Skip to main content

Real Rejections

I mentioned on Twitter that I wanted to do a post on actual rejections that GRAVITY received while querying, and let me tell you, this was painful. Painful! Some of the rejections were too personalized to post, but a few caused me to take pause and I hoped to share those with you.

Just a little history...

I wrote GRAVITY in roughly three months, revised for two months, and then began querying. My request rate was insane, so I thought I was onto something. Boy was I ever wrong. I queried too early. Way, way, way, way too early. I should have let the MS rest for a few months first. Well, after receiving valuable feedback from several agents, I rewrote GRAVITY from scratch. That was one of the best--and hardest--decisions I ever made.

I began querying again a few months after finishing that draft and ended up with multiple agent offers and an offer from Entangled. Lesson learned. :)

So...want to see some of the rejections that helped shape GRAVITY?  Here ya go!


Basic Rejections:

"I'm not sure aliens are salable, lovable or otherwise."

"This isn't for me."

"I'm not feeling enough passion to move forward."
(Sorry, this one made me laugh!)


The rejections that helped me rewrite the story:

"Why are you making this protagonist so stupid?"
(Plus lots of other comments that made me want to throw up--or cry. But this was a very important rejection. Ari went from a weak MC, to strong and capable and smart on her feet.)

"This feels too familiar. More world-building is needed."
(I received several rejections like this. So what did I do? I revamped my world to make it more futuristic and deepened the world. I found that it wasn't necessary to dump facts here and there. I could lace them into the story so the reader didn't feel overwhelmed.)


Now enough negativity. Want to see my offer?
I thought you might. :)

From Heather Howland, Senior Entangled Teen editor:

"I've finished reading GRAVITY and wow, what an awesome story!"
(This was sent two days after I sent the full MS to Heather. I couldn't believe it! At this point it still had to go to acquisitions, so I wasn't in the clear yet.)

"I have fabulous news! We've made it through the acquisition board and GRAVITY unanimously won us over. I'd love to chat with you as soon as you're available about my contract offer."
(The official offer.)

I hope this post helps! And definitely post any questions you have in the comments. I'll be as open about the process as I can.

~ Mel


  1. I love that you did this! Psst...Your courage is showing. Rejections are useful if they inspire you to make the story better. Your letter of offer gave me goosebumps. I'm eagerly waiting for GRAVITY!

    1. I'm so glad you liked it! Some of the best rejections were too personal to post, but man were they hard to re-read. LOL! And thank you re: GRAVITY! I hope you enjoy it. :)

  2. I'm also glad you did this!

    I had a partial come back with some slightly harsh comments, but after I got over the "you hated it?" (which she didn't) part, I took those comments into revisions. I've been revising off and on for four years (!), but everything helps.

    Question: did you ever get "your characters are flat"? I've gotten that once or twice and was confused. I thought I had lively, emotional characters. I think it's fixed now, but how did you fix that?

    1. Hi Kel! I know how horrible those comments can be. That "stupid" comment above? That's for real. That was actually written on my MS. LOL!

      As for the flat characters comment, that's a common response by agents/editors. It means your characters are one dimensional, not deep enough, etc. I.E. Sally is a reporter, who hates scary movies and never drinks soft drinks. That may seem like a lot of info, but it's not. To deepen the character, we need to know WHY she is that way. Maybe she hates scary movies because she was kidnapped as a kid by a serial killer and barely escaped. Maybe she doesn't drink soft drinks because she has an allergic reaction to carbonation. LOL! Also, what quirks make Sally unique? It's in her responses to things, how she carries herself, how she sees the world, etc. All of those things go in to making a character nice and round instead of flat. Hope that helps! :)

  3. Wow. That "stupid" comment was really harsh. Probably a good thing you didn't end up working with that agent! (I'm assuming.)

    Loved the conclusion, too - those enthusiastic emails from Entangled are wonderful! After all that rejection, it had to feel good to receive those.

