Saturday, May 8, 2010

Welcome Sharon Donovan

Hello! A warm thank you to the Prairie Chicks for having me as their guest today. I’d like to chat about rejection letters. Are they the demons and bitter pills and a writer’s worst nightmare? Every writer has traveled this long and winding road, and if you’re having a bad day, receiving a rejection letter might just be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Rejection letters make us doubt our writing ability, our creative muse, and ultimately, ourselves and our purpose. With the devil perched on our shoulder, better add the why was I even born syndrome to the mix. Before long, chins are dragging on the floor and the poor poor pitiful me party is just getting started.

After a long bout with progressive blindness, due to diabetic retinopathy, my life took a severe nose dive. I went from being a legal secretary for a judge to not being able to see the paper, let alone the print. But worst than that, I could no longer pursue my passion of painting. With a strong creative muse and nowhere to channel it, life became as dull as my existence. But when I heard about a computer with adaptive software, converting text to synthesized speech, hope soared. With a new outlook and a new direction, I challenged myself to write a romantic suspense.

Once I’d written my first full length novel, I envisioned agents and Hollywood movie producers beating a path to my door. With this happy little fantasy in mind, I whipped out twenty-one submission packages to top New York agents. Then I sat back, waiting for the phone to ring off the hook. It never rang. But slowly but surely, all agents responded to my romantic suspense, each a rejection letter. The worst of the lot said simply, "Your project does not excite us."

With that little devil perched on my shoulder once more, my first reaction was to fire back an email of attack. Everything in me wanted to scream they’d be sorry when what they so carelessly pitched in the trash wound up a New York Times bestseller. But my psychology classes kicked in, and Freud’s ego component mediated between the devil and the angel. I orchestrated a new plan of attack. I enrolled in creative writing classes, joined critique groups and attended conferences. It didn’t take long to realize why my novel was rejected. Using knowledge as power, I learned to accept criticism from group members. And while attending a conference, The door to Wild Rose Press was opened. One more grain of knowledge to add to the list. I was marketing my novel in the wrong genre. While it had elements of romance, it did not fit the standard romance category and was rejected once more.

Unwilling to ditch the dream of having my first novel published, I set it aside on my hard drive. For the next two years, I focused on short stories of romance and had several published by The Wild Rose Press. Then I published a book about my struggles with diabetic retinopathy, giving a percentage of proceeds to JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) fight for a cure. More confident in my writing skills, I wrote a full length romantic suspense. Her Biggest Fan was accepted and will be released by Wild Rose Press in September. Now it was time to attack my first novel, still sitting pretty on my hard drive collecting dust.

While polishing it to the best of my ability, I recalled the words of a teacher in my writing class. She said the first book written is rarely the first book sold. Truer words were never spoken. After twenty-two rejection letters, three title changes and numerous rewrites, my first novel has a home. I am pleased to announced the release of Mask of the Betrayer by Whimsical Publications, book one in the series. Even though it has plenty of romance in it, it’s more about the complexity of the mind and is labeled a psychological thriller.

So are rejection letters really the bad seed we make them out to be? You betcha. But that one straw that could have broke the camel’s back made my back a hell of a lot stronger. Writing is a learning experience. The key is keeping up with the continuous changes in the writing world and knowing the market in which you are targeting. Rejection letters hurt, but for every rejection there is acceptance. My advice is to keep on writing and keep on submitting. What’s the most valuable lesson I’ve learned through all of this? I’m a better writer today than I was yesterday, but not as good as I will be tomorrow.

Visit Sharon at her website: for news on her latest release and what's she's working on at the moment. You'll also find reviews, excerpts, and information on her contests.
You can also follow Sharon on her blog at


Sharon Donovan said...

Good morning! A warm thank you to Janet and the chicks for having me today as their guest! I'm honored to be here and welcome your comments about rejection letters. Do they help or hinder you in your writing process?

Mitzi said...

I see rejections as validating that I'm submitting. So many writers write but never submit. The erotic romance novella I just had published by The Wild Rose Press, Teasing the Muse, received a rejection from another e-publisher. So instead of pitching it out, I pitched it to an editor. Success!
It's hard not to get discouraged but the difference between a nonpublished and a published writer: never giving up.

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Mitzi, good for you. You have the right idea and the spunk it takes to be a writer. If we gave up and crawled in a hole after a rejection, we'd never get too far. On the heels of every rejection, there is acceptance, as you found out. Best of luck,

Margaret Tanner said...

