Rejecting Rejection

Let’s start with the obvious: Editors and agents are people. They come in all shapes and sizes and have different tastes. Their likes and dislikes are their own. Their rejection of your manuscript does not reflect on your writing, but in their inability to fall in love with it.

Agents and editors are flooded with submissions. They have the prerogative of being selective. They will only represent the stories they love.  

And that is their right.

Yours is to keep looking for the agent/editor that will fall in love with yours.

So keep that rejection letter in perspective. Don’t throw the manuscript away, but send it again. Because what one editor/agent hates, another will love. You just have to find the right one.

You don’t believe me?

Let’s do an exercise.

Here are two versions of a description of a lake up in the mountains of Spain, a setting in a young adult novel I’m working on.

One of the versions is mine (not necessarily number one). The other is a rewrite from a person in my critique group.

Once you have read them, please, leave a comment saying which one you like best.

There is not right or wrong answer. If you choose the one I wrote, I’ll be pleased. If you choose the other, you’ll prove my point: not everyone has the same taste. And its corollary: not everyone will love your writing.

And that is okay. Who would want to go to a party where every one is wearing the same dress?

Version #1

The water was black like the boy had said. Black and still, like a piece of night fallen to earth. A perfect circle from where I stood at the edge of the ridge: a full black moon trapped in the mountains.

Version #2

Black and still, like a piece of night fallen to earth, the lake formed a perfect circle from where I stood at the edge of the ridge: a full black moon trapped in the mountains.

Carmen Ferreiro Esteban


  1. Irene Tsai said,

    November 6, 2009 at 7:51 pm

    I like version #2. I thought it’s direct and I can visualize it.
    CE Bilingual Books is a small press with only one book out now, however, we have our small share of receiving manuscripts. Most of the time, the author did not check my website. I think they probably just buy a list of email addresses and send to everyone. One specific submission for a book proposal was on medical malpractice!

    Irene Tsai, THE FROG IN THE WELL,
    Book trailer:
    Follett Library,,, Amazon,
    Chinese-English bilingual book for children
    USA Book News National BEST BOOKS
    Finalist in the Foreword Magazine Book

  2. Mary Fran said,

    November 6, 2009 at 8:41 pm

    I like the first option. While generally, I’m the ultimate fewest words advocate, I think in this instance, the longer description gives me a more complete picture. Additionally, the pacing of that version is slower, which elicits a feeling of stillness, complimenting the description.

    I think your post is an important one as well, since publishing, as well as reading itself, is ultimately in the eye of the beholder. One person’s junk is another person’s treasure. It’s simply important that the author always believes her writing is treasure until someone else believes it, too.

  3. Nick Eldering said,

    November 6, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    The first One definitely.

  4. November 7, 2009 at 9:41 pm

    I like #1 – it’s as if the author is speaking out loud – conversational, speaking right to me, in smaller thoughts as they actually occur in the mind.

    #2 is rather poetic, but for me it’s too many images tumbling over each other.

  5. November 7, 2009 at 11:14 pm

    I prefer #1, mainly because of the pacing/rhythm.

  6. Elsa Ward said,

    November 8, 2009 at 9:05 pm

    They were both very descriptive. I think the second one flowed for me better than the first one

  7. Tamara C. Gureghian said,

    November 9, 2009 at 2:51 am

    I agree with the point of your posting. Finding the right editor is like finding a spouse. You will meet many people in life, wonderful, amazing people, but you will not want to spend the rest of your life with all of them despite their outstanding qualities. For editors, purchasing a book is a like a marriage. It is a committment they must reserve for very few manuscripts despite their enjoyment of a multitude of submissions.

    As for your question, I think both options offer wonderful imagery and beautiful language. I prefer option two. But I would still re-write it! Here’s yet another option:
    From where I stood at the edge of the ridge, the lake appeared to be a full black moon trapped in the mountains. Black and still, like a piece of night fallen to earth.

  8. November 9, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    Wonderful post, Carmen – and so true. As for the two descriptions, I love them both, but if I have to choose, I pick the second. However, so much depends on the placement of the paragraph in the rest of the manuscript. It’s possible that including the boy makes it fit into the rest of the story better. As you said, there are so many things to consider and agents have to make a snap decision, based on a sample.

  9. Jessica Dimuzio, VMD said,

    November 9, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    Show Don’t Tell Mantra Demonstrated Beautifully

    Many people tell you not to get discouraged with rejections because responding positively to a written piece is so subjective. But Carmen, you took it a step further and, in a very concrete and succinct way, showed us. Thank you!

    My vote: Version#2; tighter, more poetic

    Milestones Childrens’ Critique Circle

  10. Wendy Greenley said,

    November 10, 2009 at 8:30 pm

    Understanding the subjective nature of rejection helps cushion the blow, but in love, life, writing-rejection stinks! Perhaps we need to coin a new word. No one likes to be a reject. I try to envision editors/agents helping our manuscripts on their continuing journey to find the right home. At least that’s what I try to envision…

    As for the two descriptions, I agree with Sandra (#8 above) that the inclusion of the boy may be a crucial linking element that we can’t appreciate without the rest of the passage. The mention of the boy speaks to me in a way the second paragraph doesn’t, but I would still rewrite. I don’t like the way the inclusion of the speaker’s viewpoint interrupts the description. If the reader needs to know that we’re atop the ridge, tell us that elsewhere.

    The water was black like the boy had said. Black and still, like a piece of night fallen to earth. The lake formed a perfect circle, a full black moon trapped in the mountains.

    As always, beautiful imagery, Carmen!

  11. CHRYSA SMITH said,

    November 11, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    What a nice way to put rejection into perspective. It’s so true. Look at all those rejects to now famous authors, and all those teachers who told successful business people and professors that ‘higher education was not for them.’ An opinion is just that—-the expression of a belief at that moment in time. It’s fluid. It changes. It’s not always accurate.

    Given that, I like description #2—hope that one is yours.

  12. Angie Walthall said,

    November 15, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    I like # 2. I can picture it better. It put me in the picture looking from one aspect to the next, rather than thinking about a boy who’s not relavent to the description of the scene.

  13. Carolee said,

    November 20, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    I like the first one best, but the second is also well written. I like #1 because it builds a bit more, it has a rhythm that matches the scene.

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