Dealing with Rejection by Alys

I got two rejections last week.  One of the upsides of having an agent is that those emails don’t come directly to me anymore.  But one of the downsides is that my agent seems to store them up and I tend to hear about two at a time which is a real double whammy.  I also get more feedback these days as the editors give at least a line or two about the book, giving a couple of positives before they get to the reason why they turned it down.

Doubt Kills More Dreams

I thought the feedback would be a good thing, give me an idea of what I need to work on in my writing.  But they’re so contradictory that I don’t know what to take from them.  One of this week’s rejections said they didn’t like Maeve, the antagonist, whereas an editor who turned me down before Christmas said Maeve was a great character.  It’s making me realise how hugely subjective the whole thing is.  What one editor loves, another says doesn’t work for them.  And what should I take from the comment that ‘they didn’t sufficiently connect with the heroine’?  Is that in my writing or is it just a personal reaction? I can think of dozens of books where I didn’t love the heroine but I still enjoyed the book.  Do editors need to feel a deep personal connection with all the characters to take a book on?

I’m getting better with rejections though.  These two made me mutter and moan for about half an hour whereas when I first started submitting rejections could knock me back for days.  Of course, it helps if there’s a few positives in there as well.  One of these said that Beltane was ‘crisply written’ which took some of the sting out of it.

I asked the other Write Romantics if they’d had any really positive rejections.  Jessica got a reply from an agent that said:

‘There’s an awful lot I like about it.  However I am afraid in the current tough market I do have to be completely bowled over by something to take it on….I’m sorry that it’s been a near miss for me.”

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Jo received this lovely rejection from a publisher:

‘As we are finding the market so competitive at the moment, we will unfortunately have to pass on the book, but personally I think you have great potential and would encourage you to keep going as you have qualities we have previously seen in other newbie authors who have made it big.’ 

Both Jessica and Jo said that these emails kept them going through the dark days of other less tactful rejections.

And we’ve had some of those.  Helen R received:

‘Sorry but this market has collapsed and I don’t think we could find a publisher for this.’

Fortunately she can laugh about it now (particularly as Crooked Cat are publishing her novel next month) but it must have hurt at the time.  My worst one was from a very well-known agent who gave me the standard two line rejection and then tried to sell me her book on understanding the publishing industry.

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I know rejections are part of the process and if I talk to non-writers about it they always quote J K Rowling.  Everyone forgets how many times she was rejected (apparently it was twelve which doesn’t seem that many to me anymore!) but it’s become urban myth that she was knocked back a lot.  Margaret Mitchell got 38 rejections before she found a publisher for Gone with the Wind and Beatrix Potter was rejected so many times she decided to self-publish The Tale of Peter Rabbit and look how well that worked out!  Louise M Alcott was told not to give up teaching and it took Agatha Christie 5 years to land a publishing deal.

So if you’re feeling down about a rejections try to remember that you’re in really great company.  Pretty much every writer I can think of, other than PD James and Georgette Heyer, have been turned down.  Which just goes to show that editors are as prone to mistakes as the rest of us.  Except perhaps the editor who told Dan Brown’s agent ‘it’s so badly written’; he might just have had a point!

If you’ve had any particularly unhelpful or really positive rejections then we’d love to hear about them.  You can leave us a comment by clicking where it says ‘Leave a comment’ or ‘comments’ in teeny, tiny type below.

The Wednesday Wondering – Tears & Laughter

After last week’s extra special Wednesday Wondering, we’re back to the normal format this week but I just have to pause for a moment to say that, if you haven’t already downloaded Helen Phifer’s ‘The Ghost House’, you really should. Click on last week’s Wondering for all the links as it is fabulous. Most of the Write Romantics are either reading it now or have read it and the consensus is it’s a five-star read; gripping and a little scary too. And we’re not just saying that because we love Helen! We genuinely loved it.

 So, back to this week’s Wondering. I posed the question this time and we’ve gone back to a book-themed question:

Out of all the books you’ve read throughout your lifetime, which book has made you cry the most and which one has made you laugh the most?

I think this may be the first Wondering where we have a response from all the Write Romantics! Here’s what we all have to say:

  

LYNNE:

The book that made me cry was ‘Tess’ by Thomas Hardy, because Tess so didn’t deserve what fate doled out to her and Evelyn Waaugh’s ‘Decline and Fall’ is my funniest. In it Lord Circumference runs over a boy and then denounces the child who he ran over as ‘a fool of a boy’ as if it’s all his fault!!!

