Surviving Rejection Week! -- The Public Forum Rejection

Surviving Rejection Tip #2: Oftentimes, a rejection can be a great gift. Granted, it's a gift that punches you straight in the face, but then it gives you an ice pack and makes you stronger.

Yesterday, I talked about my rejections in the magazine and newspaper world. Today, I'd like to discuss the rejections of my novel.

Joy of joys!

A little back story... In early 2010, I had been working on my MG science fiction novel for over a year and a half, and I finally felt it was ready for querying. With my manuscript all polished and shiny, I decided to enter a "Secret Agent" contest at a blog called, Miss Snark's First Victim. Every month or so, this blog invited writers to submit the first 250-words of their manuscript for public review. Once all of the submissions had been posted, a Secret Agent would critique them and choose a couple winners who would receive some cool prizes.

So awesome, right?

On the day my excerpt was posted, I bit my nails and refreshed the blog page every five minutes. (Okay, it was more like every two minutes.) I had no idea if I would win or not, but I kept hoping that something good would turn out of this. After all, I had workshopped my first chapter to a bloody pulp and it had been through the ringer with my critique group.

I thought I might have a chance.

But once the comments started rolling in, my heart sank into my stomach. Some of the commenters liked the excerpt, but some of them pointed out a few big time mistakes. (ie, over-writing. D'oh!) Yet, I kept my chin up because I knew the Secret Agent would have the final say.

Yeah, I was in for some bad news... Ultimately, the Secret Agent was very gracious and gave me some good advice, but she didn't ask to see more pages. Once again, I was crushed--and embarassed. I sobbed into my blanket for five minutes and moped around the apartment for the rest of the day. Indeed, I was a major cry baby.

I kind of looked like this, minus the plastic surgery:

I didn't look at my manuscript for about a week, but then I decided to brush off my wounds and get back on the revising horse. I re-read all of the comments and I took a harder look at my first chapter. Slowly, I realized that the Secret Agent was right and that my story lacked a certain oomph. And so, I re-wrote the first 250-words of my book until they barely resembled my original draft.

Here is my original version compared to the revised one. I've only pasted about 100-words each.


A loud knock on the front door jolted twelve-year-old Danny Singer from his math homework. He scratched his head and put his pencil down, wondering who had come to the house. His mother didn’t get off work until six o’clock and his trumpet teacher wouldn’t arrive until tomorrow afternoon.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

Three more knocks thundered on the door, ringing throughout the walls. Danny stood from his desk and padded down the stairs. He figured the mailman needed to drop off a package for his mom—she liked to order tubes of oil paint from the internet.

Grasping onto the knob, Danny turned the handle and swung the door open. “Hey, do I have to sign something or…?” His voice trailed off.


Danny Singer knew the rules. He could recite all three of them by heart, like the times table or the Pledge of Allegiance.

Rule #1: Homework first. TV second.

Rule #2: Only healthy snacks after school. (No candy!)

Rule #3: Never answer the door when he was home alone.

His mom had posted the rules on the refrigerator door and Danny followed them—for the most part. Sometimes, he would nibble on a Snickers bar or flip on the TV before opening his math book. But he had never broken Rule #3.

Until today.

Of course, the revamped excerpt isn't perfect and I'm sure I'll have to tweak it some more But at the end of the day, my public forum rejection injected some much-needed life into my novel's opening. A few weeks ago, I even spoke to an agent who really enjoyed the first chapter of the book.

Even now, I still remember quite vividly the sadness I felt when the Secret Agent rejected me. BUT, I'm really grateful for the comments she left because my book is much better because of them. In the end, my disappointment (and despair!) was well worth the result.

Never give up! Never surrender!