I’ve had a rejection. The novella I had great hopes for has been returned as ‘not for us’ after nearly 5 months.

I opened the email while on a lovely weekend visiting relatives in South Wales. I was in bed settling down for the night when I clicked on it, so obviously then I couldn’t go to sleep as I was Down In The Dumps.

On getting home I read it again and, you know what? It wasn’t that bad. Yes, it was a form rejection but a pleasant one. Why? Because they’d be happy to consider further submissions and they wished me the best of luck placing my manuscript with someone else.

They probably send the same email to everyone, including those who can’t spell or write coherently. But that’s not the point, is it? Getting a rejection is a miserable business so getting one that gives you hope is a lovely thing. And I can sit here and tell myself there is an alternative wording for those writers they really don’t want to hear from again!

So, I need to seek alternative homes for my 23K of passion, and think about why it got rejected in the first place. The publisher (Carina) doesn’t give individual feedback but they do have a blog where they list the 10 most common reasons for rejection. 

Looking at this and re-reading my story, I’m guessing I mainly fell into the too much back story at the beginning trap. I have now re-read two of the publisher’s books and their typical heroines/heroes meet in the first one or two pages. Mine don’t do that. I made the mistake of painting the scene – an archeological dig on Shetland – and then setting out my heroine’s internal motivation first and that lasted a good few pages. My hero entered while she was still off shopping for supplies. Need to work on that.

What I can’t be objective about is if I have fallen into any of the other traps. I think my story is engaging, but others may not. It is, as the email says, a subjective thing. It’s entirely possible the problem is number 2 – that in an overcrowded genre my story doesn’t stand out as fresh or unique. On the other hand, it did take nearly 2 months longer than stated to get returned. That has to be a good thing, right? Hopefully they thought about it at least.

Although they state they don’t have time to give individual feedback, they do sessions on Twitter where they quote editor’s comments on rejected manuscripts. There’s one here. They don’t, of course, identify the manuscript so you can’t possibly know if the comment refers to yours making it a completely useless individual feedback exercise. Clearly these comments hit a nerve with editors. However, it’s all very well saying ‘don’t bore the editor’ but if nobody tells you it’s your manuscript that’s boring, it’s very easy to convince yourself that yours is the one that is really well written but “I didn’t like the hero.” How much better it would be if they had a list of the 10 reasons in the form rejection email and the sender could tick one or more when sending it. That wouldn’t take much time, would it? And it might attract better targeted submissions next time round. As it is, I’m not really sure what I need to work on.

Never mind, onwards and upwards.



That non-existent writer’s block

I have it right now. Whatever I start falters. At the moment it’s a story about a rocking horse sheep. Going nowhere. Literally. Also three books with plots in suspension. Whatever I turn my fingers to keyboardwise peters out after a few sentences. I’ve even, shock horror, resorted to housework today to try to shake things up.

We’ve all been there. So what does one do?

There’s a raft of ideas on multitudinous blogs. Most of them say keep writing. All I’ve written today is a humourous reply to a prompt on my Facebook writing group page that got some instant likes and a laugh from the prompter. Which was nice. But it hasn’t moved the sheep story one iota. It’s sitting there as stubbornly unmoving as, well, as a sheep.

So I’ve turned to a Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell. I don’t normally read books on writing, but I’ve found it highly readable so far. It has a no-nonsense style, lots of short, to the point sentences with bullet points and minimal waffle. Okay, the author is a little bit in love with Dean Koontz but every good character has a flaw.

I’m in the ‘how to explode with plot ideas’ section. I read it on holiday last week and vowed to follow his advice when I got home. Did I? Hell no. And here I am. Blocked

What I should have done was:

  • schedule a regular time, once a week at least and
  • get relaxed, allow my mind to run free, at least 30 minutes of uninterrupted time and
  • select one of the exercises below.. etc.

I’ve got at least 30 minutes now. There are a ‘top 20 exercises’ from ‘what if’ to ‘desperation’ (i.e. writing about the wall/screen/coffee cup that’s sitting in front of you). Today I’m going to do, let’s see…obsession. “Create a character, give them an obsession, see where they run.”

I should also put a reminder on my calendar for this time next week to do it again. And again. Which reminds me. Writing group on Monday and I haven’t even looked at the task. Tsk Tsk.

Waiting for the lift

It’s not very often that I link to other writer’s blogs, but this one caught my eye today.

stair lift
It feels like I’m waiting at the bottom of one of these – not a super-duper swish and shiny elevator

I’ll be honest, I had not heard of Laura K Benton, but the idea of successful authors sending the elevator back down for authors-in-waiting struck a cord. The gist of it is that once you’ve made it, don’t forget all those waiting patiently in the foyer for their big break, and help them where you can.

It reminded me of an audience with Susan Calman that I went to last year. She was promoting her autobiography at the Manchester literary festival and was clearly nervous. But one thing she was very clear about: as a comedian, she found other comedians on the circuit not very nice. But authors at festivals? Absolutely brilliant, couldn’t meet a nicer bunch of people.

She might just have been saying that, of course, but anyone who has been to a literary festival will recognise the senitiment; authors love going to these things – it’s the fun part of the job.

The elevator came back down for Laura in several different ways, and I’m pleased for her. Meanwhile I’m waiting here patiently for the ‘ping’ and the doors to open. Better have something decent to show for it when that happens…


Moby Dick

The only agent I follow on Twitter is Steve Laube. Not because I want to publish Christian literature but because he tweets all sorts of useful links. On Friday there was ‘Two questions I ask every writer’ by Francess Caballo, an author and social medial strategist. The two  questions are:

  • would you tell me about your book?
  • who are your readers?

Now, to me the first question is badly phrased as it invites a yes/no response. But it is the second question I am interested in today for two reasons.

First, I am never quite sure who my intended readers are.

Second, I started reading Moby Dick last night, and I am convinced that if any author needed to consider who his readers might be, it was Herman Melville. I am two chapters in and wondering why I should go on (apart from novel research). I am finding it so difficult on so many levels I actually spent quite a lot of time Googling around the novel this morning, including the Biblical character Ishmael, as my husband said the opening line should have given me a clue as to the nature of the book and its allusions.

I am no expert on the Bible as I left the Baptists when I was about thirteen. But it turns out that my husband, who has read it from cover to cover, some of it in Hebrew, remembered it wrong. Suffice to say this – Moby Dick – is the book which made me download the free dictionary onto my iPad so that I can understand what the hell Melville is alluding to.

Two chapters in and not even a sniff of a boat let alone a whale. I can see why his publisher rejected it with reference to the ‘vision impairing length’.

With a whole first chapter on the philosophy of man’s inherent attraction to water, the ‘baroque’ writing style (had to look that up, too) the biblical and classical references, I have to ask myself who exactly Melville was writing for. It certainly was not the likes of me. Given that he only sold a little over 3000 copies in his lifetime, it probably wasn’t most of his contemporary English speakers either.

Things that made me smile today

In case you need your mind taking off the prospect of nuclear war, here’s a few things that made me smile today.

Susan Calman has made it onto Strictly. I am so happy for her. She has been so wanting to get onto this show for so long. I can’t imagine the diminutive Scot in high heels and dancing skirt though. I might have to start watching.

I have no idea how I came across this video of Thunderstruck on Youtube, but I am so glad I did. Steve’n’Seagulls only have one gig in Britain on their current tour and we missed it. Might have to go to Germany when the Christmas markets are on.

Oh, and the sun is out. Enough of a rarity to make me smile any day.