Tuesday, January 17

What Do They Want From Us?



Yesterday, Liz celebrated writing “The End” on her current manuscript (back to the little town of Lake Miniagua!), and I can promise you, it’s another great one! I just did a beta read on it, and man, oh, man, I want to write like Liz when I grow up. 

Oh, wait . . . I’m supposed to be all grown-up already, aren’t I? Well, sometimes I don’t feel very grown-up, which is ironic because in most people’s view, at 63, I’m well into my senior years. But isn’t it funny how, no matter how old we are, we let other people’s opinions affect how we feel about ourselves and our accomplishments? 

This past week, I got a rejection letter. I finally heard from an editor who’d had my Women of Willow Bay series in her hands for over nine months. She read the first book, Once More From the Top, and although she was very complimentary about my story and my abilities as a storyteller, she said that my mature characters’ “ability to say what is on their minds almost all the time feels a bit unrealistic.” Seriously? My characters were able to communicate like adults. That’s what you don't like about my story? I wanted to scream and write a very, very immature response, but I didn’t go there . . . okay, so maybe I did rant a little bit--to Liz, not the editor.

But here’s the thing. One of the comments we hear all the time about romance is that conflict is false conflict if it can be resolved by the two characters simply having conversation. Liam and Carrie in Once More From the Top are two adults, who’ve both lived a lot of life in their forty-plus years. Of course they can say what’s on their minds—it’s called maturity. Being able to have grown-up conversations doesn’t negate the seriousness of these two characters’ conflict. There are dark moments and issues that didn’t get resolved until the end of the story. The difference is that instead of pouting or tearing one another apart with pseudo-sophisticated verbal one-upsmanship, they talked to each other. They shared their fears, their hopes, and their dreams, and in the end, they found a compromise that worked for both of them. 
 
The rejection made me feel like a complete hack as a writer, like I don’t have a clue what editors want even though I work with all four of the big romance publishers. Worst of all, I was defeated, thinking that I’ll never, ever find a publisher and I want to be traditionally pubbed—I really do. But, as I was pouting about that letter, thinking maybe I’m not meant to be a writer and I should just stick to editing, I remembered a blog I wrote not long after my sister Kate died, a time when I was stuck in grief and despair. In it I quoted actress Camryn Manheim. She said, “I’m standing at the corner of Life and You Better Get Going. I stepped off the curb and I never looked back.” 

That quote just smacked me right between the eyes. It is life changing . . . I need to claim it in regard to my writing life because I am standing on that corner right now. I’ve never imagined not being a writer and maybe that’s the place I need to get back to. Writing because it’s who I am, why I breathe. Writing because I can’t not write even when I don’t feel the inspiration or the motivation. Even when I’m laid low by a rejection. 

Once again, I have to step off that curb. let the stories flow, and simply write, because life isn't going to wait around while I pout about a rejection. It's time to get going . . .


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16 comments:

  1. Thanks for the shout-out. What a great reminder of what we all need to be reminded OF. I appreciate both you and Camryn Manheim--whose book I enjoyed, too, BTW!

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    1. I have that quote on the bulletin board above my desk--on days like this, it reminds me...time to get going... ;-)

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  2. I really feel your pain. I poked fun at the whole lack of communication thing in the novel I have coming out in March: There's a scene where the female protagonist misinterprets something, that in a more stereotypical romance would have been the hinge of the entire plot. In my book, they talk it out and the whole thing's over in three pages. I suppose only other writers will get that the scene's something of a parody!

    I recently had an editor praise a YA manuscript of mine, then reject it because it was a great story, but her publisher's board agreed that YA is going dark and edgy. I have a feeling our reactions were pretty similar.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Mark, and I'm with you all the way with the frustration of rejections that seem to pat us on the back and then smack us down with the one thing that we believe defines our story. I think wine (and whine) may be in order. ;-)

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  3. Sounds to me like that editor has watched too many "Reality TV" shows! We don't all scream and scratch and talk nasty about iur "friends" behind their backs. One rejection does nit define you... you are a fabulous writer!! Keep it up!

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    1. Thanks, Ava! In spite of a moment or two of self-pity, I'm still hanging in there! Helps so much to have friends like you on my side! Hugs!

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  4. AMEN! I hate the whole 'I-think-you-meant-this-but-instead-of-asking-you-I'm-going-to-get-depressed/upset-about-it-and-go-and-do-XYZ-which-will-make-YOU-think-I-don't-really-care-about-you-so-I'll-do-XYZ......ten chapters later....misunderstandings resolved by secondary characters creating situation where confusion is cleared up....'Oh-if-we'd-only-TALKED-to-each-other....HEA' Those type of books (while admittedly, I can't put down at times!), drive me BATTY, and I want to jump into the story, lock the H/H in a room and not let them out until they act like intelligent adults!

    I decided a long time ago I would never do this in a book. Yes, they'll make assumptions, but it's usually resolved in the next chapter, not by the end! Teenagers and 20-somethings do this, not anyone past the age of 30, surely! Though, there might be some out there who never learned communication or coping skills....sigh....

    BTW, just started book 1 of your Women of Willow Bay:)

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    1. You've nailed, Molly! Thanks for stopping by and I'm delighted you're into the WOWB--can't wait to hear what you think!

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  5. I wonder what kind of relationship that editor has been in. As I have matured I have found that telling someone how I feel and asking for what I want are two things that make life much less dramatic. Love the Camryn Manheim quote, I will add that to my list for my board. You are a wonderful writer. Keep at it!

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    1. So glad you came by, Carolyn, thank you! Isn't that an amazing quote! It was actually in reference to dealing with being overweight, but it applies most everywhere!

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  6. As some wise person once said, "The quickest way to fail is to give up." We've all been at that point, some of us more than others, but if we stop writing, we'll never reach the high point that's waiting for us around the next corner. ((((HUGS))))

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    1. heryl, I love that you think there's a high point waiting for me around the next corner--I worry that the high point's already been here and I missed it because I wasn't paying enough attention. Hugs back, baby.

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    1. Yes, please--I think that would make me feel a lot better! ;-) Thanks for coming by, Kathy! You're a peach!

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  8. I like your books because they don't have the contrived conflict. That's probably my pet peeve of reading a romance and the sure-fire way to make me stop reading said romance. LOL

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  9. Nan, I feel your pain. I've had my fair share of rejections, too. The reason for your rejection (after nine months, no less) seems so arbitrary. And unrealistic. But I love your attitude and I love the quote. Carry on, my dear!

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