Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Joy of Rejection

with guest Virginia Carmichael. (aka Mary Jane Hathaway).

Hello, everybody! I’m so excited to be back in Seekerville, one of my favoritest places in the cyber world! Today I thought it would be fun to talk about the joy of rejection. (Okay, that’s a bit of false advertising but I had to get your attention somehow.) 

Now that you’re all here and enjoying Helen’s coffee, I can tell you that nobody really feels great when they get rejected. Rejection stinks. Rejection is the armpit of the writing life. I could be perfectly happy not ever getting rejected again. But life doesn’t work that way so let’s try to see if we can turn it into something useful. Not that any of you excellent writers have any experience with rejection, of course. So, we’ll talk about MY experiences with rejection and you can just nod along.

 (Before we begin, I want to say all pictures are of my kitchen fails. I thought they would be a fun illustration to our topic.)

REVIEWS Or “Free Writing Advice”

 Some writers say not to read reviews, while others read all their reviews. Some don’t respond to reviews, while others respond to every one. Some writers don’t even write reviews for fear of a conflict of interest. But let’s pretend you’re like myself and you like to go on Amazon to read through the reviews. Even though I don’t always like what I read, the really specific negative reviews can change my writing for the better, and I’ll explain why.

First, we’re not talking about those one stars that we can disregard out of hand. You know the ones. “This is the world’s worst book and the writer must not have graduated from second grade. I bet she/he has a unibrow, types with her elbows and eats with her hands.” (All misspelled, of course.) And I don’t mean the two stars that say how the book had a great plot and good characters but the reader just didn’t connect with any of it. Neither of those reviews will help us, really, unless we haven’t had our “one star party” in which case, break out the cake!

 A great negative review will be specific in what the reader didn’t like, and why. Try to take a step back emotionally and see if their rejection can help you be a better writer. For example, let’s use a few things reviewers have said about my books.

"The bad guys never got what was coming to them. I loved the ending, but I needed some kind of closure.” Ahhhh, I thought it was clear what had happened to the antagonist, but maybe it wasn’t. I filed this comment away, but two weeks later there was a similar review. 

“I loved the proposal and the happy ever after, but I wanted (the thief) to get arrested and go to jail!” Uh-oh. That’s two unrelated reviewers who didn’t get satisfaction from the ending. I was so focused on the happy ever after, that I dropped the ball on being VERY clear about what was done to get justice for the heroine. 

 I was gearing up to revise this portion of Emma, Mr. Knightley and Chili-Slaw Dogs when Beth Adams from Howard Books contacted me about selling the rights to the series. So when the time came to revise, I made sure that justice was served, along with a few other things readers had mentioned, like the ending feeling too rushed. (Funny, one reviewer said, “It’s like the author was on a deadline”. Nope. I made that mess all by myself, but I made sure to rewrite and revise the ending in a way that responded to those negative reviews.)

“I loved the hero, but I don’t think the heroine compromised enough at the end. It takes two to make a happy marriage.” Usually I’d brush off this type of comment because women are traditionally the ones who give up a full time job to raise kids, give up promotions to move with their husbands, leave their long-term employment to care for the family, and generally defer their dreams in favor of everyone else in the vicinity and most readers are expecting the heroine to conform. But I glanced back through the book and realized there was a scene where the heroine doesn’t verbally acknowledge the hero’s sacrifice. That was really an oversight on my part and because of the review, I read it in a whole new way. I went back and tweaked the scene, uploading the new version in a few minutes. (That, my friends, is one of the beauties of self publishing. When I see typos in my traditionally published books, it’s too bad, so sad. Nothing I can do. But if you have access to the digital files and CreateSpace files, these issues can be fixed in minutes.)

Also, if you’re planning on writing more than one book, you can look for themes in negative reviews. Knowing what readers really don’t like can help make your next book a better experience for them. Or, if you’re completely sure about how you wrote it, a theme in negative reviews might point you in the direction of a branding problem or something else that has led the readers to expect something other than your book.

“Why does everyone have to start out hating each other in every romance I read?” This was a comment in a review for Leaving Liberty. The first time I read it, I shook my head. OF COURSE, all romances don’t start that way. But the more I looked, the more I saw, especially in my own books. There’s a difference between creating conflict, and making the main characters dislike each other so intensely you can’t see how they’ll ever get together. Coincidentally, it was super fun to write Emma, Mr. Knightley and Chili-Slaw Dogs because the main characters are best friends. I had to write a believable conflict that didn’t involve personality clashes, because they got along just fine. In subsequent books, I’ve kept this comment in mind, making sure the hero/heroine don’t hate each other on sight. I think it makes for a more believable romance and certainly makes me work harder as a writer.


 Now, most agent and publisher rejections I’ve received had no information whatsoever past the “no thanks” sort of thing. If they knew what was wrong with the book (besides just not being right for them), they didn’t have time to explain. But every now and then, someone would scribble a little note on the form letter.

In 2010, I sent an early draft of Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits to a small publisher. They specialized in Southern literature, so I thought we might be a good fit. The manuscript had won two contests and finaled in two more (under a different title) so I knew it had potential. The rejection I received said something like “fun, but too wordy”. 

I was aghast. Too wordy? How could a book be too wordy? What did that even mean? I chewed on that for several weeks, going over and over the chapters I’d sent. After a while, I realized that it really could be trimmed a bit, especially since the genre (contemporary romance) wasn’t known for long stretches of prose. I had read craft books that preached the need to “murder your darlings” but it wasn’t until that off-hand rejection note that I realized that my writing had to match the genre. If I wanted to write literary fiction a la Neil Gaiman, I could ramble on for pages without action, but that wasn’t going to work with this book. (I’m not saying there isn’t any room for prose or that I skip all description whatsoever. It just needs to fit the type of book. And this book didn’t get 500 pages to lay out the scene.) 

In my latest Mary Jane Hathaway book (The Pepper in the Gumbo), I experimented with the possibility of being wordy AND writing a romance. I knew it would be a bigger book. I aimed for about 220 pages, as usual, but didn’t edit until I looked back from the very end, which came in at over 370 pages. It was a really fun exercise in “being wordy”. I still had to cut lots of words and scenes, but it was great to see how my writing style changed (and I hope, matured). I used my freedom to write longer , more complete scenes. I’ve never been good at writing short, so this was a wonderful way to stretch out and really put the story on the page the way I wanted it. I may not always write 370 page books, but I felt good while working on it, as if being “too wordy” might just be my natural style. That’s a big issue if I’m thinking of writing a book every two months. My timelines for book releases and my work schedule changed a bit after this book. I had more fun writing a longer book, which may mean fewer books, but more enjoyment for me (and the reader, I hope).

 So, in this case, that rejection from 5 years ago also led to an experiment that taught me more about my personal writing “comfort zone”, and how it shaped my plans for this coming year. 

"What kind of book would YOU say this is?” Before I contracted with an agent, I had a phone conversation with a very nice agent who gave me lots of advice. She never offered representation (probably because I really had no idea what I needed or wanted or where I was going with this writing thing) but she gave me something invaluable: an epiphany. See, I had written this book that I loved, but I didn’t really know how to describe it. Sure, I could give the elevator pitch and the plot and the tag line. But I didn’t know who might publish it or how they would market it. I didn’t know that was part of my job. (Oh, stop laughing. I was just a baby writer!)

 I thought over her question for a long time and realized that the only place Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits would fit was in the romance genre. I was shocked and a little bit horrified. I had considered myself more of a literary fiction person. There was something faintly embarrassing about being a “romance author”. By this point I had written two other books and when I looked at them with a clear eye, I realized… YUP, these were romances. They weren’t the classic set up, but the story hinged on the romance in every one. I had to come to terms with the ugly truth. I WAS A ROMANCE AUTHOR. Scary stuff, my friends. 

