My 50 Rejections Quest

Yup. You read right. I’m on a quest for 50 rejections of my middle-grade novel. This is my wild idea for querying that I mentioned in my last post.

I’m not a big fan of querying. It’s not the process that bothers me, it’s the self-doubt that seems to tag along with it. With querying, I am very, very wobbly. I’m suddenly out of my creative zone and in a business zone. It’s not that I don’t believe enough in my book or myself. It’s the how can I talk about this to other people and make it sound as awesome as it does in my own brain? Whenever I start discussing a story idea, I get frantic, afraid someone will think it’s stupid.

But I write stories and I want to share them with people, so I’m kind of responsible for digging that hole. It’s up to me to figure out how to make it work.


manuscript pages

courtesy of Google images/hwevents

The problem I faced in the past was that I quit querying after a few rejections. I won’t go into all of the nitty-gritty of my self-sabotage, but trust me when I say it’s pathetic. The bottom line, I discovered recently, was that I never told myself what I would do when I got rejections. I knew I’d get them. What I didn’t know is that they’d lay me out flat. And because I didn’t set myself a specific battle plan, it was easy to turn tail and run.

Enter 50 rejections.

You’re probably thinking, “Yo, Kate, why not just go for 50 queries? Why seek out 50 rejections?”

Ah, my dear Padawan, this is called reverse psychology. By aiming for rejections, I won’t be afraid of rejection. If I’m unafraid of rejection, I’ll keep querying. 50 rejections means I’m not letting myself stop after 1 or 12 or 25 rejections.

Plus, this strategy forces me to send out more than 50 queries because not all agents respond to a query. They remain silent, and we’re supposed to take it as a “pass.” For some of us, that doesn’t fly. What if they never got my query? What if they sent a response, but it got lost in cyberspace? And anyone who read this post will know why I’m particularly sensitive to this very-real, very-horrifying possibility.

Now, before you think I’ve fallen completely off the turnip truck, I want you all to know that getting rejected isn’t my ultimate goal. Getting an acceptance is. But as I’ve noted in past posts, I can’t get a publishing deal unless I put my work out there. And that’s where I keep self-sabotaging. I get nervous, and I pull the plug on the querying. Well, no freaking wonder I haven’t gotten very far.

It’s like fishing. I’m hoping that by casting my query out there at least 50 times, I am more likely to get a bite. More likely to reel in a winner.

Every once in a while, I will post about my quest. Where I’m at in my head and in my querying list. Maybe I’ll even learn some tips that I can pass along.

After 50 rejections, I will re-evaluate my query and my book. Hopefully, I will get some personalized rejections that will explain to me what isn’t working — and I can make some changes and hit the querying trail again with another 50.

Okay, rejections, bring it on!

A Summer Summary

Protagonist: Kate aka 4amWriter

Setting: Summer in NH

Plot: Kate, a fiction writer with an obsession for fairies, beer, and Ewan McGregor, must figure out how to write more than just one hour a day while the kids are out of school for 2 months. She’s got a third book in the works, but trouble is she has little time to write it. Waking up at 4 in the morning was once her go-to strategy, but it is starting to lose its appeal. To make matters worse, on top of writing a book she needs to query her second book. And, don’t even ask her about her first book. Not if you want to live.

Can Kate complete the next draft to her book before she loses her mind?

Or, did she lose that long ago?

Yup. I’m cracking, everyone. It was only a matter of time, so it’s probably a good thing summer is around the bend. Although, if last summer is any indication as to how much free time I’ll have, then you can send me some get-well cards to The Pavilion, the local nuthouse. ‘Cause that’s where I’ll end up if I can’t get certain tasks accomplished.

Anyhow, I will be taking a bit of a blogging break this summer. I would like to say I’ll be around visiting you all, but, um, to put it bluntly, I doubt it.

Before I take off for the beach to work hard on my book, here are a few tidbits of what’s been going on and what will be going on and all that jazz …


My Fiction Writing

♦ As gently noted above, I plan to work on my third novel this summer. I have the rough draft penned out in a journal, so now I will freewrite the next draft.

♦ I will start querying my middle-grade novel this month. I’m toying with a somewhat radical idea regarding the whole query adventure. Okay, it may not be radical in the general view of the writing world. But for me, it’s pretty radical. Stay tuned.

My Freelance Writing

♣ I wrote a piece on the Wilderness Act, a conservation bill that turns 50 this year. Do you live in a state that has a protected wilderness area? If you have a chance, I’d love for you to visit Northeast Wolf Coalition where my article is published.

