from the Korean Army to being published

the blog of an "ex-patriot" writer in Korea

Rejection #5: First Two for My Second Draft

with 2 comments

These past two weeks, I’ve managed to get off my ass and actually begin the agent search in earnest (again). Even in earnest, I can’t deny my penchant for sloth when doing something I don’t like doing, particularly because of the likelihood of getting rejected. I’ve managed to send out nine queries but hope to send out a total of fifty by the end of the year. If, at the end of the year, I haven’t gotten any prospects or haven’t managed to overcome my sloth, I’ve decided to go the self-publishing route, chalk this one up to a learning experience, and start the new year focusing on the kind of writing I want to do.

The title of this post is misleading. I’ve actually been rejected three times, but the first of them was somewhat hopeful. After a few e-mails sent back and forth, the agent asked for my proposal and a couple of sample chapters. Following advice I found on the internet, I sent the first two chapters as well as two of my strongest chapters.

Here is an excerpt from the response.

Based on what I’ve read (disconnected, short chapters) I get the distinct impression that your work needs a lot of restructuring and editing. You might consider taking the nearly 100 chapters and turning them into a story that flows better. Short chapters like this are like blog entries–and that’s not a format that works well for most books, particularly if you want to draw readers into a story.
If you think I’m off base, then please send me 30 consecutive pages of the manuscript so I can see how the writing flows.

I didn’t think the agent was off base but sent my first 30 pages in anyway in the hopes that they would paint a better picture of the flow of my manuscript instead of random chapters.

The agent’s responses had been prompt, usually arriving in inbox several hours after I sent them. It’s been eleven days and no response so I think it’s safe to say it’s a rejection.

The second response and first outright rejection was also the shortest I’ve ever received.

I’m sorry. This is not for me.

Ouch. It’s tough to wake up to, a message like that. No words of greeting or even the agent’s name at the bottom. Those seven words were the entirety of the response. At least the second wished me luck.

Hi Holden,
Thanks for your query but I’m not currently taking on any memoir or narrative nonfiction.
Best of luck,
[agent name]

Three rejections but it’s too soon to feel down. Rejections are a natural part of getting published and I know it’s a long road ahead. It may not be good form, but I post these rejections so that at least those of you in need of a dose of schadenfreude can get some joy from them.


2 Responses

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  1. Take heart! I actually think it’s awesome that the first agent bothered to offer the critique s/he did. I’d take his/her advice; s/he is thinking in terms of marketability, and probably has the experience to back up his/her opinion. Note that the first agent said nothing about the content or genre of your story, which means there’s hope that, after some cosmetic changes, the agent might find the story more to his/her liking, i.e., more marketable (the agent’s got to fill his/her pockets, too, after all; agents’ work is parasitic upon yours).

    I once took a screenwriting class. I eventually dropped out of it, partly because I thought the teacher was an asshole, and partly because the teacher had us buy a textbook that he used only grudgingly; he preferred to diss the textbook rather than use it constructively. That said, I thought, in retrospect, that the prof was an amazing editor. I didn’t think this during the course, I admit: he took one of my scripts and covered it so thoroughly in red that barely a third of it survived the massive edits. But once I was over my anger and disappointment, I began to see that every single edit made perfect sense: there was a lot of fat that had to be trimmed off to make my script flow better. And months later, I realized that my script did flow better.

    The point I’m trying to make is that you just got some golden advice from a cold and merciless source—about as close to objective as you can get. I’d be ruthless and use that advice to my advantage. If one agent views your ms this way, then it’s very likely that others might as well. Not having seen your ms myself, I can’t say how much or how little I’d agree with the agent’s observations, but I’m going to be mean to you and say that I trust them all the same. Fuse those chapters; create a more coherent, flowing narrative; minimize choppiness. I know it sucks to hear this, but there’s a real chance that your story’s true awesomeness will shine through once you make these changes. I don’t think you’d have received that advice if the agent hadn’t seen potential in your work. That’s a hopeful sign.

    As for the second and third agents: both of those emails amount to rejections of content and/or genre. I wouldn’t waste my time thinking about either of those chumps. They’re lazy, and couldn’t be bothered to offer anything constructive. So fuck ’em.

    But, dude, seriously—you’ve been given a golden nugget. Make good use of it!

    Kevin Kim

    November 25, 2013 at 11:59 pm

    • I definitely agree with you. I don’t ignore criticism, no matter the source, and have been thinking a lot about what the agent said. The most recent edits I made to the ms were due to near-insults I received from a self-important friend of a friend who admitted that his literary tastes were along the lines of self-help books. Because I have no formal writing education after high school, I’m very open to receiving any kind of feedback and applying it to making my writing better.

      I haven’t made any decisions at this point; I’m still working it out in my head. Of course, there are reasons why I wrote the ms in short chapters and I’ll have to weigh those reasons against the advice I’ve been given.


      November 28, 2013 at 11:23 am

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