...Some lighthearted "advice" from Ruth Harris
First, a reminder: next week we're going to have a visit from a MOVIE STAR!
On August 5th,, Golden Globe Winner and Academy Award-nominated actor Terence Stamp, who is also a novelist and memoirist, will be here talking about his writing process and his new publishing company.
See why you need to have a blog searchable by your own name, with your contact information displayed prominently? This week we have a lighthearted look at rejection from Ruth Harris, who had to tackle mountains of slush in her days as an editor at Dell, Bantam and Kensington.
You know how I’m always talking about the importance of Social Media? Well here’s an example. An iconic movie star has asked to visit our little blog, because here in the e-age, blogs can be as important as The New York Times in reaching the public.
We know you seasoned scriveners would never make these mistakes, but do pass on the info to your newbie friends out there. Everybody was a newbie once. And even though we laugh at this stuff now, I think we’ve all been guilty of a few of these. I know I did that thing with the heroine looking in the mirror in about 5 stories as well as my first novel.
Do notice that Ruth has hot new covers on her Romantic Women's fiction titles--and a new title for them. They're now the Park Avenue Series. Full of Mad Men-era Manhattan glitz and glamour. Sizzling summer beach reads!
5 Never-fail, 100% Guaranteed Tips and Tricks To Absolutely, Positively Raise Your Anemic R-Quotient: by Ruth Harris
Are your Rejection-levels too low? Is publication coming too easily? Did your publisher's promo/ad campaign turn your book into an overnight blockbuster? Did that mega-million movie deal just fall from the sky into your lap?
If the answer is yes, if you feel you are not paying your dues, if you are not receiving an adequate, soul-satisfying number of rejections, here are some sure-fire, failure-proof ways to pump up your faltering R-score.
1) Choose the Wrong Agent
If you are determined to add to your pile of rejection slips, the answer is obvious: send it to agent who specializes in Romance.
- You’ve written the best horror-thriller-mystery ever.
- Your villain makes Hannibal Lecter look like a pussycat.
- Your victims are so vulnerable, defenseless and forlorn a stone would weep.
- Your prose sparkles.
- Your grammar is of such flawless perfection a revision of Strunk & White is being written at this moment to acknowledge your excellence.
- Your manuscript has not one single typo.
- Your use of the Oxford comma and the activating hyphen are impeccable. Your ending will cause the reader’s hair to stand on end.
- You’ve worked for years, neglected your spouse and children, gone without food and sleep. The time has come at last for submission. Which lucky agent will get first look?
OTOH: If you might just conceivably be interested in avoiding rejection, why not do some research first? Find out which agent specializes in the genre you write. That agent will be up on all the latest developments in the market you’re trying to break into and will have close contacts with the editors who are looking for exactly what you write.
2) Embrace the cliché.
Oooooh, a dog! Everyone loves dogs. One who’s smart—or maybe a smart-ass. One who talks! Maybe even uses the f-word. Wow! A talking dog! A dog who talks dirty! You want to reach the widest readership possible. So you think of a plot in which the smart/smart-ass trash-talking dog helps the hero/heroine get the job/meet Mr. or Ms. Right. What could go wrong? Every agent and editor in town knows all about it. He/she has read that story a million times. He/she knows the ending from the first page. Yawn. Fidget. Rejection guaranteed.
More ideas straight out of cliché-ville:
- Start your book with the MC looking into the mirror and contemplating The Meaning Of Life.
- Or the girl who wakes up to find bite marks on her throat and realizes—OMG!—her boyfriend is a vampire.
- And don’t forget the where-am-I? opening: the guy who opens the door to his house/condo/garage/office and steps over the threshold only to discover he’s shattered the time-space continuum and is lost in a strange, far-away galaxy.
Moral: Read, read and read. Become familiar with the work of the bestselling writers in your genre. Study—and then analyze—your market. Figure out what’s selling and what’s not selling. If the characters or plot have been done so many times they’ve reached cliché status, you must come up with the genius twist, the brilliant why-didn’t-I-think-of-that?
3) Work the phone.
All you want to know is if s/he has read your book and give him/her the opportunity to tell you how wonderful it is and how your book is going to change the future of publishing.
- Keep in contact! Make the connection!! That’s what phones are for, aren’t they?
- Call the agent you’ve just sent your manuscript to every morning and then again every afternoon.