When I wrote Persuasion, Captain Wentworth and Cracklin’ Cornbread  (releasing November 11th! )I tackled a very serious subject (racism in the American South, on both sides) but I made sure to check in every few scenes. Is the romance front and center? I get more than 300 pages, but the side plots and supporting characters can only add to the romance, or it will be more literary fiction. I knew it was going to be heavily branded as a romance, so it was important to keep the emotions of the hero and heroine front and center while writing.

 I’m sure you all know which genre your book is (unless it’s under that giant umbrella of general fiction) but if not, now is the time to narrow it down. If you’re going to sell your book to a traditional publisher, you’ll need to know which editor might enjoy working on your project. If you’re self publishing, you’ll need to know which types of readers to target when you market it. You have a little more room if you write YA because you can write a mystery/romance/sci fi/ whatever under that genre, but otherwise be very clear about where you’ll find your readers.

I would never tell anyone to change their book to fit a genre, but if your book would fit perfectly in the thriller genre if you cut out that pretty description of a sunset every chapter, you might think about it. If it would be a solid romance without that minor murder plot that starts in chapter ten and ends in chapter fourteen, you might consider it. Then again, it maybe be absolutely perfect, just the way it is, genre mash up and all.  Just consider the idea.

 BETA READERS/ CRITIQUE GROUPS or “Give Your Readers a Map”

  We’ve all heard about constructive criticism. When we give our writing to a critique group or beta reader, we hope that what we get back is something we can use. Even if they hate the entire shebang, we hope there’s something in all the “ugh, burn it” commentary that will help us move forward and make it better. 

“I wasn’t sure why her brother was so against her plan.”  Or “It seemed like the villain came out of nowhere.” Or “Why is the boss against her?” This isn’t technically a rejection, but when you’re really hoping someone understands your book and they say it doesn’t make sense, it can feel pretty close. But this kind of comment is a great time to make sure every character’s actions have a clear motivation- especially the ones who are working contrary to your character’s goals. In my historical Purple Like the West, the heroine’s father was clearly the villain. The more I thought about the beta reader’s comments, the more I realized I had dropped the ball. We’re told to keep backstory to a minimum, but without any, the reader doesn’t understand why the whole world is against our delightful, honorable heroine!

“Why didn’t he just tell her (big secret)?” or “This wasn’t really believable.” Ooooh, this is a killer. When you’ve written an edge-of-your-seat scene, you hope the readers are swept up in the tension and the drama. You really, really don’t want them to be shaking their heads and wishing someone would just “talk it out”. As much as it hurts, this comment can bring us back to motivation. There has to be a reason the characters can’t say what they want or do what they want. No matter how emotionally powerful the scene is, it won’t hold up without a water-tight excuse for not clearing the air. In my first historical, All The Blue of Heaven, the heroine holds a secret close about what happened during the Great Quake, and how she came to be injured. After a beta reader mentioned that the hero and heroine seemed to confide all sorts of things in each other EXCEPT that, I decided to move that scene closer to the middle and carry the story past her revelation. That off-hand criticism made the book much stronger in the end.

 So, these are just a few areas a writer can be rejected. If we have to deal with rejections, why not turn it into a positive experience? (Beside the “one star” cake parties, which are hugely fun, but can add serious inches to the writerly bottom.)  

 If you’re brave enough, I’d love to hear how a rejection hit you hard… and how you grabbed it by the lapels and gave it your best Clint Eastwood impression. Or how you folded that rejection letter into a nifty pencil holder for your desk. Or how you took ALL your rejection letters and crumpled them up and put them in the attic, whereby cutting your heating costs 37%. 

 Or, if you haven’t had any rejections, feel free to share your most encouraging quote like:

 “A lot of people ask me, 'How did you have the courage to walk up to record labels when you were 12 or 13 and jump right into the music industry?' It's because I knew I could never feel the kind of rejection that I felt in middle school. Because in the music industry, if they're gonna say no to you, at least they're gonna be polite about it.”  Taylor Swift

Or “Nobody told me how hard it was going to be to get published. I wrote four novels that nobody wanted, sent them out all over, collected hundreds and hundreds of rejection slips.” Jerry Spinelli, who won the Newbery Medal for Maniac Magee, one of his fifteen acclaimed children’s books.

  I’m giving away THREE paper copies of Emma, Mr. Knightley and Chili Slaw Dogs and THREE paper copies of my latest Love Inspired release A Home For Her Family (October 1st). Also, THREE digital copies of my latest Mary Jane Hathaway book The Pepper in the Gumbo, releasing October 28th! Winners announced in the Weekend Edition.

Virginia Carmichael is an award-nominated writer of Christian fiction and a home schooling mom of six young children who rarely wear shoes. She holds degrees in Linguistics and Religious Studies from the University of Oregon and lives with her habanero-eating husband, Crusberto, who is her polar opposite in all things except faith. They've learned to speak in short-hand code and look forward to the day they can actually finish a sentence. In the meantime, Virginia thanks God for the laughter and abundance of hugs that fill her day as she plots her next book. She also writes under the pen name of Mary Jane Hathaway and loves to meet readers on her facebook page of Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits.



  1. Such a great post, Virginia/mary Jane. I'm still trying to figure out WHY in the world you would have had rejections? And HOW MANY winners will there be for your books? Hope I am one of them! Thanks for being here today

  2. Dear lady of many names, you make me feel tired just thinking about the pace you set. Please don't expect me to keep up with you. :)

    Loved your post!

    I don't remember specific comments from rejections, of which I have had many, but I learned along the way to look for commonalities while discarding those that were totally opposite.

    The coffee pot is on duty.

  3. My most pressing question is this: What do your real time friends call you? First name wise?

  4. Wah? Where's your face pretty lady, know you aren't a strand of pearls!

  5. ManO still doesn't get why this perfectionist is excited by rejection. But rejection got me my PRO status in RWA, meaning I'm actually working at this writing thing. Rejection not killing me means I'm getting stronger about looking for the things you mention and applying them to my writing as I move forward.

    Thanks for the comparison of literary fiction to romance. The lightbulb went off!

    Peace, Julie

  6. Hi Marianne! Well, I'm assuming that one person won't want all three copies of the same book. LOL!

    Let's say I have lots of books. So, make sure you're in the cat dish if you'd like to read one. :)

  7. Hello, Helen!

    I just look busy. :) Mostly I sit on the couch and watch soap operas and eat bon bons.

    Kidding. I don't own a TV. Which might be why I write so much. Boredom! You can only clean the house so much...

  8. Haha, Tina!

    But if I told you, an it got out, then I'd never know if the person on the other end of the phone was a telemarketer or not.

    Seriously, my legal first name is Mary an always has been. My dentist calls me Mary because... I guess I've never corrected him in 30 years an it's too late to start now.

    My friends call me Virginia or Ginny. My husband calls me 'jefa' (the boss) which I hate because it sounds too close to 'heifer' in English. So, if he's being nice he calls me 'mija' (my girl).

    And that's probably more than you ever wanted to know.

  9. Melissa, I don't know!

    All I know is that I e-mailed a bunch of pictures to Tina and most of them were NOT supposed to be in the post. I'm really not sure what I did, haha!

    So, I told her to scrap those photos and I just sent a few of my kitchen fails.

    And I notice no one has asked about that pie yet...

  10. What is PRO status, Julie? I keep hearing that, and maybe someone explained it before, but I still don't get it. I know there's PAN and PRO but don't remember it's all about.

  11. OK, I just have to say I have a sticky D key.

    I'm not intentionally leaving off my D's. Looks like I have an accent when I'm typing...

  12. I did wonder about the pie, it looks edible.....

  13. It was the MOST PERFECT PIE EVER.

    Except I missed that part about cooking the pie shell first.

