This is a follow-up to my October 2013 post Resilience.
“We like your writing, but we don’t like your concept. . .”
After receiving a dozen rejection letters from literary agents all stating the same thing, I started to wonder: what do they mean by “concept” and why don’t they like mine?
Concept is NOT what a story is about. It is a specific thing that happens to a specific person that must be specifically solved.
My query letters all stated situations, ideas, and plot points. As a result, my query ended up reading like an episodic adventure, which is why I kept getting those rejection letters.
I needed to rewrite my query to focus on the concept, to tell the dramatic core of the story and leave everything else out.
The problem was I didn’t know how to describe a novel in which multiple storylines overlapped. I only knew that if I left the query as it was, I would continue to get rejection letters.
I put the query aside and started focusing on other things: art, exercise, prayer, and family. I played a lot of hockey on the XBox and watched more movies of the books I wanted to read. I followed the advice of successful authors who suggested I read developmental studies on how to build a story from a concept and how to transform a weak query into a stronger one.
But, most importantly, I let go of all expectations.
Months later, I woke up hearing a voice. The person was reading from a piece of paper. It was my concept turned into a story. I leapt out of bed and sat down and transcribed the words until tears brimmed in my eyes.
I had my pitch!
Sometimes when we give up, we are really giving in to the universe and allowing our dreams to manifest. By turning away from my problems and enjoying the abundance of life and giving thanks for the wonderful opportunities I have been given to grow, I allowed my prayers to be answered.
Now the true test: will a literary agent like my revised concept enough to request the full manuscript?
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