Wow Sharon,
You have fought so many battles and won. Congratulations on all your releases. You deserve all the success and accolades that come your way. And our advice for authors receiving rejections is very sound.


Donna B said...

Wonderful post, Sharon, and so true. Writing is definitely a journey. When you first think "I have arrived!", you've just begun.

I'm not published yet, but I've learned a lot over the past few years, and I know it will come - hopefully soon. I've received my share of rejections, and with each one that gives a grain of hope I am one step closer.

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Margaret, thanks for dropping by. And thank you for your high praise. Yes, I've had more than my share of challenges, but what didn't kill me made me stronger. Rejection is not always a bad thing. In my humble opinion, it builds character and makes one grow as a person, and most certainly a writer.

Janet said...

First, I need to Welcome you to The Prairies, Sharon. I didn't think everyone would be up and at it so early this morning.

Second - I love your post because it gives me hope. I'm accumulating a stack of rejections. But, as Mitzi said, those rejections mean I'm submitting. And working towards publication, not away from it.

I'll keep submitting - and then one day, I'll have a post about rejection letters that will, hopefully, encourage other writers to keep going (just as you've done here with your wonderful post).

Looking forward to a great day - and a great discussion :)

Redameter said...

Hi Sharon,
See I read blogs, just don't write them often. But you are right about rejection hurting. And this is where the writer is made. She can either give up and never write another thing, or she can "show them".

Writing is a tough job. And only the dedicated survive. True rejection is a stepping stone, but it's hard to tell that to someone who just got rejected. Any kind of rejection hurts, but to be told we slaved over a manuscript and sweated and finished the darn thing, and then the publisher doesn't like it, for this or that reason. It's hard to take. Necessary, but sill hard to take. Most of the time we survive them and go on, proving them wrong in the long run.
Love and blessings

Hywela Lyn said...

Hi Sharon, dear friend,

What an inspiring and encouraging post. I too have had my share of rejections, what author hasn't? They hurt and it's easy to feel discouraged and to give up. If a writer really wants to succeed though, we can learn from the experience and keep trying to improve and learn as much as we possibly can about the craft.

You had so many obstacles to overcome, and you approached this hurdle like you always do, with courage and conviction. You proved that one really can learn from rejections, and each step you take, and each lesson you learn, takes one closer to being a better writer and to success.

I'm so happy to see 'Mask Of The Betrayer' out in the world, and am looking forward to reading it immensely . You've proved that rejection letters needn't be the end of a writing career, rather the start of it.

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Donna, thanks for coming by and giving your valued opinion. Right you are, writing
is a long journey, full of ups and downs. But as you say, it's a learning experience
and a test of strength and character. What are you made of? This is something a writer
has to constantly balance. There will always be the good, bad and the ugly. But on
the flip side of the coin, there is a silver lining. And for me, it's passion. I'm
not happy unless my creative muse is well fed.
Keep on plugging, you'll get there, I know!

Liz Fichera said...

Very inspiring. Someone once told me that every "no" gets you closer to "yes." Cliche, maybe. But true.

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Janet. Thank you for the warm welcome! I'm so glad to be here and already, such a lively discussion. You have the right idea, keep right on submitting. Unless you try, you will not get your foot in the door. Just because one editor or agent rejects you, it could be the project wasn't right. But there is a home for every polished piece, and that is the mission of the writer. Keep on polishing until it shines. Then keep on submitting and someone will see and value you and your work. The best of luck to you, Janet. One day your writing will shine among the brightest.

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Rita, thanks for popping by. You bring up a good point about rejection. It hurts, but I think it's the way in which the dagger is wielded. I was shocked to learn the many forms of rejection letters, and how they all have a place on the scale. A form letter states no interest, no time. The post card I got with the one liner, "This project doesn't interest us" is the pits. But when you graduate to the rejection letter where an editor or agent takes the time to use your name instead of "Dear Author" and gives a few pointers of why she/he is not accepting your project, this is a step ahead, and one step closer to acceptance and publication.
Thanks for your voice in the matter,

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Lyn, my dear friend. Thank you for your wonderful words of wisdom and inspiring words. I like that, let it be a beginning. We're only human and it's a human emotion to feel hurt when rejected. We take it personally, but in the long run, we must develop tough skin if we want to stand tall in a world of stiff competition. We can't please everyone, but, ultimately, we have to please ourselves and our readers. Thanks, Lyn. I hope you enjoy reading Mask of the Betrayer as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Ann Yost said...