    It was disgusting. We ate off the meringue, but the banana cream had melded with the raw pie dough.


  14. Hi Virginia. Great post! As for rejection, I haven't submitted yet so don't have any regarding my writing. However, I was bullied growing up. I have naturally curly hair and in the 60's straight hair was in. When I was in Jr. High, I was laughed at, made fun of you name it. It hurt but I rose above it and when the day came High School when curly hair was in...I fit right in. :)

    I would love to be a winner of your book. Thank you for the chance.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

  15. Hi Cindy! I have wiry red hair that is spectacularly untamable. If I don't put on some product and style it right out of the shower, it's pretty darn scary. Every hair seems to think it needs its own one inch of space.

    My sister has hair so curly it's like she has a one of those ringlet perms. I always told her, "At least yours looks like it's curly ON PURPOSE."

    We feel your pain!

  16. Great, fun post, Virginia! How fun to have you back here celebrating our seventh birthday!


    I've had tons of rejections. I still get rejections, but now I can turn them into opportunities via my friend Joe Amazon.

    We're buds.

    My most memorable out of a SEA OF REJECTION SLIPS was when "Running on Empty" was being wrassled between two solid traditional publishers.... and it didn't get bought and both nice men were displaced/lost their jobs within a short while.

    Sometimes it's not US they're rejecting, it's the times/behind the scenes. One publisher closed their line, the other was merged, but no one knew that stuff three months before!

    Happily my three book cowboy romance contract is with Waterbrook Multnomah, and Multnomah was one of those publishers vying for "Running on Empty" way back then. Irony?

    Naw. Just God's timing and the fun of a crazy inside out biz that takes authors for regular roller coaster rides!

    TAKE NOTHING FOR GRANTED IN THIS BUSINESS which is why I'll continue to publish under multiple venues because I love touching hearts... and souls. :) That means the world to me.



    Wiping keyboard now...

  18. Thanks for the great advice, Virginia!

    I've had a lot of great rejections but one pivotal one for me was an amazing agent who took the time to write me a personal rejection which included the words "Don't despair. It may not be this one, but it may be the next. This is a marathon, not a sprint."

    That was what I needed to make me finally let go of my much beloved, rewritten, revised and rewritten some more first manuscript and start something new. And, sure enough, that one did land me my agent :)

  19. PRO status is when you have proven you have completed a manuscript and been rejected for it. Pan is when you've sold. But it was worth pursuing for me because the IRS loves proof that you are actively pursuing a career when you write off expenses. Ha!

    That makes ManO happy.

    Peace, Julie

  20. Virginia, I studied that pie. I kept saying 'how did she get that design on that pie'?? Most intriguing. :-)

    I like your thinking on turning a rejection into a learning experience. That works in all areas of life. You can't correct something until you know it's wrong.

    Thank goodness I was born with elephant hide. :-)

  21. Great lessons for any writer to learn!

  22. Virginia, only you can make the topic of rejection so entertaining! LOL! What a way to start my day : )

    I loved your pie. It's classic : ) I made a pumpkin pie for DH years ago and forgot to remove the little scrap of wax paper that keeps the frozen shells from sticking together. Made it kind of difficult to cut and serve.

    I won't even go in to my first peach cobbler. That was not pretty.

  23. PRO guidelines. Many of our Villagers are PRO eligible:

    This program is available to any General or Honorary member who: (1) is not PAN-eligible, (2) has completed a work of romantic fiction of 40,000 or more words, excluding collections of short stories, novellas or poetry, and (3) has submitted this work to a literary agent or non-Subsidy/non-Vanity romance Publisher.

    To be eligible to join PRO, RWA members must either provide proof that they have completed a romance manuscript and that they have submitted the manuscript to a publisher or literary agent.

  24. I have wondered the same thing - why do the people who are going to fall in love and live HEA start out hating each other? I like it better when the conflict occurs later. Very good point Virginia/Mary Jane.
    And the pie? Hmmm...

  25. I find a lot of the books I read also start out with the main characters not liking each other. Never really thought about it until you mentioned it :)

  26. Hi, Virginia! I've learned a lot from rejection letters, especially the one that said my story was women's fiction and she only buys romance.

  27. I loved your post, Virginia! :) Such great application points in here.

    For me, rejection came in the form of an agent meeting and hearing, "Good writing. But, the story's not salable." (Because it's a storyline that agent had read many times).

    From this, I have learned to ask for feedback on the originality of my stories. And I've talked with published authors getting their insights on how they bring unique elements to their stories. I'm learning how to add uniqueness to my stories.

  28. Wonderful post, Virginia, Ginny, Mary, Jefa :)

    As a proud romance writer (Since I always read across genres - I had no idea I was supposed to be embarrassed! Romance novels are some of the best - and hardest books to write. Everyone knows the ending, and you have to make it fresh every time.)

    I'd have to say my best rejection was from a contest sponsored by Harlequin called, "So You Think You Can Write." The rejection was a one sentence "no thanks."

    But I thought the book was good, so I sought out editors from the Love Inspired line, and entered contests they were judging. My editor loved the book without revisions.

    That was my favorite rejection because it was the moment I truly believed in myself :)

  29. Hi Mary! I love your post. Although I can't imagine you getting any rejections, I truly think they make us stronger as writers and human beings. Now the reviews of our books....LOL. Those can be maddening. I'm very excited to read Pepper in the Gumbo. It looks fantastic. I'm proud to call you a friend.


  30. I think I was supposed to be calling you Virginia. So sorry. LOL.

  31. VIRGINIA!!! One of my favorite subjects, although I'm inclined to agree about the title, which I think may be in violation of H.R.4341 - Truth in Advertising Act of 2014.

    YOU SAID: "Rejection is the armpit of the writing life."

    LOL ... too eloquently put for something as foul-smelling as rejection! :)

    WOW, Virginia, I am incredibly impressed at your take (and creative application) of bad reviews -- I applaud you for learning from them instead of getting bitter! That's something that took me a while to learn, so you're WAY ahead of me!

    YOU ALSO SAID: "Also, if you’re planning on writing more than one book, you can look for themes in negative reviews."

    Like you, I have learned a lot from critical reviews -- it's made me aware not to overuse certain words, soften characters in certain areas or toughen them up, such as in your case. But I would have to say that the most frequent "theme" in my critical reviews is regarding the romantic passion in my books, which actually caused me (along with prompting from my husband) to cut back on both the romantic passion in my latest series and, surprisingly enough, the spiritual passion too. The review rating average is higher than my other books as a result, but not by all that much.

    VERY interesting blog today, Virginia, and one every writer should both read and heed! :)


  32. I have received 2 rejections on my nonfiction book which is currently being worked over by a friend who loves to edit books. I haven't quite finished my first novel so no rejections yet.

    I am going through withdrawls today. I finished Pepper in the Gumbo yesterday and I am going to miss reading about Alice and Paul.

    Have a great day!

  33. Hi Virginia,

    I definitely want my name in the cat dish. I love you stories.

    Thanks for sharing. I received a rejection this week...not right helps to know I'm in good company. :)

  34. You know you are a really good writer when you can make the subject of rejections that interesting. Just saying.

    I am waiting until the publishing word wakes up and appreciates the 'genre mash up' you speak of.

    Please enter me.

  35. Virginia, I'd never thought of negative reviews or critiques as rejection, but I see your point that they can be invaluable.

    I paid attention when reviewers of Wanted: A Family complained I hadn't tied up loose ends for secondary characters they cared about. When Love Inspired asked me to write a novella, I immediately knew whose story I would tell, then included closure for other minor characters. I learned a valuable lesson from those reviews.

    My favorite publisher rejection came from an editor who liked my work and asked for revisions, giving me specifics on what I needed to do. Unfortunately she left the house and I lost that opportunity, but acting upon her advice enabled me to sell.

