Where to go from here?

lizmonster

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My 22,000 word manuscript was rejected again. This is the second time and both of them were the 'not for us' kind.

So I am wondering, what should I do now?

First: condolences. If you are a hug person, I offer an internet hug. Rejection is never fun.

Second: What are you subbing, and where are you subbing it to? 22K is a rough word count for anything but middle grade. (Apologies if you've spelled all this out elsewhere on the boards!)

As for "what should I do now?" There are three answers:

1) keep writing
2) take a break
3) quit writing entirely

Publishing is commerce, not art, and we all, at some point, have to wrestle with how much we want to link our creativity to a commercial enterprise. Because publishing can't take everything, not even all the brilliant stuff, and none of us - no matter how hard we work - are guaranteed to get anywhere.

Everyone has to figure out their own balance. And the answer to the question can change every single day.
 

Maryn

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That's a form-letter rejection that doesn't tell you in what way they found it not right. It just adds to the gloom of a rejection, doesn't it?

But two rejections isn't a lot, in the greater scheme of things. Not much comfort to know, but still worth knowing.

What I, personally, would do now is give myself a day or two to lick my wounds. We get to feel bad when we're rejected (and not just our writing!), but wallowing in it is counterproductive.

Next for me would be determining what could be better before my next submission. Since I don't know what you write, I don't know that 22K is the right length, but if it's fiction for adults, that could be the entire reason. One look at the word count could equal "not for us at this time." Novellas are notoriously hard sells even at the few publishers that accept them.

You can also review your query or cover letter, the first pages (which should be as perfect as is possible), whether you chose the right publisher for this work, and everything else.

Oh, and before I forget--yes, you get to eat something yummy as a consolation prize. May I recommend glazed sour cream doughnuts warm from the bakery's oven?

Maryn, who will never forget Mrs. Johnson's Doughnuts in Texas
 

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Also offering hugs and agree with everything said above. But just to add...two rejections is not many rejections! At all!

Most writers (even the famous ones) will have had many, many more rejections before getting the 'yes.'

Perhaps have a quick google about some of your favourite authors to see how many rejections they had. (If you can't find that info, try it with some big names.) I'd wager it'll be a lot more than two.

Don't let 'em get you down!
 

Maryn

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Stray thought: Has the beginning of this rejected work been through SYW? Posting 1000-2000 words for your fellow writers to critique can be eye-opening. (For me, it's usually something that seems perfectly clear to me that isn't at all clear to others. Your flaws will be your own, of course, but we all have them.)
 

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Assuming this is an adult genre fiction novella, which in the world of short story magazines/anthologies is very very very hard to sell**, you've got three options:

1. Trunk it. Maybe the perfect market for it will open up in a year or two.

2. Keep submitting it. Two rejections is nothing when it comes to subbing/selling short stories. I've had some shorts sell on the first submission, and others that took ten or fifteen or twenty tries to find the right home. But for places that have a long response time (months rather than days or weeks) research them carefully to ensure that your story really ought to be 'right for them'.

3. Take a pause and see if you think the ms needs more editing/polishing before it goes out again.

**They're usually paying by the word, and they've got a max length for their anthology/mag issue. For the same cost and pages-to-print of your novella, they could buy four 5500 word stories, each of which will be by a different author, each of which in turn will attract a different and only partially overlapping subset of readers, thereby possibly tripling or so the number of readers who will buy the antho/issue because they love a particular author.
 

phantom000

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Stray thought: Has the beginning of this rejected work been through SYW? Posting 1000-2000 words for your fellow writers to critique can be eye-opening. (For me, it's usually something that seems perfectly clear to me that isn't at all clear to others. Your flaws will be your own, of course, but we all have them.)

Yes it has, sort of. I remember posting parts of the opening chapter but it was a long time ago, in fact I have edited the entire story and even added a prologue so it could probably use another post in SYW.

Second: What are you subbing, and where are you subbing it to? 22K is a rough word count for anything but middle grade. (Apologies if you've spelled all this out elsewhere on the boards!)

If 22K is too short for a stand alone, would it be better to expand the story I have or develop it as part of a series?

Also how do you determine what age group you are writing for? This is a sci-fi mecha story that is probably too dark for middle grade but I don't know how well it fits young adult.
 

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If 22K is too short for a stand alone, would it be better to expand the story I have or develop it as part of a series?
It's not a standalone novel (unless we're talking a chapter book for new MG readers), but novellas stand alone at that length.
Also how do you determine what age group you are writing for? This is a sci-fi mecha story that is probably too dark for middle grade but I don't know how well it fits young adult.
Partly it depends on the age of the MC, but mostly it depends on the age group of readers that would identify with the 'major problems' the MC has. Middle grade readers are interested in What Goes Wrong with stuff that happens to young teens -- acne and school bullies and physical body changes and cranky parents and unwanted new siblings. Young adults are interested in stuff that happens to older teens -- first love and drugs and what do I want to be when I grow up. Adults are interested in stuff that happens to adults -- career and marriage and raising a family.
 

lizmonster

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If 22K is too short for a stand alone, would it be better to expand the story I have or develop it as part of a series?

Also how do you determine what age group you are writing for? This is a sci-fi mecha story that is probably too dark for middle grade but I don't know how well it fits young adult.

So I take it you're not writing for adults. I would encourage you to read some current MG and YA science fiction, and see if you can get the hang of the tone so you can figure out where your audience is.

As far as expanding what you have? That's not always the best answer. There's a difference between extending and padding, and you don't want to pad.

You may have something that's just the wrong length. That doesn't make it bad, but it does mean trade publishing is going to be a longshot.
 

Brigid Barry

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I agree to pretty much everything above, especially that 2 rejections is nothing, and that 22k is probably the reason for your rejections, especially when a portion of that word count is a prologue.

My suggestion would be to set it aside for now and start your next project. Some distance might help you get some clarity. Going from 22k to novel length would be quite a feat, and it's possible that it's just a novella. Stephen King published as least one novella collection (that I know of) once his career was established. It might be a hard sell now, but will probably be worth revisiting in the future.