My Wilderness

♥ Hubs spotted a black bear in our neighborhood a few days ago. It was standing in the middle of the road. How cool is that?! I’m bummed I missed it. Did you know that black bears love bird seed? It’s one of the reasons bears come sniffing around our yards. If you’re in an area where bears cavort, don’t leave bird food out in the summertime. Don’t worry, in the warm months, birds find plenty of food.

♥ Robins built a nest outside our living room window, and 4 babies hatched! They are one week old as of this posting. We have a great view of them:

See their orange beaks? They're huge!

See their orange beaks? They’re huge!


There are 4, but I couldn't get a photo when all of them popped up at once.

There are 4, but I couldn’t get a photo when all of them popped up at once.


Mom is back. I don't think she likes the papparazzi.

Mom is back. I don’t think she likes the papparazzi.


♥ While out on a walk with my dog, I found a bunch of feathers by the road. From the amount of them, I am afraid there was a bit of a tussle between the bird and a predator. Some of you may remember that I once mentioned I collect bird feathers. Can you guess the bird this feather belongs to?


The shiny part of the feather is actually a beautiful copper color - it's kind of hard to see in this photo.

The shiny part of the feather is actually a beautiful copper color – it’s kind of hard to see in this photo.


I hope everyone has a wonderful summer (or winter, if you’re in the opposite part of the world)! Stay well, write well, and treat yourself well.

Writing Process Blog Hop

I was invited by a rather new blogging acquaintance of mine, Karin Van den Bergh, to participate in the Writing Process Blog Hop. I have never played this game, but being the adventurous blogger team player I am, I decided to give it a whirl. This is how the hopping works: I’ll introduce you to Karin, then I’ll answer four questions on my own writing process, and finally, I’ll introduce you to another stupendous writer.

Karin Van den Bergh Living the motto “unity in diversity”, how does one manage to do this?

Karin’s multifaceted nature is guided by her insatiable curiosity and desire for learning all about life on earth and beyond – balancing on a tight rope in an attempt to bridge the rational thinking mind with a heart based intelligence – and exploring the full spectrum of our physical, cultural, ideological and psychological differences for a better understanding how these colourful contrasts can enrich and may better serve humanity and life on our beautiful planet.

Having worked in the tourism business for several years and being married with a globe-trotting businessman, it’s fair to say Karin is a cosmopolitan in heart and soul. She believes everything and everybody, from the mundane to the magical – and really, is there any difference at all? – can be a source of inspiration. She feels like the eternal “Law” student on a journey towards balance, optimum health & wellbeing, self-acceptance, personal growth, and yes.. a union within her own diverse complexity.

Her blog can be described as sort of an online journal, a walkabout on “the yellow brick road”, inspired by life as it unfolds intentionally and unpredictably, as well as the boundless interests she’s constantly unearthing.

Karin was born in Belgium and is currently living in beautiful New England, US together with her husband and teenage son.

You can contact Karin at her blogsite;

Now for my answers to the writing process questions. Up front, I’ll tell you that these were tough for me to answer because I don’t usually think about this aspect of the craft. For me, story-writing just happens. That’s not to say that I don’t try my damndest to write a good book, but sometimes I’m mystified at how I actually wrote something that makes me proud.

Okay, enough with the disclaimer. On to my writing process, such as it is.

1) What am I working on?

The query for my middle-grade novel. The rough draft to my next book, also a middle-grade novel.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I center my stories on protagonists who come from families that are broken in some way. My protagonists struggle with fitting in at home, creating an unstable foundation and a troubled sense of self, which causes problems for them in the outside world. Magical realism always plays a role, affecting the characters in some way.

3) Why do I write what I do?

I love family drama—of all human relationships, those within the family are the most interesting to me. Magical realism is a natural extension of my writing. I see and feel magic all around me in real life, and so it emerges organically in my writing. It’s not something that I consciously choose to include in my work.

4) How does my writing process work?

A little bit of pantsing, a little bit of plotting. A lot of praying.

Rough draft – I freewrite with paper and pencil. I don’t write scenes. I’m acquainting myself with characters, their problems and goals, and the setting. I also daydream about the book a lot during this stage.
First draft – I write scenes with dialogue. I get into the characters’ heads, and I map out the setting. I think faster than I write, so I move the story to the computer.
Second draft – I plot out the structure, with the three acts and turning points, rising action, conflicts. Mary Carroll Moore’s lessons on 3-Act Structure was a huge help for me with this. However, this is my least favorite stage of story-writing.
Third draft – I do both plotting and organic writing. I deepen character motivations, give them more to lose. Add layers. Smooth transitions. Double check facts, research, consistency. Cut, write, cut, write. Cut, write.
Final draft – Is a final draft ever final? At some point, I tell myself I must stop and move on to the next project. Just keep making up stories. That’s when I’m happiest.