Sharon - as always your story is inspiring. You really have taken lemons and made lemonade with them. The switch from painting to writing is interesting...I wonder if others are able to re-channel their creativity into another art form like that.
And on the rejection letter subject: you have a great attitude. I'm with you. I especially hate the ones that say "your project just doesn't excite me. Ugh!"
Thank you for being so generous with your time and talent to other writers and best of luck with the upcoming release.

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Liz, thank you so much. Sometimes that's all it takes is a word of encouragement to put us in a "We can do it" mood. I agree with the cliche, and if it works, why knock it?

Celia Yeary said...

SHARON--well, I don't know how you do it, but I do stand in admiration for you. I liked the phrase "knowledge is power"--I'll add that to my favorite sayings and quotes. One day, I'll write a blog about how I use these in my writing--and other aspects of my life, too.
My story parallels yours. My first novel was soundly rejected by all the NY pubs, and that was when ePresses were just coming into their own. Wild Rose gave me my first contract, but then I didn't give anyone else a chance at my masterpiece! I researched and studied TWRP from inside and out to see if they fit my standards. Pretty bold of me, or stupid, but they came out to be the best at the time, and they got it. The contract was offered quickly. And my first ms? They took it, too, after much reworking and adding. Thanks for a thoughtful, truthful article. Very well done. Celia
P.S. I have a folder in my file cabinent with every paper rejection. I use those for motivation, knowing I got as big NY editor to send me a letter! Ha-ha.

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Ann, thank you so much. Aren't you sweet! When you think about it, there was a choice to make and I made it. Rebuild or give up. I chose to rebuild my life and really enjoy inspiring others with the gift of hope. You're a gem, Ann. Never change. And thanks for the well wishes for Mask of the Betrayer. Fingers and toes crossed that it does well. It's the book of my heart.

Karyn Good said...

Welcome to the Prairies, Sharon, and thanks for sharing your journey with us.

Rejection is part of the writing process. As I get ready to begin the submission process, I'll keep your post, and your attitude, in mind :)

P.L. Parker said...

ARRRGGHHH - the rejection letters -my favorite are the mass generic ones that have nothing to do with the story you wrote, but rejection all the same. Rejection now doesn't hurt nearly as much as it did three years ago. I've learned to accept and move on.

liana laverentz said...

Way to go, Sharon! I'm so glad you stuck with it. Your writing has inspired and entertained me time and time again.

Liana Laverentz

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Celia, thank you for stopping by to add your thoughts, and for your kind and encouraging
words. Good for you, researching the Wild Rose or any pub you are thinking of submitting
to. And why not? Authors don't want their work published just to have it published.
There are agents and editors out there who are not on the level, and it is a wise
move to check on their reputation. And one thing I'm sure all writers know is to
never pay an agency for a reading fee. This is considered unethical and is a sign
to not get involved with that pub. RED LETTER ALERT. Writers magazines in print form
and online have so many tips about submitting. I keep a file of my NY rejection letters
too. And BTW, knowledge really is power. I stand behind it 100%

Sharon Donovan said...

Thanks for the welcome, Karyn. I'm happy to pass on what I've learned through my writing endeavors. Wishing you the best of luck when submitting. Remember, for every rejection, acceptance is right around the corner.

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Patsy, isn't it the truth, girl. They don't hurt the way they did three years ago. What's the saying? Live and learn. Thanks or stopping by. It's been a long and winding road!

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Liana! How ironic that you should drop by today. Thank you for your words of encouragement. They mean so much to me. I must give you a special shout out to the Prairie Chicks. It was Liana who was at the writers conference four years ago when the NY agent from the big writers house rejected my project. I went down to the coffee shop and a woman began chatting with me. To my shock and surprise, I spilled my blues out to this woman I'd never met in my life. She told me to submit to the Wild Rose Press and I did. Liana was my angel that day, in the right place at the right time when our paths crossed. Raising a toast to Liana. Cheers! Your rock!

Jana Richards said...

Sharon, welcome to the Prairies! Your story and your life is inspiring to us all.

Rejection hurts. A lot. At one point I almost let it defeat me. I'm glad I took a friend's suggestion (as you did) and began to submit my work to epublishers. Being epublished has given me the confidence to continue writing, and to hopefully become a better writer.

