Recently I was asked to speak with a high school writing club about my long and winding road to publication, so I thought it would be a great opportunity to revisit my extensive collection of rejection letters from agents that I had amassed over the twenty-plus years of querying as a way to show students the power of perseverance, and I am so glad I did. Because in the midst of years of rejections, I was repeatedly given gifts of advice from so many wonderful agents—some of whom are no longer in the business, some who are.
So in honor of this week’s Agent theme at the Ball, I thought I would share with you, dear friends, some of the generous, wonderful and truly kind words that returned with my rejected queries. You may think I’m being facetious; I assure you, I’m not. What came back as a rejection often included some words of wisdom that helped me to grow as a writer, words of wisdom that I am forever grateful for.
So if I may take this opportunity, I’d like to speak to all the agents over the years who gave their time and their insight to me when my work was hardly deserving of a read, let alone a kind word–I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your comments were nuggets of gold. I promise you I treasured—and took to heart—each and every one.
Here are just a few…
“Although REASONS OF THE HEART shows a fluid, enthusiastic writing style, I’m afraid it lacks the sort of emotional, internal romantic conflict that our market demands. Both Lauren and Tyler are colorful characters, but their carefree, materialistic lifestyles and constant bickering make them difficult to sympathize with.”
For one of my historical romances, ONCE A HELLION:
Page 250 – scene at bar is typical
Page 268 – when the plot is obvious, it takes away from the mystery
Page 295 – It’s a typical device for heroine to make hero jealous
From another agent for the same manuscript:
“While Hunter is a strong and sexy hero, there are times when he seems rather insensitive. He may be something of a scoundrel but he should always be a sympathetic character for the reader.”
For my Viking-themed romance, LORD OF DREAMS (wince-worthy—I know):
“My problem with your hero, Roar, is that I find him just a little too coarse, a little too much the buffoon when he is with his kinsmen. He needs more dimension besides being a lusty guy with tremendous faith in Odin. His complete faith is nice, on the one hand. On the other hand, the lack of doubt takes away from the suspense the story could have.”
“Once Willow is ensconced in the Viking keep a lot of action just stops.”
And my personal favorite:
“Too much talk of big bosoms!”
So to all the agents over the years who took the time to tell me what worked—and more importantly, what didn’t—thank you. Whether you knew it or not, you helped to steer me through some very treacherous waters, and you led me to the one I am so proud—and grateful—to call my agent today, Rebecca Gradinger.
Now it’s your turn, writer friends: Tell me the gems that you’ve received from agents, the morsels that made you—and made you want to be—better writers.