    I've always loved critiques that bled red because they gave me fresh eyes and taught me so much. I've also learned a lot from critiquing others manuscripts.


  36. Virginia, you might want a heroine to make that same mistake with the pie. LOL Would make a funny scene with the hero trying to not hurt her feelings and gag it down.


  37. Great post, Virginia! You never fail to make me smile and I love how your sense of humor shines in your books.

    I just looked over my reviews to find one to share as a example and discovered Amazon listened to me! I had a one star that was so obvious the reviewer did not read the book and was just being a brat. Amazon removed it! Now if only I can convince them to take down the one that says my heroine has no brain...

  38. HI Virginia and welcome back to Seekerville. What a fun post, because it is better to laugh at those things than cry. Right?

    I'm glad you explained about the pie, because I was wondering what was wrong. It looked gorgeous. I actually liked the looks of the berry pies because all that juice looked yummy.

    My most memorable rejection was from a Harlequin editor with whom I had an appointment with at Desert Dreams conference. The rejection came one week before the conference. Yikes. But it was great because she remembered it and explained that she liked my writing, but rejected it because they had just bought a novel set on a remote island. So that encouraged me to not give up on it and Love's Refuge has received great reviews.

    Another funny rejection of Love's Refuge came from a New York editor who said this story was too unbelievable because who lives in such remote areas and there is no such thing as a propane refrigerator. Well, sweet thing has obviously never been out West nor been in an RV. chuckle

    But it did make me go back and make it more clear so it would be more believable.

    Thanks again for joining us. ANd thanks for all those marvelous giveaways. There are going to be a lot of happy Seekers this week.

  39. Rejections are like contest scores. If you get more than one headed in the same direction, better pay attention. Otherwise, trust your instincts.

  40. This is a truly meaty post, Virginia! And a lot of sage advice here for dealing with negative reviews and editorial rejections.

    The comment I've noticed most often in reviews of my indie novel, Pearl of Great Price, is that the reader wanted to know exactly what the final DNA test results showed. From my perspective, writing this scene went back to the lesson drummed into me over and over and over: TRUST YOUR READER. (Also known as Resist the Urge to Explain.)

    Also from my perspective, the clues to the answer are all there in plain sight. But if that many readers missed them, I keep wondering if I should revise the text, spell out the results, and republish the book. Any indie novelists ever done that?

  41. I had an encouraging rejection from an agent this past spring. She explained that historicals weren't selling well, but encouraged me to query her again.
    Haven't had any negative responses lately and of course no reviews because I'm not published, but I did get a less-than-stellar score in a contest. The judge gave me really helpful feedback, and when I went back and looked I could see where she/he was coming from. I am planning to revise the partial per their suggestions. Negative feedback can work to your advantage if you take it in the spirit in which it was meant, and if it was meant in a good spirit. Whew. I'm glad I didn't have to read that out loud.
    Thank you Virginia.
    Please put my name in cat dish for one of the paper books.
    Kathy Bailey

  42. Virginia this post is GOLD! Too many creative people have a delicate "artist soul" and allow themselves to be wounded or their journey to publication to get off track because of discouragement from a rejection.

    Maybe its because I've got a streak of old world stubbornness in me, but I try to see rejection as a challenge (I also happen to have a terrible competitive drive so when challenged...yikes!).

    My first rejection came at the first writer's conference I attended. I had no clue what I was doing but I'd written a book and I tried to pitch it. My first appointment was with an agent who read the first page and then said, "If this is your best then this industry is not for you."

    Oh, that night there were tears. Lots of them. And throwing manuscripts. And threats of burning my computer and giving up.

    Then the next day I put on my big girl pants and decided I was going to learn everything I could to prove that agent wrong. And I did. I spent four months NOT writing and just spent that time studying craft, genre, and reading/dissecting all the books I considered great and authors I wanted to emulate.

    I wrote a new manuscript after that. It went on to win every contest I entered, got three agent representations, and an immediate contract offer from my publisher.

    Best of all - one contest I entered had the original rejecting agent as the top judge. When she chose it as the winning one she wrote a note on her judging sheet for me to contact her because she was interested in repping me (I already had representation by then though). :)

    The ended up writing the agent a thank you letter - thanking her for being tough and offering rejection at conference because so many don't. Her and I are friends now and I've told her many times that I wouldn't be where I am on my writing journey without her.

    Rejection can be a very good thing, if we choose to see it that way.

  43. Mary Jane Hathaway? Are you channeling "Miss Jane" from the Beverly Hillbillies?
    This Is Why I don't get more writing done.

  44. Sorry for two posts in a row (with that first one LONG winded...sorry)

    I learned that I need to trust myself better too and not listen to all rejection.

    When my latest release was first being shopped to trade houses it was set in England during Regency times. It was a Jane Austen romance spy story basically. But every publisher came back and said "love your writing, love this idea, but England isn't selling." I was told four times to change it to be set in America.

    So I tossed the original story and set it in 1880's Chicago during the anarchist uprising. Once it was done it was shopped again to trade and I got back, "Love this story, love the writing, love the idea, but right now historicals aren't big unless they are set in England."

    I kid you not.

    So I just self published it and called it a day.

  45. Viriginia,

    This is such an excellent post! I love how you take negative reviews to heart and make changes!
    I've had many rejections and hurt feelings over the years - a right of passage, I think, for all writers!
    The best advice I received is to give yourself 24 hours to sulk/mope/cry/eat ice cream, and then pick yourself up and use the advice to improve your craft!

    Please put my name in the proverbial cat dish! And thanks for sharing!

  46. That's true, Ruthy! That little Southern publisher actually went in a completely different direction after that rejection and it wasn't toward the fun and inspy readers. It was toward the hot and spicy lit, so maybe it wasn't completely about my book, either.

    But I am wordy. I know that for a fact. LOL

  47. I had to scroll back up and see what Marianne had written!

    This is what happens when you sleep between postings. Your brain completely wipes yesterday's info.

    Ok, maybe that's just MY BRAIN that wipes yesterday's info. That's why I'm always so darn happy!

  48. KARA! I love that advice!

    And I hear you on letting go. My first book took me two years to write. Mostly because I didn't understand that I should keep moving forward instead of revising the thing to death.

    Thanks for sharing that rejection-turned-good news!

  49. OK, got it, Julie!

    And does it have to be a whole ms that was rejected? I would think that would be super easy to prove with the way queries are handled. Ohhh, but that's for agents.

    Hm. True, I guess I wouldn't have gone "PRO" until about a year after I started writing if I use that measure. Interesting!

  50. LOL, Mary Hicks! Elephant hide!

    Even elephants have that soft, vulnerable part right under their front elbow. :(

  51. Hi Rose! Exactly... rejection is part of the writer's life. Even Emily Bronte got told my her sister that "this poem doesn't really work for me". Even Elizabeth Barrett Browning was told my her poet husband that she could have used a different word here and there.

    I like to think they took that advice with a smile.

  52. Audra!! That is so funny! I never thought of that little bit of waxed paper! Maybe we've been eating it that way all along...

    And now I MUST hear the peach cobbler story. Did you leave in the pits? :D

    The first time I used a fancy juicer I found here, I got a bunch of oranges and decided to make home made orange juice. All the kids gathered around and they were SO excited!

    It was light orange and frothy. It looked AMAZING, just like an Orange Julius.

    First sip and I spat it into the sink. Yeah... perhaps I should have PEELED the oranges.

    My husband just shook his head and said, "Sometimes I worry about leaving the kids with you while I go to work." lol

  53. Tina, so it works for agent rejections, too?

    SWEET! With how many queries a person has to send out, that could be super easy.