It's ironic that your topic today is about rejection. My blog for Monday here on Prairie Chicks is Rejection Stories. Several writers share their worst, best, and most bizarre rejection stories with me.

Thanks for joining us today!

Miss Mae said...

Hey there Sharon, my fellow TWRP and WP author!

Ooh, yes, rejection letters hurt! And especially if you continually get them for the exact same manuscript, when maybe you took the advice of one rejection editor, thought it all seemed right, subbed again, receive another rejection for some other point, re-write again, submit, get rejection...on and on and on, it seems!

Like you, I put that first story in a drawer and almost entirely gave up on it.

I finally did sell many years later (another story) to TWRP, and it was accepted right out!

So to persevere is what I've learned, but I know you already know that. :)

Hugs on your wonderful successes!

Sharon Donovan said...

Thanks, Jana. My post today can be a prelude to yours on Monday. Sharing our rejection letters with one another softens the blow. I'm glad you didn't allow yourself to be defeated by negative people and bad vibes.

Sharon Donovan said...

Hey, Miss Mae! Thanks for stopping by, my friend. Yes, when those rejection letters roll in like a sequence series, look out. Downright depressing, and that's no lie! But through it all, we learn to accept the good with the bad and pass onto others what we have learned. I am so thrilled that Mask of the Betrayer has a home with Whimsical Publications. This is the book of my heart and I've just ordered my copies and cannot wait to hold them in my hot little hands. If you like a psychological thriller, and like to get inside the mind of a killer, I think you will like this book. And just so you all know, I'm running a Zorro contest on my website for the entire month of May. There is a murder in the mansion at a masquerade in Mask of the Betrayer. The prize I'm offering is a deluxe Zorro cape with jeweled clip. Check it out

connie said...

Hi Sharon,

You are one strong lady! I am happy to know you, even just this much, and I love your 'oh well, if I can't do this, I'll do that' attitude.

My husband put his hand on my shoulder and asked if I was okay with my first rejection letter. I was and I promptly framed it. (It was a bit much that they didn't like the plot or characters or anything else in the form letter).

I too put the ms in a box, but I kept jotting down ideas on cards and throwing them in the box too. I'm starting over on it now (having murdered my heroine who will rise from the ashes) and it's going to be okay ...eventually.

But I'm not going to submit to that same house. One day, they'll be sorry! hah

And I too welcome you to the prairies. Please come back both as a blogger and a follower

Mary Ricksen said...

Sharon my amazing friend, I am so proud of you and respectful of your strength and resilience! You Are the best of the best!!

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Connie, thanks for the welcome. Good for you, going great guns ahead with your MS. I love it, framing a rejection letter. I suppose we all feel that rush of pain, then anger and a "You'll be sorry one day syndrome!" But in the long run, the MS will be perfected and will find its rightful home. Best of luck to you.

Janet said...

What a great day - lots of discussion on those rejection letters. We all have to go through it, it's good to know that others have found success afterwards and the rest of us are determined to find ours, too.

For all the Chicks, I want to thank you for joining us today, Sharon. Your story is inspirational. And thanks for the time you took answering the comments and encouraging all of us to keep going! Best of luck on your release of Mask of the Betrayer!!

Linda Swift said...

Hi Sharon, sorry to be late. We have been driving all day from FL into mid-AL and I'm just getting online. I'm bone tired but I never see a notice on the loops that you are blogging I don't take the time to check it out. Why? Because you are an inspiration and you always speak with the depth of wisdom and experience that touches my heart.

As for rejections, I find they are much easier to take if you have more than one thing out for consideration at a time. And the minute a reject comes, turn that manuscript right around and send it someplace else.

I have a list of my available manuscripts and possible places to submit them. And I make this list after studying the market and trying to fit the stories to the right pub. So when #1 pub choice says no, it goes ASAP to pub choice #2.

The difference between a published writer and an unpublished one is lunatic persistence, you know. I didn't create this phrase, but I live it! I wish you great success with Mask of the Betrayer. Linda

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Mary, my sweet and supportive pal. Thanks so much for stopping by for me today. Your inspiring words always make me smile!

Sharon Donovan said...