- Be sure to track down his or her home phone/cell phone so you can call in the evening, too.
- Once at dinnertime so you can interrupt the meal.
- Then again later to wish him/her good night.
- And don’t forget 3AM so you can wake the agent up.
Is that too much to expect? They’re professionals, aren’t they? Their living depends on their writers, doesn’t it? Of course they want to hear from you. They’re been on tenterhooks waiting for you to call. Of course they’ll drop whatever they’re doing to talk.
Um, no. Of course they’re going to reject you.
Conclusion: Hands off the phone! No matter how anxious you are, no matter how desperate you feel, stifle that impulse. Go to the gym. Binge on ice cream. Watch reruns of Law and Order. Do the laundry. Do anything! Just stay away from the phone.
4) Have fun with anachronistic language.
You’ve written a Victorian-era romantic suspense novel. You’ve researched until your notes are longer than the manuscript. You’ve had to buy new glasses—your eyesight has deteriorated because of the time you’ve spent on Google and in the library. Every frill and furbelow on your heroine’s dress is accurately described. The descriptions of period architectural details from plinths to fasciated entablature would impress even Frank Lloyd Wright. You’ve researched period hairstyles in such depth that your characters—literally—never have a hair out of place.
Then they open their mouths to speak.
“Been there, done that,” says your elegant, gentleman of high birth.
“Whatever,” shrugs the heiress he’s courting.
You’re into nails-on-a-blackboard territory.
You want an agent to shriek in horror? You’re hoping an editor will cringe and reach for the smelling salts? You’re on the hunt for rejection?
Congratulations. You’ve just succeeded beyond your wildest dreams.
Lesson: Watch your language—and your dialogue. Just as fashion changes so does the way people speak. 1940’s slang is different from 1960’s slang and the way people talk today is different from the way they talked back in the 1950’s. Listen to what people say—and notice the way they say it. Vintage movies provide a guide to appropriate dialogue: whether your characters are soldiers in World War II, gangsters in the 1930’s or advertising executives in the 1950’s (Mad Men, anyone?).
5) Be a trend setter with grammar and punctuation!
Just because every grammar guru insists that subjects and verbs have to match doesn’t mean that you have to be a slave to “the rules.” You’re much more imaginative that that! You’re a creative person. You don’t follow trends. You start them!
Just because professional writers heed the suggestions of proofreaders doesn’t mean you have to. So what if “Sue” becomes “Margaret” halfway through your manuscript. The editor will know who you mean. After all, “Sue” and “Margaret” have the same color hair, don’t they?
Same thing with that tangle of it, its and it’s and their muddled thicket of antecedents. You know exactly what you mean and who you’re referring to. And if you know, so will the reader. Well, won’t they? Isn’t that their part of the job?
And just because Speed Kills, don’t for one minute think that applies to you! Go ahead. Send that manuscript out without editing, cutting, revision, proofreading. You’re different. Your first drafts are magic. Even your mother says so.
Last of all, on your pilgrimage as you search for ever more rejection, don’t ever ignore the always-reliable habits of the lazy writer:
So, fellow scriveners, if you find the experience—and the pain and resulting soul calluses—provided by rejection essential to your journey to success, now you know exactly what do to and how to do it to get more of what you need and want. Good luck!
- Exclamation point infestation.
- Adverb excess and adjective overload.
- Repetition of the same words and phrases.
- Comma mistreatment and semi-colon abuse.
- Typo tolerance.
How about you? Do you have some favorite rejection-getters of your own? Anything you used to do that you cringe about now?
Whether you're a newbie sending out your first queries or a seasoned writer who’s looking at all the publishing options open to today’s writers, there’s no better place to learn how to avoid doing embarrassing stuff than a writers conference. Anne will be teaching at the Central Coast Writers Conference in San Luis Obispo next September. Early Bird discounts are available if you register now.
Plus a FREE BOOK ALERT!! The elegantly plotted academic cozy ACADEMIC BODY, by Anne's mom, Shirley S. Allen, will be free for Kindle on Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. Also going free at the same time is my Kindle short story, BETTY JO STEVENSON RIDES AGAIN.
Labels: Academic Body, Betty Jo Stevenson Rides Again, Central Coast Writers Conference, Editing, How to get your book rejected, Park Avenue Series, Ruth Harris, Terence Stamp