Persevering Through Industry Changes :: A Writer’s Struggle to Continue

UPDATE. Okay, so I didn’t actually give up on my first book. I just started an even more extensive tweaking session. It’s funny how, when I’m writing my novel, I get all these ideas for other books. But as soon as I put mine down and begin something new, I miss the old and familiar story. I miss the characters. I miss the plans I had for their futures. That being said, I returned to my original book. I’m still writing that second book when I get ideas for it. But nothing beats my original. All it took for me to see that was to put down the teen books and start reading in the YA (9-12) genre again.

It’s funny how another published book can either shoot down your confidence or boost it up. My editor assigned me three books to review (for the website I write for). Two were supposedly “teen” and one was “YA”. After reading the first (and I’m not going to name any names, because I like and respect this author), I realized that the target audience was way off. I’ve read hundreds upon hundreds of books in these age groups, so I know a thing or two about target audiences. Well, this “teen” book was definitely not old enough for a teen audience. Also, (and I promise you I am not a cocky person AT ALL) that book had nothing on mine. It was so basic and yet hard to follow, the explanations for the goings on in that world were virtually non-existent and it was extremely challenging to visualize. It only took 50 pages for me to realize that my book has so much more depth and thought put into it.

Next I read, Michael Scott’s The Warlock, and I didn’t like it. Granted, this book is for teens. And also granted, I did jump into this series at book fire. However, when The Alchemyst (book 1) first came out years ago, I read it and was extremely disappointed. I guess I judged the book by its dazzlingly magical cover. Which I do. A lot. But since reading that book, I’ve had a ton of kids come into my used book store looking for Michael Scott’s series. And they all love his books. It shows me that there is an audience for pretty much any writing style. Anyhow, back on track: I read The Warlock and there were so many characters that I had a very hard time following the plot. Which, again, gave me another ounce of confidence in my own writing.

Then I read The Fourth Circle of Heck: Fibble by Dale E. Basye. I’m not saying the book was bad. It just wasn’t my taste. I found there were waaay to many h-e-double-hockey-sticks puns, and I found they interrupted the fluidity of the story. Again, I admit that I haven’t read the first three books in the series, so that hinders my understanding of scenery, personalities and continued plotlines. But I will say that over the years that I’ve been reviewing young adult books, I’ve read a ton of sequels without having read the first books in the series’. And there are very few that don’t stand on their own. Often, I don’t notice that the book is sequel until I finish reading it. 

So after reading these three books, I regained my confidence and my motivation to continue working on my novel. But thank you to those of you who are encouraging me to persevere. I wasn’t giving up because of the rejections. I’m not worried about those. I was giving up because of industry trends. But now I’m thinking, if you can’t join a trend, change it.


Scrapping Your First Book :: Three Years of Work Down the Tube

Today, I had an experience that was devastating and rejuvenating at the same time. I realized that the book I’ve been working for 3+ years is not going to hack it. At least not in the way I’ve planned. I put the book aside today and began writing another–a teen sci-fi this time. That’s what is popular right now. That is was agents will be looking for. So that is what I’m going to write. It’s a big decision. Life-changing even. And yet with my future prospects at stake, all I can think about is how I’m going to break the news to my mom.

I still hope I can make my first idea work one day. If only I could start with book two. Then it would be great. Maybe that’s what I should do then. Start with book two. Maybe that isn’t such a bad idea after all. Let me rethink this and get back to you guys.

Teen Science Fiction Trend: Out With The Vampires, In With The Post-Apocalyptic and Dystopian Sci-fi

Thanks to Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, teens (and adults who read teen books as a guilty pleasure–like myself) had to spend years drowning in the vampire phenomenon. And just when the stories started becoming far too repetitive, authors expanded to other paranormal creatures like werewolves, ghosts, faeries and so on.

Finally–finally–teen fiction is moving away from this overdone trend, and letting the kids of the vampire generation experience a genre of possibility–post-apocalyptic science fiction. So far there seems to be a common thread among those published already; the future will have a more structured and strict government, technology won’t be completely eradicated, and many people–namely the poor–will live a more primitive lifestyle.

The birth of this sci-fi trend began in 2008, but didn’t really show promise until 2010. Here are some of the best teen science fiction series so far:

I’m sure there are many more to come in this genre. In the mean time, if you’ve ready read this list of books, why not return to the classics like Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, The Chrysalids by John Wyndham, The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham and The Giver by Lois Lowry.

