solid draft of my first book, which I had sworn back in 1994 was ready for prime time.

None of the protagonists are even remotely likeable.

The action doesn't kick into high gear until page 212.

The pace is so glacial that it's almost non-existent.

It ends on a cliff-hanger.

Yet I had seriously thought it was terrific. Alas.

If other agents weigh in with rejections, then you may want to consider joining a critique group to get some additional feedback from authors at various levels. I've found that the process of critiquing others' works is very, very helpful with my own writing. And some of the insights from other reviewers are nothing short of epiphanies. (Granted, some are crap, but it's a mixed bag.)

Best of luck, Thunder.

Jamesaritchie
06-17-2005, 09:48 PM
Let's assume your writing is amateurish. Why shouldn't it be? Every great now and then you find a writer whose first novel was good enough to sell, but this is in no way the norm. Even if you have talent, writing fiction is a learned skill. Characterization, dialogue, plot theme, structure, etc., are all learned skills. Even basic sentence and paragraph struces are learned skills.

There's no reason at all to expect a writer's early efforts to be anything other than amateurish, any more than you would expect a musician's first efforts to be anything other than amateurish.

My youngest son started playing the trombone two years ago. He plays at school five days per week, and at home six days per week. He's has a natural talent for it, but his playing is without doubt still amateurish. My eldest son has been playing the trombone for more than eight years, and his playing is only now at a level that can truly be called professional.

Writing in an amateur fashion is not a bad thing, it's a normal thing. I think the biggest single mistake many new writers make is in having too much belief in their first novel. Or their second or third novel. Instead of realizing that poor, amateurish, first, second, and third novels are the norm, they think they've failed if that first one doesn't make it. They self-publish it, they let it depress them, they worry they don't have what it takes, when the real problem is that an incredibly small percentage of first or second novels are going to be any good, no matter who the writer is.

Writers who succeed are most often those who move on to a second novel, then a third novel, and then a fourth novel, however many it takes, until their skill level reaches that of a professional in all the necessary areas.

Most of us really do have a million words of garbage covering the gold in our core, and you don't reach that gold by constantly rewriting the same project, but by taking lessons learned on to new projects.

smallthunder
06-18-2005, 07:27 AM
First of all, let me thank you all for replying to my post. All of you made good, solid points -- and made me feel better -- without even having to lie! (imagine!)

Perhaps I should mention that my distress about the critique stemmed partly from hubris -- i.e. I am a "professional" writer/editor, albeit not of fiction. And partly from bewilderment -- I belonged to a small writers' group where half of the people were published authors, and we had worked together on these first few chapters.

But the bottom line is: This is my first novel. Hell, this is my first piece of fiction (although my undergraduate degree is in creative writing, I focused on writing poetry and bad plays). Why should I think it should be a "winner" the first time around?

As for starting afresh -- my second novel was going to take off where the first ended (i.e. a series, same main character/different locales). I guess if I look at all of this as a WRITING project and not a GETTING-PUBLISHED project, I can just go ahead with #2 ...

and somehow find time for that musical instrument ... somehow ...

blacbird
06-18-2005, 08:05 AM
"Writers who succeed are most often those who move on to a second novel, then a third novel, and then a fourth novel, however many it takes, until their skill level reaches that of a professional in all the necessary areas."

After which an astonishing number of agents and editors suddenly discover that the first, second and third novels, all universally rejected, are actually very good, and don't understand why they didn't achieve acceptance before.

bird

Jamesaritchie
06-18-2005, 08:39 AM
"Writers who succeed are most often those who move on to a second novel, then a third novel, and then a fourth novel, however many it takes, until their skill level reaches that of a professional in all the necessary areas."

After which an astonishing number of agents and editors suddenly discover that the first, second and third novels, all universally rejected, are actually very good, and don't understand why they didn't achieve acceptance before.

bird

This doesn't actually happen nearly as often as it seems to happen. And even when it does happen, those first rejected novels are most often rewritten before being published. This gets left out of the picture way too often because it sounds better if it isnt mentioned.

When writers reach the point of being able to sell a novel, they are nearly always much better writers than they were when they wrote the ones they had rejected, and most can back through such novels and fix the problems they had.

But there are also a lot of pro writers who have several old novels stuck in a drawer somewhere because they're simply too bad to fix.