    Of course, I'm sure no one is trying to get PRO status without really trying. But it's nice that rejection is rewarded!

  54. Hi Cindy! Isn't that a great bit of advice?

    As much as people doesn't appreciate insta-love, I guess they don't appreciate inst-hate either!

  55. Deanna, it sure makes it easier when you add personality conflicts to the overall conflict. But those never really go away and we have to make sure their future looks bright and peaceful!

    That off-hand comment made me think of real life and how RARE it is to have a couple say "Oh, we've been married 40 years and are so happy now... but we hated each other when we first met."

    Doesn't usually work that way. It's usually the years later they hate each other, hahahaha!

    Scratch that last part. Romance writers NEVER talk about unhappy marriages!

  56. Jeanne T! That is a great rejection!

    I didn't understand what tropes were when I first started writing. I was jut writing the scenes and couples I loved the most. Wellllll, a lot of my most beloved scenes fell into that category and I had no idea.

    It was crushing to realize that I was regurgitating something that had been done a thousand times already.

    But a friend told me, "We have tropes for the same reason we have fairy tales. We love those old stories. You can still write to a trope, but you have to be aware of it, and then make it unique."

    I think that's why Love Inspired readers still buy a book written about a "poor girl, rich guy" trope, or the "baby on the doorstep", or "amnesia girl falls in love with detective guy". All those stories are old, old, old. But the writers make them new and fresh!

  57. Sherri, I busted up at your first line. I wrote that comment six hours ago and apparently that was too long for my brain to retain the fact I'd announced to Seekerville that my husband calls me JEFA.
    I thought, "WOW, how does she know that??"

    As for that rejection.... I love it. It lit a fire under you. This business can be rude and ridiculous.

    I was just telling someone the other day about a big contest I entered and finaled in. The editor was from a Big Five publisher and they were going to give feedback on the book.

    My feedback? In each of the four areas they could comment, she'd written in capital letters "NOT ORIGINAL". Four times, same two words.

    I've never forgotten that editor and when I had a chance to submit to her house later, I passed. I could tell that wasn't an editor I wanted to work with and I realized a good working relationship goes both ways.

  58. Rejection? I refuse accept that word.

    Instead, if someone doesn't like/need/want my book for some reason, it's an opportunity to look somewhere else for the perfect fit.

    How often do we get second, third and fourth chances in life? But we get it in our writing all the time :)

    And that pie looks so delicious. But I remember that post on the Yankee Belle Cafe. Oh, the agony of those hard lessons!

    And speaking of the cafe, I'll meet you over there for a cup of tea and a slice of Ruthy's apple cake, okay?

  59. Great info, Virginia! Glad you're wordy. I learned a lot and enjoyed it all.

    I like contests for published authors that provide feedback. Often, the critiques from "peers" provide tips that can improve my writing.

    One comment chastised me for having my characters "perk coffee." The observant contest judge said no one "perks" anymore...everyone brews.

    She was so right! And I was so wrong to keep "perking" along. Now my characters "brew!" LOL!

    Love the cutie in the pie picture!

  60. Hi Sandra/ BelleC!!

    You have saved my sanity many a long, late night. Sometimes we need that person we can go to and show our wounds. "This reviewer said I should just hang up the keyboard and wash other people's underwear for a living."

    Logically, we know they're WRONG. But just for a moment, we wonder if they're right. And that's where all the 2AM doubt comes in. Scary stuff.

    It's so great to have a friend like you who can give level-headed advice, like that part about buying a flame-thrower on Amazon and tracking them down.

    (KIDDING. Sandra is not violent at all!)

    We all need that person who can say, "They're an idiot. Keep going."

    So glad you stopped by! Now go back and baby sit your books at the top of the Amazon bestseller lists. LOL.

    I'm so not looking forward to fighting through your series to get a spot. It's painful when your professional adversaries are your friends. It makes buying that flame-thrower such a difficult decision. (Kidding again!)

  61. HAHA! You can call me whatever you like, since you are a woman of many names also!

  62. Years ago when I was starting on the road to publication, an agent rejected my submission.

    I didn't write for six months!

    Foolish me. Probably a pride thing. Hopefully, I've learned my lesson, although rejection is never easy to accept. It does, however, make us stronger, and as you've mentioned, Virginia, good CAN come from negative reviews and editor/agent rejections.

    Thanks for an insightful post!

  63. Hi Julie!

    You know, I like that "experiment" you made with cutting back on the romantic passion... which cut back on the spiritual passion. I love passionate people! They are the spice of light... or the salt of the earth, really. And God said he would spew out the lukewarm. So I can really see how those two things are linked. Hmmm.... that's really given me something to think on today.

    So, the reviews were better, but not by much. Do you think it was worthwhile to cut the passion? I would be tempted to say it wasn't, if you had to write against your natural "zone".

    We all bring specific gifts to this job and yours has always been PASSION. I wouldn't mess with that, I think. :)

    What readers love in a book, will always cause other people to hate in a book. I think a few years ago I tried to apply every bit of negative in a review but it just made my writing bland and scared. I found out I really CAN be too careful when it comes to writing, haha.

    So, I hope the next Julie Lessman project is written just the way Julie Lessman thinks it should be!

  64. Hi Wilani!!

    That just made my day! (Not your rejection part. See how I skimmed over that and went straight to how much you loved my book? ha, writers are such vain creatures.) Thank you for being an early reader! I really appreciate everyone who took the time to read it and tell me whether or not it stunk to high heaven.

    Keep all your rejections. I wish I had. That sort of satisfying after the years have passed and you're holding your book in your hands. :)

  65. Hi Jackie!

    Well, a virtual chocolate fudge cupcake for you!!

    Not the right fit is a great rejection. I sure got a lot of those. It also means your writing isn't so bland it can be shoved anywhere. That's a good thing, too.

  66. Hi Donna!!

    I think it's called "literary fiction". Hahaha!

    Seriously, it's hard when a book doesn't fall where we hope it will. But definitely stay true to the story. Those twists and turns will delight a reader who thinks she/he is in for a normal story.

    Best of luck!!

  67. Hi Janet! That's true! Reading others' work can really be helpful. I remember reading a really, really slow start to a book and realizing... oh, I just did that, too.

  68. Fun post with Miss Virginia/ Miss Mary Jane. I had no idea they were the same person. So, this has definitely been an informative post for me. Please put my name in for the drawing. And congrats on your new releases! :)

  69. HAHAHA! True, Janet! I never thought of that!

    People say, "Your kids are so funny! You should put all this stuff in a book."

    And I think, "But that would be boring because I live this every day."

    It's funny what we skim over because it's in our own lives and therefore... not interesting!

  70. Hi Jamie!!

    That is SO funny! I have a one star where the reviewer says, "I hated her book (TITLE). I haven't read this one. But the other book is so bad, I'm leaving a one star on ALL her books."


  71. Hi Sandra!!

    I LOVE that fridge story!

    I've had some funny comments from editors and copy editors. One copy editor kept changing my description of Fort Morgan (the historic masonry star fort on Mobile Bay) from "earthen walls" to brick.

    It really does have earthen embankments/walls! I ahd to attach a link so they could read about it. LOL

  72. I sure have, Myra!

    And republishing doesn't hurt anything. I just run in and fix something then hit republish. It's when you change something really significant, like the title or the cover that it gives you a different publishing date (but still doesn't take away your reviews). I love being able to update my books!

    And I love that about "what happened".... Hm. It seems so obvious, I might say that reader isn't really paying attention. I'd wait until someone says it again. Then you know it's not just one fuzzy-headed reader.

  73. Hi Kaybee/Kathy!

    I loved those contests that gave great feedback! Keli Gywnn gave me AMAZING feedback on a historical I entered in a contest once. It was detailed, positive, and it gave me a great starting point for revisions.