Linda, aw, what a sweetheart you are! I do so appreciate your taking the time after
traveling all day to come over and leave a comment. You crack me up. I love it! The
difference between being published and unpublished is "lunatic persistence! You have
a way with words, my friend. Ever consider being an author? LOL
But in all seriousness, thank you so much for your sweet and encouraging words and
your support of my work. Words to live by indeed. Keep pushing yourself to send that
proposal package out and someone out there will find the diamond in the rough. We
all go through it and persistence does pay off in the long run.

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Janet, a very warm thank you to you and the chicks for having me as your guest
today. It was great fun and a real pleasure to pass on what I've learned through
rejection letters. I wish you much luck and know in my heart that your day will come.
I'll leave you with words that echo the joy in my heart. "Never give up on a dream!"

Viviane Brentanos said...

Great post, Sharon, and so inspiring. I too know what it is like to under stain. My recently pubbed novel, Dreamweek, was written under the influence of Chemo drugs.
Rejection can be tough, also a little annoying when you receive the standard reject form. Critical input is always welcome and useful but the...doesn't meet our requirements....what the hell does that mean? Nothing. I think, as wiriters, we must remain true to ourselves. Don't sacrifice your style and voice for the sake of a contract.Hang on to you find someone who appreciates your work. If it is well-written, polished then you will. Trends come and co. True talent remains. Let's face it. Shakespeare wouldn't stand a chance in hell these days.


Heather said...

Its always so helpful to come reading here at the Prairie Chicks. My next step is to take another writing class. I haven't the slightest idea on how to go about submitting my book anywhere, but I had so much fun with the writing that I am good where I am right now. Have to go step by step and when I am ready to send it out anywhere, I'll be ready to accept that it will probably be rejected many times before getting accepted somewhere.

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Viviane and Heather,
Thanks you both for stopping by to read my post. Rejection is part of the process and you can take it as a learning experience and a stepping stone. Think positive and doors will open. All the best,

Kelley said...

Thanks for the inspiring post. Rejection letters are part of a writer's life. You have to have a thick skin in this business. Whenever I get a rejection, I do get a little angry, but then I think about it and why my story was rejected. Sometimes it's just a matter of finding the right publisher.

I love the title of your book--Mask of the Betrayer. I'm glad you finally found a home for it.

Diane Craver said...

You're an inspiration.

Congratulations on not getting discouraged and getting a contract for your first book. I've heard so many authors say that their first few manuscripts are rejected. Like you, my first romance, NO GREATER LOSS, was published by Samhain. I did tons of rewrites on it though plus I also changed the title and even changed the names of the main characters. LOL

Great post!

Laurean Brooks said...

Hi Sharon,
When I first started writing, I wrote 20 short stories in a year. Before I submitted, I read a book on getting published. The author said, "For every submission, expect nine rejections."

So I counted each time I sent a story out, and didn't let it bother me. I don't think I ever got to the magic number nine on any of them. LOL. But knowing not to expect an acceptance until number 10, kept me focused.

I was lucky or "blessed" with my first full length, "Journey To Forgiveness". After I sent it to one publisher and waited three months, I sent it to The Wild Rose Press. They liked it! After a major re-write of the first three chapters, they took it. Yaaaay!

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Kelley, you are so right. We need to develop a thick skin and roll with the punches. For the most part, in spite of our initial response to spit fire at the messenger, we are rejected for a reason. Like a mystery, it's up to the writer to figure out what we are doing wrong and remedy it before submitting again. I'm glad your persistence paid off. You like the title of Mask of the Betrayer? Thanks. You know I sometimes have to catch myself since I changed the title so many times and must be careful not to jot down a ghost from the past. LOL

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Diane, thank you so much for your encouraging words. I know what you mean. I never once changed the names of my main characters, Margot and Michael, but I changed the story and the title three times. LOL

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Laurie, thanks for commenting. Nine rejections? LOL Try twenty-two! If that doesn't throw a curve ball I don't know what does. But I kept pushing and learning and alas! Congratulations on Journey to Forgiveness finding a home with TWRP. What a great book.

LK Hunsaker said...

Hi Sharon, I'm impressed by your strength of will and determination! I also love your last line, that you're better than yesterday and not as good as tomorrow (paraphrased). We should all feel that way. :-)

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Loraine, thank you so much for your kind words. I really live by those words. When I look back at some of the things I wrote a few years ago, I cringe. As someone once said, practice makes perfect. Writing is an art and has to be polished to make it shine.