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 . . .