  74. A reviewer said that?????? That is not a review. That is mean.

    I actually have an RT reviewer coming on in January or February to explain how to review. It's a skill.

    An art form. Like writing a short story or a poem. Not everyone who reads a book knows how to write a review.

  75. Hi Jessica!!

    That is so nice you can be friends with someone like that! I think you two would have had a great working relationship, if she had repped you.

    I personally find those people soul-crushing. There are always better ways to say something that "if this is your best, this industry isn't for you". Because know what? Every book gets better. My last book is better than the one before. And to look at a few pages and say, "if this is your best...."

    Hm. I'm glad you took good things from that and turned it around but maybe 90% of the people she tried that on went home and never came back.

    I like to critique in a gentle way that still says what it needs to say. Also... we're all growing and changing every single day. That rocky page could be shining by tomorrow.

  76. Kaybee, SO MANY PEOPLE have said that to me.

    I was raised without Tv and I don't have one now, so I have NO IDEA who that is.

    Apparently she's a hilarious country bumpkin. So, I should be glad she's not a mass murderer.

    Terrible if I chose CHARLES MANSON as a pen name, right?

  77. Great post, Virginia! But I'm still chuckling over the "armpit of the writing life" statement, LOL. ;)

    I do feel the rejections I've had have made me stronger. The best one came from a wonderful Bethany House Editor who told me my writing was too sweet (she also offered some specific suggestions for me, which I greatly appreciated!!). :)

    One of your photos showed a precious kiddo (I'm assuming one of your children?). SO cute!

    Please toss my name in the cat dish for one of your books!!

    Blessings, Patti Jo :)

  78. "Jane Austen romance spy story"


    And I thought a bunch of Southerners who love Jane Austen was weird!

  79. That is wonderful advice, Susan! (my sister is named Susan. Love that name!)

    I usually take 24 hours to weep and cry at my online friends, hahahaha.

    No, seriously, I usually tell my kids because they're super supportive and think I'm a genius so I can't possibly be wrong. And then we do something fun so I can get my mind off what I just heard/heard.

  80. Hi Jan! Ruthy's got apple cake????

    I remember Mindy O had a chipotle and apple cake. I STILL haven't made that one.

  81. DEbby, that is so funny!! I have an old coffee maker that ahs the glass button on top where you can see the coffee percolating.

    And my latest book, is about a tech genius hero who is a programmer in the gaming industry. (I have no idea why I decided that would be cool when I am the lowest tech person in the state).

    Anyway, a beta reader caught my hero "snapping the phone closed".

    She said, "huh. Amazing your high tech genius has a FLIP PHONE."

    Lolololo. I never noticed. Seemed totally normal to me!

  82. This is a great post on keeping a good perspective. Seekerville is awesome with teaching this. You know how I know? When I didn't get "the Call" from my Killer Voice entry, but a nice long note telling me what needed work (editor very spot on, btw) and to please resend if I decided to revise - I was thinking "cool! I got specifics on how to fix my manuscript!" Not once did I think about the fact that it was a rejection email. As my husband would say, my uptake pumps are a bit slow.

    As for peeps "hating" each other at first and then finding love... my younger brother and his wife are a case in point. They're first date was a hot mess and they REALLY disliked each other. A year or so passes and they have another go around. Result? This past year, they celebrated 20 years of marriage. So it does happen in real life, perhaps just not very often.

    I've noticed that most one star reviews sound like sour grapes stuff. Like the reviewer is just royally peeved that no one will read their book. Sometimes I think "wow, who peed in their cornflakes this morning?" (the last sentence a repeat of a line my older brother said a lot when he was a kid)

    Please put my name in the cat dish. I love reading books from authors I've come to know via Seekerville.

  83. Debby, I just saw your comment about not writing for six months. :( :(

    It's just tough sometimes, isn't it? Sometimes we do our best to be prepared and level-headed but that rejection just takes the wind out of our sales.

    And I always hated the rejections that came after months and months of waiting. What on earth is that about?? I think that's extremely unprofessional. If you've already got a working relationship, then I think 2-4 weeks is enough time to get to it.

    I actually just got a rejection from an agent... whom I'd queried THREE YEARS AGO with a book that was sold to a Big Five publisher.

    I was very tempted to send her the book, with a little note saying, "thanks, but it's already been published".

    LOL. But that would be petty.

  84. Hi Amy C!

    Finding comments sprinkled in... Yes, I also write under Virginia Carmichael.

    The funnest part of a pen name? When people recommend my own books to me!

  85. Tina, that should be a fascinating post!

    And true, reviewing is an art form but reviewers and reviewing blogs are EVERWHERE.

    I've had several reviewers ask for author copies recently and promise reviews. But then, they just took the blurb on the back and posted it on their blog. It was odd. Not even a star ranking or any explanation of what they liked or didn't like.

  86. Hi PattiJo!

    Too sweet... I can see that, if there's not enough conflict. But a lot of people tell me my books are too sweet and I need to DIG DEEP and tap those inner childhood wounds or whatever.

    Hm. There's a reason I write this way! If I wanted to write like Kurt Vonnegut, I would. But I like my HEA and sweet characters.

    And yes! The smiling, happy child (who does not know the pie is RAW) is my five year old. He's got a younger brother (4. They're both behind my office chair at the moment. They've taped Crayola pens together to make swords, and now are trying to figure out how to strap them to their sides so they can still whip them out for battle.

    Ah, boys. Gotta love 'em.

  87. Hi DebH!

    You really took that rejection and ran with it! Good for you!!

    And hubby must be a mechanical type?? Uptake pumps made me laugh. I love phrases like that. You have great accurate hero material there.

    I love the story of your brother and his wife! I certainly enjoy writing the "rocky start" stories. :)

    I just heard that phrase a few weeks ago and laughed my head off. Definitely a disgusting visual!

  88. LOL. Just saw my typo on my response to Debby G.

    YES, takes the wind out of sails and our sales!

  89. Ok, all! I must duck out for a while. I've got kids struggling with the order of operations (good thing I love Algebra) and someone else is dying to make cinnamon rolls but they're just a bit too young (9) to be in the kitchen without supervision.

    Be back in a bit!

  90. What a great post, Virginia!! Such great examples here. Rejections can really teach us a lot.

    My very first rejection was horrible. It said I had cardboard characters. After I cried for about a week, you can bet I started studying characterization!!

  91. LOLOL!! I'm dying laughing at the "jefa" sounding like heifer!! I bet the first time he called you that your eyes about bugged out of your head. :)

  92. Virginia - Ginny - mija - whatever !!!! Fellow Oregonian :) How are you today??? Did you get rain over in your neck of the woods??? I laughed so hard when I saw your pie! Ah, we are fellow bakers! Pie and I don't see eye to eye! I just can't do pie crust to save my life! Yeast and I don't see eye to eye either! I stick with other kinds of baking! I still wish I could have come over to your place and got some peaches when you were offering them :) Oh well...moving on! Loved your post, and the photos! I have your latest LI but haven't had time to read it yet! I know it's going to be great though! My hubby is out of town for a week so thanks for making my boring morning a little brighter!

  93. Hi, Virginia! Wouldn't you just know that as soon as I'm ready to read all the comments and leave mine, those children want to eat...again? :-) I seriously loved this post, and I need to come back and reread and reread for the encouragement and inspiration. Thank you for your honesty! Please put me in the cat dish for the drawing. Um...put my name in the dish. :-)

  94. Mary/Virginia/Mary Jane, I came home from my shopping trip today with A Home for Her Family and Missy's The Guy Next Door! Good to learn you have Colorado "in your veins" and your story is set in Denver, my favorite big city. I've lived in Denver, Boulder, Carbondale, Grand Junction, Craig, and Paonia, so love Colorado stories.

