All writers know that rejections are a part of life. They also know rejection hurts, whether that hurt it just a tiny sting or a devastating blow. For me, I’ve received so many rejections over the years that they rarely do more than cause some disappointment.
I received one yesterday, however, that made me cry. Now, don’t get me wrong. The editor was as nice as can be, explained in great detail why she was rejecting my manuscript, and even offered to take another look at the manuscript if I revise it to solve the issues she mentioned. No, it wasn’t the rejection itself that got me, it was the realization that the issues she mentioned are the same ones I’ve been struggling with for years. I thought I’d finally figured out how to avoid making those mistakes, how to edit my work to publishable quality, etc. This latest rejection, along with the last two I’ve received, let me know I still have a lot of work to do on the way I write.
In the process of pondering this latest rejection and trying to figure out how to fix the issues the editor mentioned without having to change the story itself too much, I realized something that was even harder to think about: nearly everything I write has at least one fatal flaw, meaning any editor or agent I submit it to will reject it. This was a difficult realization to deal with, but it actually helps me a lot to be able to see this. The most difficult part of knowing about the fatal flaws is correcting them. If it were the same flaw in every manuscript, say too many -ly adverbs, that would be fairly easy to fix. Tedious, to be sure, but not to bad in terms of revision. Unfortunately, the flaws in my manuscripts vary, the most common being believability issues and too Pollyanna a way of writing.
Take the manuscript I thought I was close to finishing the revisions on. My heroine’s biggest flaw (since all characters should be at least a little flawed so they’re more realistic) is that some of her choices make her look a little dumb and she comes across as a bit too trusting. Now, given the nature of the story, she has to make some decisions that the people around her question the wisdom of. The story just wouldn’t work any other way and the decisions she makes as well as others questioning them gives her a lot of internal conflict that helps her grow throughout the story. The way I portrayed the hero also has issues, but those issues have a negative effect on the story. In order for the story to work, I need to work on his portrayal, to make his actions match the way he’s described.
Another issue with this particular manuscript is one I’ve run into a lot in my attempts to write romance. The story moves too quickly. I need to extend the timeline of the first five or six chapters, which means adding scenes, changing when events happen, and making sure the timeline stays consistent throughout the story. I blame the rushed feel on Harlequin romances; after all, in Harlequin romances the hero and heroine always seem to meet within the first page or two and there’s a whirlwind romance with a happy ending in sixty thousand words or less, depending on which line you read. Okay, so I had trouble typing that excuse with a straight face. But the reality is that it feels like a lot of romance readers want romance from the first page and carried throughout the entire novel. In my attempt to do that, I’ve managed to create a pacing problem that I must go back and fix before readers will ever see the story.
So what does all of this mean? I’m questioning my choice of careers. That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop writing. I love creating stories and characters too much to ever quit writing. But I do need to give serious thought about where my writing career is headed and whether that’s where it should be going. After all, I never intended to become a romance author. I just kind of fell into it. My original goal was to write young adult novels, and I still dream of becoming a published YA author. Romance will still likely play at least a small role in my writing; I’m a sucker for those warm, fuzzy happy endings. I’m just wondering if the romance industry is where I really belong or if trying to be a successful romance author is detrimental to my true calling as an author (see the previous paragraph).
I know this seems like an awful lot to get out of one rejection, but keep in mind that rejection was just a catalyst of sorts that finally opened my eyes to what’s been right in front of me all along. I’ve been feeling frustrated and dissatisfied with the direction of my writing for a while now, I just couldn’t pinpoint the problem. I’m still not entirely sure what problem is, but I think it’s time for me to do with my career as an author as I would with a manuscript that doesn’t feel quite right even though I can’t put my finger on why not. I need to take a step back, let it rest for a bit, and come back to it when I can view it more objectively.
I’ll still be doing some writing, like book reviews and any manuscripts that demand my attention, but I think for now I’m going to work on those back-burner projects that don’t have as much pressure attached to them as some of the other things I’ve been working on lately. Oh, and since it’s November, I’m also taking part in the Poetic Asides November Poem-A-Day Chapbook Challenge. The challenge is guaranteed to keep me writing as there’s absolutely no pressure attached for me. I’m a terrible poet and have no hope of my poetry ever going anywhere. I write it for me, although if I can write one good poem out the thirty I’ll put on paper this month, I’ll be happy. And who knows, maybe I’ll become a better poet through participating in the challenge.