 

HELEN R:

The book that had me the closest to tears was Jodi Piccoult’s ‘Handle With Care’. Her research skills must be amazing and I think the author is well known for not necessarily providing happy endings. I was completely drawn into the characters’ worlds, no matter what age or sex they were and I remember feeling so drained when I finished reading it.

The book that had me laughing was Jane Lovering’s ‘Hubble Bubble’. I wish I could think of a specific example, but she has some very witty analogies in there and some typical English sarcasm which I think it is why it appealed.

I love to read different authors’ books for the reason that each individual voice has something different to offer whether it’s humour, tugging at the heart strings or an in depth story with subject matter that I knew nothing about beforehand.

 

JAXX:

Two books sprung to mind immediately, so I’ll go with those although it was a while ago that I read either. The saddest one was ‘The Lovely Bones’ by Alice Sebold. I remember it well because I was on a weekend away with my old workmates and all I wanted to do was keep on reading the darn book. I couldn’t concentrate on anything else and in the end, very rudely, got it out of my bag and started reading it at the dinner table. The one that made me laugh the most was ‘Rachel’s Holiday’ by Marian Keyes. It was one of her early ones and right in the throes of funny ‘chic lit’ before it became a bit jaded. Not sure if it would stand up to a re-read as I think my tastes have changed but I remember being bowled over by her wit and humour. More recently, if I can have two- I would recommend ‘You Had me at Hello’ by Mhairi McFarlane. I could identify so clearly with the characters and it was poignantly funny – and I wish I’d written it!

 

JO:

Jodi Picoult’s ‘My Sister’s Keeper’ – not only does Anna feel the burden of helping her sister Kate, but she has to fight against her parents to fulfill her sister’s wishes, whilst they don’t understand the reasons why. If you’ve only seen the film and not read the book, I won’t spoil the twist at the end (which is not in the movie) – but tragic doesn’t come close!

Sue Townsend’s ‘Adrian Mole’s Diaries’ – I just love these, from when he was 13 and three quarters right up until his forties. Adrian and I have ‘grown up’ in parallel and, if I ever think my life is not going according to plan, I just have to dip into one of his diaries to cheer up and realise that, in comparison, things aren’t going so bad after all!

  

HELEN P:

This is a tough one as I don’t tend to read books which make me cry. I’m far too soft and dwell on it for days. It would probably be the book of ET. I’m sure I read this when I was about twelve, but the film made me cry for three days – I’ve never cried so much in my life.

The one that made me laugh the most is probably ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’. Made me chuckle away to myself. She reminds me so much of me only without the lovely Mr Darcy or the naughty Daniel Cleaver……..Ooh if only 😉 

  

DEIRDRE:

The first book that made me cry was ‘Black Beauty’.  As it was so (very!) long ago I can’t remember now if it has a happy ending or not but I always think of it as a sad book and it was quite a revelation to me at the time to discover that books could have such a powerful affect on your feelings.  Recently I read Jo-Jo Moyes’ ‘Me Before You’.  I didn’t actually cry but I felt so sad I almost wished I hadn’t read it.  It was the sheer hopelessness of the situation and of course the way it ended, which I won’t say now in case someone’s half way through it.

As for books that made me laugh, again going back in time, though not so far as ‘Black Beauty’, I remember laughing out loud at Tom Sharpe’s ‘Wilt’, and the books that followed in the same series, ‘Porterhouse Blue’ etc.  I found ‘Wilt’ particularly funny because he taught general studies in a technical college.  I worked in one at the time and found so much of it true to life as well as totally hilarious.

  

RACHAEL:

The book that made me laugh most was ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’. And I love the film too! At the other end of the scale, the book that made me cry has to be ‘Gone with the Wind’.

 

ALEX:

‘The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’ is the book that made me cry the most. It’s a heart breaking book about a man who has a massive stroke and ends up with locked-in syndrome.  He could only communicate by moving his eyelids.  He dictated the book letter by letter by using only his eyelids.  It’s an amazing book about loss, grief and coming to terms with your own mortality.

I find it harder to remember which books make me laugh a lot (probably because there’s been a lot more of them). Most recently ‘You had me at hello’ by Mhairi McFarlane genuinely made me laugh out loud.  ‘Charlotte Street’ by Danny Wallace also had some hilarious moments.  I’d definitely recommend both of them if you feel in need of a good giggle.