    Thanks for your post. The way you put a positive spin on negative reviews opened my eyes to the value of studying those comments.
    A book I read recently drew me out of the story because of inaccuracies in location and history. Since this was a print book, there's no reason for me to mention this in a review, but if this happened with an ebook, it might be helpful to the author since it could be changed easily. But then again, maybe not! :)

    An example of a "rejection" I received was a comment that the scene changes were too jarring as printed in the magazine. That makes me consider self-publishing so that I have control over how the visual print is done.

    Thanks again for your post with thoughts to consider. And I must say, your covers are BEAUTIFUL!

  95. What a great post, Virginia. You really helped us view rejections in a new light. Like you, I've tried to glean everything I can from contest feedback, critique partner comments and--gulp--rejections. The way I see it, processing all that input is a great way to prepare for revision notes and edits once we're published.

    It's not fun to find out where I might have blown it, but I appreciate the opportunity to make changes and take my story from good to better to the best it can be, given my abilities at the time.

  96. Did you ever get a reject email from an intern with the subject line "Please reject" ? I did the other day. I blogged about it on my website.

  97. Virginia, your book titles are absolutely some of the best ever! They tell me just the kind of writing to expect. And they're 'honest.' I don't pick up the book expecting one thing based on a wonderful title and then find an entirely different style inside.

    Probably the most devastating 'rejection' was when I entered my first contest and not all of the judges recognized the brilliance in my writing. I'm sure I would cringe if I read that first entry now :-)

    You've given me such good, specific examples of how to turn 'negative' into positive. Thanks for a super, 'keeper' post.

    Nancy C

  98. Right, Missy! Heifer is NOT my preferred endearment! But I had a friend live in Africa for many years and she was called something like "fat white cow" because the cow was very valued and a symbol of generosity and blessing.

    She said that one took a while to get used to...

  99. Hi Valri!

    Next year, there won't be any peaches! Our poor trees didn't survive a windstorm here.

    But you're always welcome to wander to this side of the state for n reason at all! We can sit in the kitchen and chat about writing. :)

  100. Meghan, my five year old made his own cinnamon and butter toast one morning when I was reading a blog. I think he used half a bottle of cinnamon. He smelled delicious and so did my kitchen, but that's not something I want to repeat.

  101. Hi Sherida! I hope you enjoy the book! All my Li books are set In Denver, one of my favorite cities EVER.

    I was born in Denver, but moved to Oregon when I was about a year. I didn't go back until I was in my teens. Gorgeous state and wonderful people!

  102. Hi Keli! I just love contests that give feedback. Your encouragement really meant so much to me when you judged a historical of mine way back in... I'm not sure the year now. 2011?

    I even called my sister and read her your comments to her over the phone!

  103. Sorry. LOL. Just reread that. Not your comments to HER.

    My excuse? The kids just came and told me the dog pooped on the carpet.

    Sigh. Dogs are not my favorite animals.

  104. Hi Nancy!

    I once got second to last in the Genesis contest. I think it was Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits. It was the same year it won three other large-ish contests.

    That was a little... discouraging! Hahaha!

    But it sure helped me realize that contests are judged by people, and not all judges will agree that your writing is brilliant. :)

  105. Very interesting post and one I can relate to more than others. I have not written any novels to submit but have written and published many short stories. I get discouraged when I start getting lots of rejections from magazines I had sold to in the past. Recently I sent two stories. I had been feeling hopeful because they weren't immediately returned like the ones I had sent before. Then the second one sent came back first, but the first one also came back eventually. So I'm consoling myself that the editor must have been at least considering them and I should keep at it.

    I would love to be entered into the drawing. While all your books sound good, I am especially interested in the Emma, Mr Knightly and Chili Slaw Dogs book as I am a Jane Austen fan.

  106. Hi Virginia!

    I'm glad I finally got over here today. Thursdays are my long days and it is hard sometimes, but I'm here.

    Congrats on all of your success. You've given a great point of view on rejection here and I can easily take them into explaining why other places have sent me the "R." That and Ruthy's explanation about things going on behind the scenes at publishers make sense to me.
    I was whining today about agents to a writing friend. Those are rejections that I am tired of. I feel beaten up and used by them and I have just about had enough. I get a deal and agents still won't come near me--contrary to what everyone told me. So frustrating.

    I'm done venting now. Off to try Ruthy's apple cake. I know that will make me feel better. Thank you for the great post!

  107. At least we all can admit rejections are thought provoking--after the meltdown!

    Rejections should be relabeled as feedback. The word reject causes this unpleasant sound in my head.

  108. I always enjoy your posts, Virginia, as well as your comments here and on the Café! And love seeing pics of your cute kids! Have read several of your books and loved them!
    Please put me in for a copy of A Home For Her Family.....I almost bought it today at Walmart!!

  109. I love your books and don't know of any negative comments. But as a reviewer (because I chose to uplift authors), if there is something I do not like, I contact the author personally - not write it in a review.
    jrs362 at Hotmail dot com

  110. Hi Sandy! I started out writing short articles for magazines (Antique Week, Celebrate Life, etc.) but I really wanted to published in Women's World. I sent 10 mysteries in one week.

    I got them all back... but every single one had notes with suggestions on it from the top editor. That was very encouraging! But then I never revised and resubmitted them because I didn't know if that was how it worked.

    It's hard for me to craft a really compelling short story so I'm applauding you from Oregon!

  111. Hi Piper! Oh, those rejections can really get you down. but chin up, at least you're saving 15%!

  112. Hi Becke!

    Yes, after the meltdown!

    But if we talk about REJECTION, it loses its stigma and power over us. We all get rejected. It totally stinks. An knowing other people get rejected to can really shore up those writers who are just about to quit.

  113. Hi Jackie!!

    I LOVE that I get a box of books to give away! There's nothing better than knowing someone has waited for my book and will read it. :)

    I'm making pecan apple upside down pie right now. It's a Cane River recipe straight out of Louisiana!

  114. Hi Squiresj!

    I absolutely agree. I used to review however I wanted. One star here. Four stars there. But then I wrote a book and realized that writers really do read those reviews. And a one star is serious business. I have left a one star in the past year, but that was a for a very successful book (had more than 500 reviews) that killed off the heroine in the last pages. It must have been the dumbest move I'd ever seen by an author. We follow this detective all across the country and then the murderer kills her... and we "witness" it??

    Nope. That was a betrayal for me and I gave it a BIG FAT ONE STAR. LOL

    But other than that, I try review as much as possible and keep things four stars and above. If it's 3 or below then I don't review it.

    Weirdly, on another thread, we were talking review and I talked about how "Virginia Carmichael" was reviewing Christian books and giving them one and two stars! Yikes!

    I review under M. Munoz in case anybody cares, haha.

  115. Ah, rejection. I remember one year I one my RWA chapter's contest for most rejections that year. Rejection is the spice of life.

    I don't think I've ever been hurt by a rejection, though I do remember being confused by them. One rejection did come with a revise and resubmit letter. (Yes, I revised and resubmitted.) It was again rejected. I found out later it was for reasons that were readily apparent in the first submission but never mentioned.

  116. Hi Virginia,

    It was interesting to read about your negative reviews, and how you have been able to use them to make your stories better.

    I haven't read any of your books yet, but just uploaded my first the other day. I can't wait to read it!

    Thanks for the great post!

  117. Hi Walt! Good to see you!

    And I love your writing, love your stories and your settings so CARRY ON. Soon, somsone will figure it out and you'll be holding that book.

  118. Hi Victoria! Enjoy the book and thanks for stopping by!

  119. Egads! You have an evil twin, Mary Virginia.

  120. Hmmm. I just realized you will always be Virginia to me.

  121. VIRGINIA SAID: "And God said he would spew out the lukewarm."

    LOL ... then I'm definitely not going anywhere because there's too much "hot" left in this old girl. :)

    YOU ALSO SAID: "Do you think it was worthwhile to cut the passion? I would be tempted to say it wasn't, if you had to write against your natural "zone".

