Monday, January 27, 2014

Reading the tea leaves of rejection

The sixth in series of blog posts for my 8th grade students about the process of trying to publish my YA historical novel.

Since Friday, I have received two more rejections from literary agents. I'm 0-4 and waiting on 26 queries. The more I read online and in writing magazine, four passes from potential agents is a drop in a bucket. However, I am not just sitting back. The rejections have made look at my manuscript with a new eye.

I considered what might be missing from the synopsis, the five few pages, and/or the query. And I forced myself to try to be honest and objective--or as close to objective as someone can be after spending three years on a story.

The question: what is missing? My answer (according to what agents have posted online): find a way for the fantastical to be embedded in historical fiction. Find the story in the history that raises an eyebrow, or makes a young adult forget for a moment that they are reading historical fiction.

 A raising of the stakes, so to speak.

Since the first rejection, I have added another character and subplot that blends in with what I already had--not to rewrite the story, but introduce the element that is missing.

In the world of immigrants, WWI, and starvation/rationing in many corners of Europe, enter real-life physicist Max Planck. As the recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918 (the year of my story), Planck is considered the originator of quantum theory. He was also a brilliant musician--loving the piano. Without giving much away online, Planck adds the fantastical element to my historical fiction in that quantum theory can be extended into the addition of a time travel element, and it allowed me to find a more relevant and useful role for a character who initially just disappeared in the text.

Adding the additional subplot and character has already infused another 10,000. I am over 120,000 as of today. This had put additional queries on hold for the time being.

The big target is being ready for the SCBWI conference in late February where I can pitch agents face to face.

The interesting twist would be if I received a positive reply to a query and an agent asks for a chunk of the novel. Would the addition of the character and sub plot make the difference and push me over the top, or would it turn an agent off--as in, this wasn't mentioned in the pitch.

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