Because Mondays suck in general, I thought I’d take the time to announce that I’m now officially a writer. I got my first rejection letter in the mail last week. Sigh.
No, I didn’t cry. My heart sank, I moped, stuffed a few Oreos in my mouth, sent out some emails so I could be reassured I didn’t suck, ate a few more Oreos, then moped some more.
Why was the story rejected? To make a long story short, the editor didn’t like the hero’s backstory (he competed on a reality dating show) and felt readers wouldn’t buy him as a heroic character.
To be perfectly honest, I was flabbergasted when she first told me this. By no means do I think I'm a perfect writer. I can point out the flaws in my writing and the story with little to no help from anyone else. I know this manuscript isn’t perfect. But this flaw is something I never considered. I conjured up this story idea years ago, and I’ve never once thought it was a bad idea.
I understand that it is very easy for reality show people to be unlikeable. Trust me, I’ve disliked plenty of them. But there are some contestants who I’ve absolutely adored, and I took some of their best qualities and imbued my hero with them. As they say, “He was there for the right reasons.” :)
No, I’m not saying the editor was wrong. She’s the editor of that line and knows and understands readers’ and the line’s expectations a whole lot better than I do. Obviously. LOL.
But I did learn a few lessons that will help me in the future.
1. Know the line/house you’re targeting inside and out. It’s one thing to read the line. It’s quite another to study it. The editor’s point (and I’m doing a little assuming here) is that the line promises readers’ a fantasy, especially when it comes to the hero.The reality show was a little too real because readers know that world. Everyone has heard of The Bachelor and probably has an opinion on it, whether or not they watch the show, and for many people it’s not positive. I’ve read the books from the line I'm targetting, but I haven’t studied them as critically as I should. That’s going to change.
2. Everything isn’t going to appeal to everyone. There are some topics that are going to push people’s buttons and often you won’t know until you get that rejection letter. Or, in my case as a reader, I put your book down and refuse to buy it. There’s a popular, contemporary romance writer who has a series out I have no intention of reading. I’ve read and enjoyed her books in the past, but I can’t get past the subject matter in this series. I know the author LOVES it because I follow her on Twitter, but I just can’t.
3. Love what you write, but be willing to take advice. I’m passionate about the subjects I’ve written about, and I hope that shines through. However, the editor made some valid points that I plan to incorporate into this manuscript and future ones. If you don't take the advice, know why and be able to articulate it. Being stubborn for the sake of being stubborn or thinking your writing is perfect isn't going to cut it.
Will this book ever get published? The better question is will any of my books get published? I don’t know, but I don’t intend to stop pursuing it any time soon.
I think this story still has merit. I’m letting the rejection marinate for a while and then I plan to reopen the document and perform some surgery and send it elsewhere. I might feel differently if it gets rejected by everybody in the publishing world, but for now I choose to remain positive about it and take the lessons I’ve learned to heart.
I’m embarrassed about how long it’s been since I blogged, especially considering one of my New Year’s resolutions was to blog more regularly. But the way I figure it, I still have the majority of the year to get it together. Plus, the last month has been hectic. I became a homeowner for the first time, I became an officer in my local RWA chapter, and I was trying to Nano a book in January despite the fact that I kept freaking out because I didn’t know where the story was going. And I haven’t mentioned my two jobs.
Anyway...I needed to blog today because I want to say thank you to some people.
I won’t go into the details because they’re not important, but last week, I got some unfortunate writing news.
I tweeted something really dramatic about how a year had been lost. Trust me, it was way dramatic. lol. I’ve never thought of myself as being dramatic, but apparently, Twitter is where I go when I decide it’s a good time (and not only about writing stuff).
I realized this when I started getting tweets from people, including @beelie317, @maiseyyates, @JackieAshenden, and @Joanne_Coles asking if I was okay.
I want to thank them, @RoniLoren, @kailyhart, @JamiGold, @_ChristineBell, Irie Spice, Piper and all the other people at eharlequin.com’s message board thread Submission Care for reaching out to me.
Everyone immediately made me feel better, and I realized people do care. And that’s priceless.
As a writer, a lot of times I feel alone. Writing is mostly a solitary endeavor – just you and your computer. But writers really are the nicest people. In one sense, we’re competing with one another, but in another, we recognize and embrace the fact that we’re all in this together. We get each other and understand the highs and lows of being a writer and why we do it. Writing is fun and maddening and we love it. And we couldn’t do it without the support of other writers.
It’s a community I’m proud to be a member of.
So thank you from the bottom of my heart.
P.S. If I forgot anyone, I apologize. I’m mentioning names from memory, but please know that I read every Twitter reply and Subcare.
P.P.S. I would also be beyond remiss if I didn’t mention the editor who saw my story at eharlequin.com and alerted the Kimani senior editor, Kelli Martin, who reached out to me the next morning. Thank you so much to the both of them.
Today is a banner day for me. I’m starting a new manuscript – my third. First drafts are my favorite part of the writing process. It’s when I’m at my most creative and let the ideas flow freely. I have an idea of where I want the story to go, but I love getting that zing when an idea pops into my head that makes the story funnier or connects to another, previously unrelated plot point. I’m more of a pantser than a plotter, so it’s all great fun.
However, this new manuscript is different from my first two. The first two had been rolling around in my head for years. I think 2002 for the first one, Seducing Ms. Right, and 2003 for the second one, Second to None. They were stories straight from my heart. I got to write about football in the first and a The Bachelor-type show in the second. These are two things I know waaaayyy too much about. I knew for years what the central conflict in the stories would be (in part anyway).
This new manuscript idea only came to me in late 2010. I was trying to finish up Second to None, but this story kept poking at me. The title, Tell Me Something Good, came to me first. I think I heard the song on the radio and thought that would make a great book title. The “Tell” part stuck out to me and the first thing to pop into my head were radio personalities. Both my heroine and hero are talk show hosts, working for the same radio station. I know they don’t like each other. They each have not-so-nice (but funny) nicknames they’ve given each other that play off the other’s name. Tate and Noelle are going to be fun to write.
However…I don’t know much else. I’m pretty sure she says something that hacks him off and then hilarity will ensue. I kind of have glimpses of their personalities – she’s a little uptight, he’s the fun-loving flirt. I think anyway. I have an inkling of how the story ends – that idea popped into my head as I drove to work this morning – but other than that, I’m not sure.
Basically I’m entering unchartered waters. I know I want to figure out their motivations and goals before I dive too deep into the story. If I don’t, I’ll have problems. Been there, done that. With Second to None, I managed to write a complete first draft without fully understanding what drove Jeremiah, the hero. Not good. I don’t want to make that mistake with Tell Me.
I have a craft book on characters that I’m going to peruse and use to help shape their personalities and figure out how they complement each other. I’m also going to do basic background sketches, so I know their backstories and, by extension, their motivations.
I hope this helps me avoid some of the pitfalls from the first two books, even though I know there are others waiting for me if only because I’m still learning how to be a writer. I always will be.
But anyway…wish me luck in this endeavor.
What do you do to prepare to write a book? Detailed character studies and plot outlines? Or do you sit at your computer and let your fingers take over? Something in between?