 

JULIE:

And the winner for the funniest book is ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ as I’m going for that one too. Lots of books have made me smile, others have made me giggle a bit but that one made me absolutely guffaw out loud. I remember reading it on holiday in Majorca with two friends. We all read it, one after the other, and I was the last one to get it. I was gutted that I had no idea what the other two had been giggling at but I finally understood when it was my turn!

As for crying, I can’t remember the last book that made me sob. I know the first one was ‘Flowers in the Attic’ by Virginia Andrews but I generally cry at any book that has a death in it or has a protagonist going through a particularly tough time as, if it’s well written, I really feel their pain. I have Jojo Moyes’s ‘Me Before You’ on my TBR pile and I’ve been avoiding reading it as I know I’ll be absolutely bawling!

 

Do you agree with any of our books? What have you read that’s made you laugh or cry? Please join in. We’d love to hear from you.

Happy Wednesday!

Julie xx

A Good End?

For the past week I’ve been working on the final chapter of my novel.  Following the advice of bestselling author and expert creative writing tutor Sharon Kendrick I wrote the end months ago.  But when I read it again it wasn’t right.  My character had hijacked the love story part of the book since then and it didn’t work anymore.   And that got me thinking about what makes a good ending. 

It’s pretty clear that readers want the hero and heroine to be together at the end of a romance novel.  Publishers, more cryptically, say they’re looking for an ‘emotionally satisfying ending’. 

When I started looking into it a bit more I found this pretty illuminating quote from one of my writing heroines, Jennifer Crusie: “I think romance novels, like any genre stories, must provide a reader with catharsis at the end, and that catharsis is usually found in a ‘just’ ending; that is, characters get what they deserve. The bad guy gets punished, and the good guys get the happiness they’ve been striving for because they’ve suffered and grown and struggled.”   Jennifer knows what she’s talking about.  Not only has she written half a dozen best sellers but she teaches creative writing at Ohio State University.

By Jennifer’s definition to have a happy ending both characters need to grow during the book.   If one of them doesn’t then you can’t have a happy ending.  I think Gone With the Wind would be a classic example of that.  Scarlett was, in my opinion, a spoilt brat from start to finish.  I’d have felt a bit let down if Rhett had stayed with her at the end. 

The other twist on the happy ever after is the ‘duty’ or ‘noble sacrifice’ ending as in Roman Holiday.  It’s one of my all-time favourite films and it makes me cry every time when Princess Audrey choses her duty to her country over her love for Gregory Peck.  Another film classic would be Casablanca.  If Ingrid Bergman hadn’t got on the plane would that have made a better movie?  I don’t think so.  Somehow it’s enough to know ‘they’ll always have Paris’.

But there are romances where the ending seems anything but ‘just’.  For anyone who hasn’t seen or read One Day by David Nicholls I suggest you stop reading now because there will be spoilers.  The book charts the friendship of Emma and Dexter who meet on the night of their graduation in 1988.  Following their lives for just one day each year we see how that friendship progresses and eventually turns to love.

I saw the film before I read the book.  About three quarters of the way through when Dexter and Emma were happily married I thought ‘this isn’t going to end well’.  I was absolutely right.  Five minutes later Emma gets knocked off her bike and dies.  Yes, dies!  How could this heroine, who we’d come to love, die?  It just wasn’t right.  And no amount of quality father/daughter time four years later was going to make me feel any different. 

I felt cheated.  I’d gone to see a romance.  I didn’t want to come out crying.  And Emma deserved her happy ending.  She was good.  Dexter was a bit of an idiot but she loved him and together they’d suffered and grown.  They should have been together.   

However (and there’s more spoilers coming up) even if the hero and heroine don’t both live to see the final scene the ending can still have that required emotional quality.  Me Before You by JoJo Moyes has an incredibly moving ending.  I don’t think I’ve ever cried so much at the end of a book.  It was heart breaking but I understood.

It seems to me that books with endings that aren’t emotionally satisfying are seen as more serious.  They take the book out of the romance genre and lift it to something more literary.  That’s the author’s choice but it’s not a route I want to go down.

I want an ending that makes my characters and my readers happy.  My characters have definitely suffered (by the way does anyone else find themselves apologising to their characters for what they’re going through or is that just me?) and I’m pretty sure they’ve grown.  They deserve a bit of happiness.   And my readers have stuck with us.  I want them to close the book feeling happy too. 

So now I know what I’m aiming for.  Only time will tell if I can actually pull it off!

I’d love to hear what you think.  What do you want from the end of a romance novel?  What are your all-time favourite endings?  And what makes them so good?

Alex

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