Submission Fear - Climbing the Great Wall of Rejections - Jocosa of the Earrings Update

Here on Three Dead Moths ... we've been following the progress of my friend, Jocosa of the Earrings, on her journey toward publication. About a year and a half ago at the Surrey International Writers' Conference, Jocosa must have been all hepped up on the fumes from her mechanical pencil because right there and then in the lobby she made a vow not to cut her hair until she was published - book on shelf published, not just a contract. We've been following the growth of her hair and her progress rewriting her woman's fiction manuscript. In the last update, our heroine of the earrings was a writer in the midst of rewriting hell. I'll let her pick up her story from there ...

Before The Surrey International Writers' Conference and prior to Jan Markley, I was wandering in Submission Hell. I’d completed three manuscripts, had polished manuscript #1 until I couldn’t stand to look at it anymore, and had given in to the pressure of friends and family to “get published already.”

Since I was more than clueless, I agreed. I compiled an agent list, bought manila envelopes and sent my protagonist into strange hands. The results are documented in the picture to the right.

32 rejections.

Each one jabbed at my hope for publication—especially this one: “your heroine seemed to be a bit of a dishrag and her ex a creep…and the way she just “takes it” gives the reader little reason to respect her.” Ouch. But in the end I wasn’t surprised. Sure, I’d polished and purged and reshaped and I’d been pleased with the improvements in all four drafts. But I wasn’t all that certain it was publishable. Not deep in my gut.

Fortunately, destiny dealt a hand and I ended up at a workshop sponsored by The League of Vermont Writerswhere Chuck Sambuchino taught us everything we needed to know about pitches and submissions. He also agreed to read our first ten pages. During my ten-minute session, Chuck renewed my confidence and gifted me with the best writing advice I’d heard to date: Why aren’t you going to conferences?

I followed his blog from then on and a few months later destiny flipped another card. Chuck interviewed literary agent Jeffery McGraw from The August Agency. McGraw raved about The Surrey International Writers Conference. I registered and attended for the first time in 2008.

By the end of the conference my brain had less consistency than scrambled eggs. But I knew why I’d received all 32 rejections. My manuscript was lifeless. I’d done everything wrong, including opening with my heroine driving a car while drinking a cup of coffee.


The overload of information left me in a fog for another week. Then I chose to write. I plunged deep and armed with a notebook full of guidance and Chris Vogler's The Writer's JourneyI finally figured out what the double L toothpicks my story was about.

My reward came in 2009 when The God of Agents—Donald Maass requested the first fifty pages, which I agreed to send after another rewrite. If you’ve been following my journey, you know I finished the sixth draft last September. On a happiness high, I believed without a doubt that this was the draft. I sent the first 50 to The God.

Find out what happened to her submission to Donald, and how long her hair is in the second installment on Thursday. 


Dawn said…
I can hardly wait to hear how the God responded... :-)
Jan Markley said…
Yes, Dawn, we all want to know ...! Thursday will reveal all!
Lynda Young said…
I'm looking forward to the next installment!
Woohoo! Awesome! I want to hear more. Right now!
Jan Markley said…
Soon, Samantha, soon! It's great that Jocosa is sharing her story with us.
Jenn Johansson said…
Very cool! I'm so excited to hear the rest. :)
Talli Roland said…
Oh nooooooo! It's not fair to leave us hanging like that!
Jan Markley said…
Thanks Jenn. Tallie, I like to create suspense!
Talk about keeping us in suspense, though I think I know what happens next. :)
Jan Markley said…
You do, Stina! I hope I didn't spill the beans! LOL!
Diane Girard said…
OOOH, ooh, oooh, I think I know!
Well I hope so.
Jan Markley said…
Diane - I wonder what you know!? I love the great wall of rejection! Artistic arrangement of rejection!
Amie Kaufman said…
Eep! Come on Thursday! I want to hear the next installment!

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