Many new or mid-level writers have received nasty or rude rejection letters. But when famous author rejection letters come to light, people laugh and say “What were those editors (or literary agents) thinking?” Many big names faced the same kind of adversity (and even hostility) in rejection letters that you may be facing now. Famous author rejection letters teach us a lot!
When you get a harsh rejection letter, keep these famous author rejections in mind.
Barnes & Noble has added to the chorus of objections to the Justice Department’s proposed settlement with several major book publishers, releasing a statement on Thursday calling the settlement damaging to the industry.
If approved, the settlement will result in higher overall prices on e-books and hardcover books, ultimately harming the American public, the company said in the statement, which was submitted to the Justice Department on Thursday.
“We think that the Department of Justice got this wrong,” Gene DeFelice, the company’s general counsel, said in an interview. “The settlement destroys independently negotiated commercial relationships. It harms authors, innocent publishers and bookstores, including small-business owners. And it also punishes consumers who stand to benefit from increased competition and lower prices brought about by the agency model.”
[Barnes & Noble is standing up for the consumer and for themselves. Click the link to read the entire article.]
Having a sense of natural speech patterns is essential to good dialogue. Start to pay attention to the expressions that people use and the music of everyday conversation. This exercise asks you to do this more formally, but generally speaking it’s helpful to develop your ear by paying attention to the way people talk.
But dialogue should read like real speech. How do you accomplish that? Alfred Hitchcock said that a good story was “life, with the dull parts taken out.” This very much applies to dialogue. A transcription of a conversation would be completely boring to read. Edit out the filler words and unessential dialogue — that is, the dialogue that doesn’t contribute to the plot in some way.
It should not be obvious to the reader that they’re being fed important facts. Let the story unfold naturally. You don’t have to tell the reader everything up front, and you can trust him or her to remember details from earlier in the story.
Remind your reader that your characters are physical human beings by grounding their dialogue in the physical world. Physical details also help break up the words on the page: long periods of dialogue are easier for the reader’s eye when broken up by description. (And vice versa, for that matter.) See the link above for examples of how this can work.
Be aware of falling back on stereotypes, and use profanity and slang sparingly. All of these risk distracting or alienating your reader. Anything that takes the reader out of the fictional world you’re working so hard to create is not your friend. Read some examples of how to achieve the tone you want without stereotypes, profanity, and slang.
Pay attention to why things work or don’t work. Where are you taken out of the story’s action? Where did you stop believing in a character? Or, alternatively, when did the character really jump off the page, and how did dialogue help accomplish that? You can start reading like a writer with the link above, or pick up an anthology and start your own list of writers to learn from.
The rules for punctuating dialogue can be confusing: many writers need help getting them right in the beginning. Take some time to learn the basics. A reader should get lost in your prose — not feel lost trying to follow your dialogue.
Character errors are more than just a chance to make our readers want to slam their heads into walls: they provide opportunity for character growth, great tension-filled plot points and a chance for our readers to relate to them. (read more)
What do you think? Are character mistakes important? Do your characters make enough mistakes?
“For every handful of people who were enthusiastic about my writing ambitions there was always someone ready to deter or attempt to belittle me. ‘Still working on your little book?’ and ‘Do you really think you’re going to get this published?’ are two unhelpful phrases I recall. Strangely enough, the same people were only too quick to congratulate me with ‘I knew you’d get there in the end ’ once I got published …”—
“You must have some vision for your life. Even if you don’t know the plan, you have to have a direction in which you choose to go. You want to be in the driver’s seat of your own life because if you are not, life will drive you.”—Oprah Winfrey (via kari-shma)
“Two questions form the foundation of all novels: ‘What if?’ and ‘What next?’ (A third question, ‘What now?’, is one the author asks himself every 10 minutes or so; but it’s more a cry than a question.) Every novel begins with the speculative question, What if ‘X’ happened? That’s how you start.”—Tom Clancy (via amandaonwriting)
“When you’re writing a book, it’s rather like going on a very long walk, across valleys and mountains and things, and you get the first view of what you see and you write it down. Then you walk a bit further, maybe up onto the top of a hill, and you see something else. Then you write that and you go on like that, day after day, getting different views of the same landscape really. The highest mountain on the walk is obviously the end of the book, because it’s got to be the best view of all, when everything comes together and you can look back and see that everything you’ve done all ties up. But it’s a very, very long, slow process.”—Roald Dahl (via kerryquotesquotes)
“If you don’t read or write, you can’t be educated, you can’t care about anything — you’ve gotta put something in people’s heads so the metaphors bounce around and collide with each other and make new metaphors.”—Ray Bradbury, brilliant as ever, in a rare 2003 interview on fixing education and our responsibility to future generations. (via explore-blog)
“We use novels, not old newspapers, to get a sense of what life was like 100 years ago. I believe 100 years from now, future generations will still use novels the same way. They’ll use novels, not tweets or posts like this. And they’ll use the rich ones — the ones that have things to say things about culture and politics, the ones that absorb and synthesize.”—Robin Sloan, writing for The New York Times, on the future of fiction. (via jarrettfuller)
“If we listened to our intellect we’d never have a love affair. We’d never have a friendship. We’d never go in business because we’d be cynical: “It’s gonna go wrong.” Or “She’s going to hurt me.” Or, “I’ve had a couple of bad love affairs, so therefore …” Well, that’s nonsense. You’re going to miss life. You’ve got to jump off the cliff all the time and build your wings on the way down.”—
While writers don’t often have to be reminded to read books in their favorite genre or whatever genre they write in, it can sometimes be easy to forget another very important genre that all writers should be frequenting, namely, writing books. (read more)
“Writing is…being able to take something whole and fiercely alive that exists inside you in some unknowable combination of thought, feeling, physicality, and spirit, and to then store it like a genie in tense, tiny black symbols on a calm white page. If the wrong reader comes across the words, they will remain just words. But for the right readers, your vision blooms off the page and is absorbed into their minds like smoke, where it will re-form, whole and alive, fully adapted to its new environment.”—Mary Gaitskill (via writersrelief)
“I love the sound of words, the feel of them, the flow of them. I love the challenge of finding just that perfect combination of words to describe a curl of the lip, a tilt of the chin, a change in the atmosphere. Done well, novel-writing can combine lyricism with practicality in a way that makes one think of grand tapestries, both functional and beautiful.”—Lauren Willig (via amandaonwriting)