Rewrites and Realizations


When I woke up this past Saturday, I had no idea that an hour later I’d be scrambling to rewrite my novel’s opening. Ahh, how young and innocent I was then…

Fresh in my inbox that morning was a rejection from an agent, but it was no ordinary rejection. It told me WHY. Whyyy! O blessed “why!” Those of you in the querying trenches know how rare that is.

Sadly, his reason confirmed something I’d already been nervous about… Basically my book opens in a way that seems like a cliche, until you get a page in and discover – oh! – it’s actually very much not. I had this book critiqued by LOTS of people, and nobody had qualms with the opening, but I still had a nagging fear at the back of my mind… Even though it’s a play on a certain trope,  I worried it would still feel like that trope to the reader and turn them off… Turns out this agent agreed. 😦

I became instantly distraught, not because I had to change it (well kind of because I had to change it – I had no idea what to change it to) but because I’d already sent 40 other queries. I couldn’t help but fret: What if they rejected me for the same reason? What if my previous opener cost me those great agents?

I just wish I knew. There’s a whole host of reasons why authors get rejected, not all of them personal. Sometimes the agent has too many clients right now. Other times it’s a little personal, but in a way you can’t control: your premise or style isn’t their cup of tea; that’s okay. But soooometimes it’s for something you can control, if only you were aware of the problem. It’s frustrating to not know! Maybe those 40 other agents were totally fine with the beginning. Maybe they rejected me because the protagonist has the same name as their mean old aunt who stole their cookies when they were a kid. Who knows.

But there’s a fair chance my opening was a deal-breaker for at least a few of them. So I decided to just nip that potential problem in the bud by rewriting it.

It wasn’t as catastrophic as I imagined. (It never is. My brain’s a jerk.) I was able to come up with an alternative that wasn’t too wildly different. I mainly had to give the first page new material, but most of the rest just involved shifting and editing. It came out well. Hopefully my luck improves from here!

In better news, I have a short story getting published later this month, woooo!! AND today is my lovely boyfriend’s birthday! Much woo indeed. 🙂

Tell me, have you ever received a helpful rejection? If so, was it about something you could fix? What did you do?


10 thoughts on “Rewrites and Realizations

  1. It’s the not knowing that kills you, best to try and forget about it and move on. Though it’s easier said than done I know. Two cliches for the price of one there. Happy birthday to your bloke 👍🏻

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  2. People will generally tell me if they do or don’t like a particular piece, but the “why” is nebulous in either case. Poetry is harder to critique than a novel or short story, where the reader has some expectation about the story arc. The one teacher who regularly advises me about my poems usually says “here’s what I would write” instead of trying to pinpoint the problem and let me fix it. If I were you, I would be delighted to receive feedback, esp if it was helpful in confirming that what you thought was a problem was, and spurring you to seek a solution. Good luck, Noel–at least if other editors point out the same thing, you’ve already got the rewrite done. 🙂


  3. It seems I’ve overcome all issues of rejection recently by not actually submitting anything. Before that I circumvented it by submitting to websites that have a “publish anything” rule. I’ve been rejected by Firewords a couple of times and I’ve found that they have a great knack of confirming any nagging doubts I had about a story. The one time I got published by them was a story I knew was solid – a rare thing for me! I’m also incredibly fortunate to have the fellow editors on LS to critique my work and ideas on a regular basis – I don’t always follow their advice but it’s always incredibly constructive! Sounds like in this case you may well have ended up changing the opening eventually – this feedback maybe just sped up the inevitable, and I hope this will be the little bit of good fortune you need 🙂

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