Okay, so there you have a small glimpse into my writing life. On to the third bit of the post. Let’s hop over to a fantabulous blogger and writer, Kourtney Heintz.

Take it away, Kourtney!

Kourtney Heintz writes emotionally evocative speculative fiction that captures the deepest truths Kourtney Heintz of being human. For her characters, love is a journey never a destination. Her debut novel, The Six Train to Wisconsin, was a 2013 USA Best Book Awards Finalist.

She resides in Connecticut with her warrior lapdog, Emerson, her supportive parents and three quirky golden retrievers. Years of working on Wall Street provided the perfect backdrop for her imagination to run amuck at night, imagining a world where out-of-control telepathy and buried secrets collide.

As K.C. Tansley, she wrote Reckonings, a YA time travel murder mystery novel, which will be published in 2015 by Harlequin and is represented by ICM Partners.

Book Giveaway from Author Danika Dinsmore

I have a special treat today. One of the first blogging buddies I ever made is here today to talk about living a purpose-driven life.

author danika dinsmore writerDanika Dinsmore writes middle-grade fiction. She is published by Hydra House (based in Seattle, Washington). Faerie Tales from the White Forest is her first novel series. The third book in the series, Ondelle of Grioth, will be officially released tomorrow.

Danika is giving away a copy of her new book to one random commenter! See details at the end of this post. Sorry – giveaway is over.


Living a Purpose-Driven Life

I bet many people idealize the “writer’s life” (happily working from home on the next novel while royalties pour into our bank accounts). I know I used to. That was before I was faced with scheduling the open days ahead of me with writing, marketing books, marketing myself, cold-contacting schools & libraries, blogtwitfacebooking, and sending proposals to conferences. With so much in front of me, and not a clue how to organize it all, I often got over-whelmed and even depressed. Especially on unproductive days.

If only I could get my priorities straight, right?

But I had trouble discerning through the daze of “to do” what exactly my priorities should be, especially when it came to social media. I thought maybe if I only had more discipline I would be able to prioritize action items more effectively. I was the QUEEN of To Do Lists, but every action swam in front of me with no clear purpose attached.

I eventually realized that I can’t get my priorities straight if I don’t have my purpose straight first. How can I even make priorities without purpose? I learned that getting my purpose straight practically wrote my priorities for me, and that it was perfectly fine to drop actions that didn’t serve this purpose.

For instance, I began to rethink how I use social media. I took a step back and looked at what my purpose is around social media. If my purpose is to build an audience, then I need to think of actions to build that audience. Should I hang out in online forums? Many forums are great places to exchange information, but not really audience builders. Perhaps I should limit how much time I spend in them.

If my time is really limited, it would serve me better to simply find the one thing I can do that best serves this purpose and focus my energy on that one thing rather than using a scattershot approach and doing several things half-assed.

On a grander scale, I can create purpose for my entire life. My purpose on that scale might be: to be joyful in my creative endeavors or to share my creative expression with others. If that’s the case, perhaps I decide to spend less time on social media in general and more time expressing myself creatively, since that brings more joy into my life. Or, simply become more creative in my expression thru social media.

It doesn’t matter if my purpose is to “sell books” or “have fun.” It’s MY purpose. It’s just that my actions will look different accordingly, and I can prioritize by asking myself if that action serves my purpose. When I started acting from this place of purpose, many items on my “to do” list simply disappeared. I didn’t feel the necessity to do EVERYTHING any longer.

Whenever I go to a conference now, for instance, I create a purpose around it. I might decide my purpose for a particular conference is to have fun. I might decide it’s to have meaningful dialogue. I might decide it’s simply to sit back, listen, and learn. If I decide my purpose is to have fun, I don’t worry about book sales. If my purpose is to have meaningful dialogue, then my priority would be to find new and interesting people and my action would be to strike up a conversation with them. (I’ve done this before and set a goal of having 3 meaningful conversations per day. At the end of the day, it’s usually 2 or 3 times that, but I want to set myself up for a win.)

In the book The One Thing Gary Keller states, “The most productive people start with purpose and use it like a compass. They allow purpose to be the guiding force in determining the priority that drives their actions . . . The prescription for extraordinary results is knowing what matters to you and taking daily doses of actions in alignment with it.”