    Congratulations, and good luck with your release!

  4. "Why are you making this protagonist so stupid?"

    There must have been a nicer way to say that! ;) I'm glad my interest in writing a book is close to non-existent as I don't think I could ever get a comment like that and not agonise over it for months! Still, as harsh as it may be sometimes, I suppose constructive criticism can only make a book better. I'm glad to hear you used those rejections as positively as you could. :)

    Thanks for sharing, Melissa! It's interesting to get a glimpse into an author's journey, especially from a reader's perspective. :)

  5. I love to hear the rejection stories and the publication stories of authors. I'm glad you didn't give up on Gravity, cause it is definitely on my TBR pile.

    Yes. Re-writing is sometimes the only way!

  6. Thanks for posting this. I am finishing up a MS but the advise of letting it sit for a little bit is one I have heard before. From your comments, it seems valid.

    Rejections are part of the journey, but yikes those were harsh. I hope I can face mine (and I know I'll get them) with the same grace and perseverance you showed.

    Congrats on the contract and This is definitely on my TBR list

  7. What did you feel when you received that message from Entangled? I mean, if I was the one who got that, I'd probably be so shocked that I'd think they were joking, and once I find out they aren't, I'd probably die from happiness.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Pitch Wars 2017 Wishlist!

Hi! How are you? Excited? Nervous? Hating your MS? Loving your MS? Yep, I get it. Been there, have the wrinkles to prove it. But that's what retinoids are for, and besides--

Wait, let me back up and do this introduction thing properly. And, you know, by "properly" I mean Hart of Dixie style.

So, you're probably wondering who I am and why I think I'm a rockstar, when I'm just a brand new little newbie mentor. Well, here's the thing--I'm not really one of those "I think I'm a rockstar" kind of people, so we won't be going there. Sorry. BUT I can tell you who I am. Here goes.


USA TODAY bestselling author Melissa West is the author of more than fifteen novels, each set in the South and ready to steal a reader’s heart with Southern charm, sweet tea, and a whole mess of gossip. Her novels have received high praise and recognition from RT Book Reviews, Seventeen Magazine, Fresh Fiction, and Harlequin Junkie, among others…

Outlining -- a.k.a pulling your hair out

Outlining...yes, that organizational craziness that forces you to look like the poor cat above. Yep, that's what I'm talking about today. After reading a fellow blogger’s post regarding plotters vs. pansters, I began to research various outlining methods. The snowflake method is a very common approach that involves starting with a summary sentence (a.k.a pitch) then expanding out.
Some claim this hinders creativity, while supporters feel it keeps them on track. I've decided to use elements of the approach (click here). I like the pitch sentence to begin with. This took me quite awhile, but in developing my pitch sentence for Twisted Root I found that it helps to think in broad terms. A+B=C But the more interesting element of this model is the disaster moments in the story. You know, those moments where you become the evilest writer on the planet and your characters are tortured.
The Snowflake method suggests that you have 3 disasters (more with sub-plots) and an ending, ea…

Make your readers uncomfortable

I have this one scene in TWISTED ROOT that is…intense. It is so intense that I’ve had reactions all over the place from my CP’s and betas.

Let me start by saying I have a ton of people read my work. An 8 person crit group, 2 crit partners, and 2 that I would say are alpha readers—friends who read tons and have strong editing backgrounds.

So I receive crits all over the place, and this scene has created some interesting responses. One critter went crazy for it, loved it. Another referred to it as slightly icky. I loved that response. :) Another blushed when we discussed it in person. And all of the male critters I have thought it was awesome—go figure. Men have a much higher threshold for uncomfortable-ness, than most women. (JMHO!!!)

Now I’m not saying I don’t adore all my readers. I do. I couldn’t write without them. Each one makes my work stronger. But here’s the thing, I’m keeping the scene, as it is (for now). Wanna know why?

I think as a writer you should make your reader uncomfortab…