Rejection Letter #4: Positive Feedback

Clearly it takes a new agent to finally recieve some positive reinforcement in a rejection letter. At least, that has been my experience so far. Today I recieved my fourth rejection letter (the rejection scrapbook is starting to bulk up!) from Rachel Stout, a newer agent at Dystel & Goderick Literary Management. I sent her my query on March 26, 2011, so her response time is still quite quick. Here is what she had to say:

Thanks so much for giving us the chance to review TITLE OF MY BOOK. Please forgive me for being so short in my response, but the number of submissions we recieve makes it difficult to respond to everyone personally. Brooke sounds like a great character, but unfortunately, this project does not suit our list at this time.

I wish you the very best of luck in your continued search for representation.


I must say, even if the positive comment about my protagonist is part of her response formula to soften the blow of rejection, it did the trick. It made me feel like all hope is not lost, not that four rejections is enough to crush my hopes and dreams. I’ll rediscuss dream-crushing emotions at rejection #14.

Rejection Letter #3

Today, I recieved my third rejection letter. I was a little confused by the response:

Thank you for your query. I do not represent novels in the genre of “title of my book” so I am not the right agent for you. Wishing you every success with your writing.

All the best,

Marilyn Biderman

Hmm. I’m confused because I did my research. She read online that she represents YA fiction. I wouldn’t have sent to your otherwise. Perhaps my novel was too “fantasy/sci-fi” for her taste, which is perfectly okay. This rejection helps me narrow my focus to agents that claim to represent YA fiction as well as fantasy books. Thank you Marilyn Biderman for your quick response to my query.

The Scorch Trials by James Dashner: My New Favorite Book

Every once in a while a book comes along that really changes your outlook on literature. At least it does for me. It’s rare, but it happens. The Scorch Trials by James Dashner did that for me. It opened me up to a genre that I never knew I loved–postapocalyptic science fiction for teens. I finished reading his first book in the series, The Maze Runner, feeling eager for more. He leaves you with a bit of a cliff hanger, wondering “what’s next?!”

So I immediately logged onto Amazon and ordered book 2. I have spent the entire month of March reading it, not because it was bad, or ridiculously long. The exact opposite, in fact. It was brilliant. Ten times better than The Maze Runner, and twenty times better than most teen books on the market.

In The Maze Runner, Thomas, along with a group of teenage boys and one girl are trapped in a place called the Glade which sits right next to a giant maze. Even though their memories are wiped and they have no idea why they’re stuck in there, they realize that they have to find a way out. But it’s not easy with these deadly, unearthly creatures called Grievers roaming through the maze at night. By the end of the book, they find a way out (but I won’t give away the “how”). But when they reach the outside world, it’s nothing like they expected. There’s been an apocalypse, and most of the survivors have been infected by a disease called the Flare, which essentially makes you crazy, wither and die.

In The Scorch Trials, the boys realize that their problems are far from over. In fact, in the Glade they lived a life of luxury compared to what’s to come. After being nearly starved to death, they learn about their next adventure (and by adventure, I mean a horrifying, deadly, depressing and questionable journey through a desert and the remains of a city, inhabited by crazy people who are infected by the Flare). And the worst part? They are infected, too. If they don’t make it to the “safe haven” in the alloted time, they won’t receive the cure.

Thomas knows that this is just another test by the organization called WICKED. He knows that they are studying him and his friends to see how they respond to the “variables.” And he knows that he was somehow a part of WICKED before his memories were wiped. How does he know all of this? Because his memories are starting to come back in his dreams.

The increase in intensity from the first book to the second is astronomical. I went days without reading it just because I was afraid I would read through the night and finish it. But yesterday I did finish it (sad face). And again I’m left wondering, “what’s next?!” I can’t wait until October for book 3. I just can’t.

James Dashner, you’re my new hero. (Please send me an advanced copy of your book to review. Pretty please?)

Rejection Letter #2

Today, I recieved my second rejection letter, which I sent to Sara Megibow at Nelson Literary Agency. I will certainly give this agency a strong kudos for their efficent response time. I sent the email query yesterday, and they responded in less than 24 hours. Here’s what they had to say:

Dear Author:

Thank you so much for sending the Nelson Literary Agency your query. We’d like to apologize for the impersonal nature of this standard rejection letter. Rest assured that we do read every query letter carefully and, unfortunately, this project is not right for us.  Because this business is so subjective and opinions vary widely, we recommend that you pursue other agents. After all, it just takes one “yes” to find the right match.  

Good luck with all your publishing endeavors.

I had high hopes for this agency, so this rejection was a harder hit than the last one. Fortunately, there are plenty more agencies out there, so I’m going to dust myself off and keep plugging away. And start writing book 2! Hurray!

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