“Purpose provides the ultimate glue that can help you stick to the path you’ve set.” ~Gary Keller, The One Thing

Note that doing something because you think it will make you happy is different than doing something because it serves your purpose. Ironically, if you do the things that serve your purpose, it will help you find happiness.

(This article was based on a blog post that included a writing exercise about a character’s purpose. If you’d like to try the exercise, you can find it HERE.)

~          ~          ~


Danika Dinsmore is an author, performance artist, and educator with an MFA in Writing and Poetics, an advanced certificate author writer danika dinsmorein screenwriting, and a diverse creative background. Over the past 20 years she has developed content for the page, stage, screen, and web. She currently works in speculative fiction, with an emphasis on juvenile and young adult literature, and teaches world-building and creative writing at schools, conferences, and festivals across North America.

Find her on her new website or on twitter @danika_dinsmore


Danika is giving away one free copy of her new book, Ondelle of Grioth, to a random commenter. Giveaway is effective until Friday, April 18, 2014 at which time a winner will be selected. (Details: a print copy to anyone in North America and an ebook copy to anyone else worldwide. AND, if the winner has not read books One and Two and would like to read those first, she can send free ebook copies of those as well.) Sweet deal!


Britt’s Life Enthusiast Chronicles

This is not a picture of my dog. This is a mixed wolf - half gray wolf and half Husky. Her name is Spirit. She was abused by her owner, but later she was rescued and rehabilitated by a woman named Brenda. Doesn’t Spirit have a sweet face?


wolves inspire me with my writing

The fun-loving, energetic, and talented Britt Skrabanek is an indie author who has recently made a move to Portland, Oregon. While Britt is unpacking her bags, I am making myself at home on her blog.

Please come on by and read about one of my greatest passions. I’ll be waiting for you!

Pen Names: Sleazy or Savvy Writing Strategy

One of my writing friends, Amy, told me about a self-published author she met. The woman – let’s call her Sheba – apparently supports herself and her husband publishing sci-fi and non-fiction. She sold 40,000 books last year.

She researches and outlines, learns about new subjects, watches headlines for new topics. Her biggest hits are “lunch reads” with word limits of 8-12,000 words, appealing to people accustomed to reading the internet. Her constipation quick read was one of the books that sold the best.

Sheba admits she is not a very good writer. She writes fast and does little editing. If she finds typos later, she might take the book down to fix the errors, but only if the errors are glaring. Sheba advises never to read your reviews.

Here’s what really caught my attention: She has 10+ pen names.


pen names: sleazy or savvy writing strategy 

Self-published, full-length novels can sell for .99 as an ebook, so a lunch read shouldn’t cost as much. Sheba’s selling her books at .99, 2.99, and 3.99. Even at .99, her lunch reads are overpriced (in comparison to full-length novels).

With a pseudonym, Sheba doesn’t carry the “scarlet letter” of bad author from book to book. People buy her books not knowing that previous books of hers received bad reviews. Her advice? “Insulate yourself with pen names otherwise you might as well be playing on the freeway.”

Don’t get me started on her careless attitude on proofreading.

Sounds to me like Sheba writes crap.

if you're writing crap, get a pen name

No wonder her constipation quick read was a huge seller.

I may not be completely sold on the merits of indie publishing, but the indie books that I have read are written by honest people who truly care about what they write and how well their work is received. Yes, they’d like to make money but they care about the way they are making their money.

My friend, Amy, has queried two novels. I have read them both, and they are worthy of publication. Solid writing; fun, interesting characters; smart plotlines. Even though she received partial and full requests, nothing more has happened down the traditional publishing route.

When Amy told Sheba that she was considering traditional publishing, Sheba told Amy to get a pen name and go indie.

Amy is considering it, and I can see the allure. Testing the indie waters with a pen name, so as not to mar her real name. If her book tanks, then she saves herself a lot of embarrassment, right? And if it soars? Then she can remove her disguise and admit proudly that she’s the real author. It’s an option for writers who are worried about how their books will fare in the public eye.

For Amy, this could be a solution to her publishing dilemma. Her books are quality writing, where no one would feel cheated. And if she uses a pen name, at least she’d be doing it for legitimate reasons.

Such a scenario brings to mind JK Rowling of the Harry Potter series fame. Afraid boys wouldn’t buy books written by a woman, she was marketed as a male author. When her true identity was revealed, were boys disappointed? Did she lose readers? If she did, it was barely a scratch on the surface of her fame and fortune.

Then, apparently, she did it again with Cuckoo’s Calling, publishing under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith. Sales were minimal until it was revealed that Galbraith was really Rowling.