    And you would be right, my friend. NO, I really don't think it was worthwhile, except it made my hubby happy, which is always something I strive to do. AND it showed me where my true passion lies -- in being open and completely honest with who I am and what I write. Passion comes naturally to me, so I don't like boxing it in, but I had fun writing the lighter stuff with Heart of San Fran., I will admit. But I've also made my mind up that I want to move back to my O'Connor-style passion and angst, because that's just me. :)


  122. Tina, I honestly didn't even knw this person was out there until a friend approached me about it. She thought I was writing those reviews. Ummmm... and why would I do that? lol

    I reported them to Amazon and for a while it was quiet, but then a few reviews were removed recently, and this person popped back up. Maybe it's just better to leave them alone... an make sure people know I don't review under that name.

    Oh, the best part? "Virginia Carmichael" gives five stars to erotica. lol.

  123. Sherida, thank you for getting my book! You made me smile today when I saw your tweet. :)

  124. Oh, I hear you on the "making husband happy" part. Mine has a few quirks that make my friends shake their heads but hey, I have to live with him so... I like to make him happy when I can!

    I think that experiment was worthwhile, if it redirected you back to the writing that makes you feel fulfilled and you're being honest with your readers.

    There's a favorite author of mine who writes secular fiction and one series just didn't sit right with me. It seemed forced, honestly. I even mentioned it to my friends.
    Then a few years later she came out with another series and I read in a blog interview that she said her last series (the one I wasn't fond of) was written a particular way in the advice of her agent and publisher, trying to reach a different demographic (adult, not YA readers). She said she was still proud of her work, but it wasn't comfortable for her and she was happy writing the "old way".

    I almost did a fist pump in the air. I KNEW she was writing to an audience and that she really shone in her first series (which was YA).

  125. Virginia, that is really weird about that reviewer. I guess someone really does have that name?? Makes me want to make sure no one else besides me is using my name.

  126. Missy... I'm on the fence about it. I reported it because I thought it was very odd that they have that exact name (and it doesn't say "actual name" like it does when you use your real name) AND that they're giving low stars to Christian books. The last time I checked, there were only 6-8 reviews, so it's not like a lot, but it bothered me. And they've popped up in comments under reviews of MY books. So... Amazon did take down a few, but it only seemed to make them mad. I don't know... I guess the best advice is always just to ignore, but it made me angry to see it.

    But, right, M. Munoz is the real me reviewing Christian books! And no erotica.

  127. Very late.

    I read the title and thought it said 'The Joy of Resurrection.' I love when God take my dyslexia and turns it into meaningful messages!

    Thanks for the great post, Virginia.

  128. Hi Lyndee! Now THAT would be a powerful post!

    My daughter is dyslexic. :)

  129. Six kids. I would never be able to do anything if I homeschooled six kids. Hats off to you for being so together and great at multitasking.

  130. Thank you for the post. I'm gearing up for another round of queries by the end of November, so this was a timely post for me.

    The form ones are probably the worst for me because I don't know what I'm doing wrong if you said you like my tone and voice but I'm not right for you. Are my characters too introspective? Do I have too many backstory dumps?

    The person I most feel for when I get a rejection is my husband!

  131. Hi Terri!

    It's a lot of fun and WE ARE NEVER BORED. That has to count for something, right?

    I don't do everything, every day. I'm a mom and wife every day, but I don't write every day, and we only do school three days a week (but go year round). In the end, it all balances out. :)

  132. Hi Tanya!

    I hear you! My kids and my husband hear all my whining first and foremost. But it's nice to have someone who understands how much it meant. I have a lot of non-writer friends who don't understand the first step of the publishing process and so I don't even start to explain what happened and why.
    Which is probably great for our friendships, hahaha!

  133. Second entry - love your books
    jrs362 at Hotmail dot com

  134. A fabulous post & comments to boot.

  135. Virginia, Do you know what I found to be the most inspiring part of this post? The part where you mentioned how much we women give up for our husbands! Yes, it was written from a reader's perspective on expectations of fictional heroines, but it's the truth! I've been a stay-at-home mom for 13 years. I moved 16 hours away from my family to marry the man of my dreams; I've supported him while he climbs the corporate ladder for the last 15 years, and a few years ago, I started wondering, Hey, what about my dreams? So I'm pursuing them. Finally! Thanks for the validation!! Oh, and I would love a copy of any of your books! I love Jane Austen :)

  136. Hi Virginia...actually I might just call you Ginny if that's okay with you? I feel like this post was written specifically for me so that makes us friends, right?

    In all seriousness (ish), I am new to the whole rejection thing. I only started querying this past month. After winning an award at the ACFW conference and leaving said conference with two full MS requests, I was on cloud 9, or 10, or whatever is the highest cloud haha. I thought, "This is great! It's really happening!"

    And then the waiting began. I sent those fulls and several other queries. And I stare at my inbox all day long and...nothing happens! It has been a month and so far I've received 2 rejections (believe me I realize this is a blip in the waiting game/ rejection count when it comes to querying).

    The first rejection wasn't so bad (not the right project for her and yada yada), but the second one sort of stung. She said my query didn't make her enthusiastic about my premise. Ouch! This brought me to 3 possible conclusions: A) this is a matter of this agent's preference B) My query needs to be rewritten or C) My premise needs work (This third one is the most painful to consider).

    I'm going to wait until I've made a lovely little rejection letter collection for myself (which I know is inevitable) before I start a new round of queries. At that point I'll take comments like these and see which ones are repeated/ similar and go from there as far as seeing what revisions to my query (or manuscript) need to be made.

    Thanks for taking time to share, Ginny! I really enjoyed your post.

  137. Great tips, Virginia. I'm bookmarking this post. :)

  138. Jessica, passing you a whole pan of virtual chocolate cupcakes.

    Don't get me wrong. Although I believed I'd live over seas, get married late in life (if I did get married)and work while raising kids, I'm absolutely thrilled with my life in a tiny Oregon town homeschooling all my kids.

    BUT every woman has been called to great work. That needs to be acknowledged. Stay at home mom is the hardest job in the country and it doesn't get enough respect. We get no vacations, pay days or sick leave. And even though we do it all out of love, we need to remember that we are PEOPLE who are called to great work.

    Blessings on following your dreams. I know that honoring your calling will benefit everyone around you.

  139. Sara Ella, good plan! I'd keep querying. I used an Excel sheet to keep track of whom I was querying and with what ms so I didn't repeat myself.

    The stage you're in, it seems that you spend weeks teetering on that edge of the cliff, waiting for the final push. It's thrilling and exhausting all at the same time!

    I'm glad you can take those rejections and keep moving forward because you've come a very long way to get to this point!

  140. I'm so sorry about your peach trees! Fruit trees are so wonderful and it's sad when they are lost. You don't know how bad I want to come visit you, Virginia! That would be such a blast!!!! I don't write but it still would be so fun to TALK about writing!!!! Ah, maybe someday! If I can find the time, I may show up on your doorstep! I need to find out how far it is!

  141. Virginia/MJ - are people allowed to call you MJ??
    Regardless, great post. Rejection from one or fifty publishers just means the right one hasn't been found yet!

  142. I'll say it was bizarre! I don't want to plug my website, but if anyone is interested in reading my post - it's at This award-winning agent blew most of the respect I had for him with that email from his intern, who evidently has trouble knowing how to structure a business email - using the instruction from the agent in the subject line. I thought it was junk mail at first. I almost didn't open it. I'm OK. I really am. Thanks for picking me for a book! :-)