Tag Archives: resilience

Clarify the Concept

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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Girl Jumping on Bed

“A hard fall means a high bounce…if you’re made of the right material.” –Unknown

Every single phenomenal story seems to take the same route: guy has a dream, guy fights and sacrifices and loses everything for his dream, but at the last possible moment, his dream comes true and everything is restored.

This week I endured another round of rejection. Everyone who read my query, synopsis, and sample chapters said the same thing: we love your writing, but we hate your concept.

Concept is the core story. Changing it is the equivalent of starting over and writing a completely different book.

Or is it?

When I asked the last literary agent what she meant by her comment, she suggested I just keep dating to see if I can find the right match without changing my hair color, losing 20 pounds, and getting Lasik surgery. In other words, she didn’t want me to gut my story and start over.

“If 65 agents say the same thing, then you should probably rethink your concept,” she said. “Anything less, I would keep looking.”

I’m only down to a dozen rejections. That leaves 53 more to go before I have to sharpen my pencil.

In the meantime, I have to stop fretting and doubting and worrying.

The only way to do that is to continue working.

After all, as the stakes keep getting higher and the sacrifices keep getting bigger, the payoff gets better.

Don’t let the rejections keep you down. Bounce back, higher and higher. Continue to strive toward your goals.

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