In no time, sales shot up. Rowling explained she wanted to “publish without hype or explanation.”

Other famous authors have published under pen names. Nora Roberts, Michael Crichton, and Agatha Christie are a few examples.

Obviously, pen names come in handy. Authors can hide behind them to allow their work to be judged without prejudice. If Rowling and Roberts and any other writer feel their gender, race, age, or inexperience (or experience in Rowling’s case) would hinder sales, then I can understand the desire for anonymity.

Maybe Sheba’s simply a savvy businesswoman. After all, this is a subjective field and not everyone is going to agree on whether a book should be published or not.

But if this so-called author is using pen names because she knows her books aren’t very good, then maybe she ought to try harder at the craft.

A Writing Contest Tale

This past December, I came across a writing contest run by a local independent publishing company. The contest was open to all fiction. Contestants were to send in their first 15 pages, no query or logline required. The pages were to be anonymous, but the email cover letter needed to have contact information.

The judges would pick their favorites from the initial round, contact the contestants to send in full manuscripts, and they’d announce the top 3 winners in March.

The prizes? Free publishing contracts with the company, worth $1500.00 plus benefits.

I sent in Ms. Bossy. The book that won’t let me move on.

Ms. Bossy -- the book that won't let me go

As it’s finished and just hovering in my workspace, I figured why not? I sent the first 15 pages through cyberspace. I waited. And hoped. I spent the entire month of January thinking about what I’d do if I won. I visualized myself getting the big call letting me know they picked my book.

Weeks passed without a word from the press. By mid-February, I felt deflated. I figured the contestants had been contacted by that point, and I had to face the fact the judges didn’t like my first 15 pages. I think, more than anything, that bothered me the most. Winning the contest itself would have been wonderful – but to know that not even the opening chapters elicited interest was demoralizing.

On March 1, I received an email announcing the 3 winners of the contest. I don’t know any of the writers; I’m sure they all deserve the honor and I’m happy for them. Maybe they’re writers who can’t get past those slush piles in New York. These writers may have been struggling as much as I have, and finally, they’ve been recognized for their efforts.

For days, I moped. I still couldn’t get past the fact my first 15 pages didn’t entice the judges. That meant my opening chapters didn’t hit the mark. It meant my book wasn’t ready. The thought of putting that book away forever sat in the pit of my stomach.

The other day, I received an email from the host of the contest:

Dear Contestant,

Thank you for entering our novel writing contest!  At this time, we’d like you to send us the whole manuscript, as a Word document. We will be announcing the winners on March 1st, so stay tuned!

I had to re-read the email several times. It was way past March 1, and they’d already announced the winners. What was this about?

I emailed right back, asking for clarification.

Here is the host’s response:

Wow, Kate, I don’t even know how that could happen. That email was sent the first week of January. Seriously. I can’t even pretend to tell you how that works, and I’m very sorry you didn’t have a chance to have your full novel in the running. We had over 100 submissions, and asked to see the full manuscript for half of them. We did not track down those who didn’t respond, because we had so much reading to do.

Again, my apologies, but at this point there is nothing we can do about the contest, the winners have indeed been named. Please let me know if I can be of any help.

Reality hit me, and I stopped breathing. I missed my chance on the contest. Because of some stupid cyberspace glitch, the coveted email that requested my FULL manuscript never reached me in time.

Have you ever seen a grown woman throw a tantrum? I was quite the show, I’m sure.

I was upset all day long. Depressed might be a better word. Then, I realized: They had wanted to read the book. My first 15 pages had enticed them.

Then, I realized something else. I can be angry all I want about this so-called missed chance. But, for every day I spend not doing something about this book, or my quest for publication, or writing in general, is a day where I’m missing a chance.

I stopped querying Ms. Bossy last summer. I told myself I wasn’t giving up. I wanted to write another book, a middle-grade novel. I wrote it with my kids in mind, and I thought it would be fun for them to read it while they were at a middle-grade reading level. That was justification enough to switch projects.

But, to be grueling-honest, the querying was wearing me down. Either I was getting rejected or not hearing anything, and for someone as vulnerable as I, that can wreak havoc on a creative spirit.

However, how do I know the next agent I queried wouldn’t have asked for the full? By stepping away from Ms. Bossy, I also stopped giving it a chance. And, let’s face it. If I’d been getting bites on those queries, I wouldn’t have stepped away at all. I’d have figured out how to keep querying alongside writing the middle-grade novel.

I have a lot to consider now. Things I tried to put off are in my face again.

Told you it’s a bossy novel.