Monday, October 3, 2011

How much do you want it?

I've had this blog post in my mind to write for months and have promised it since mid summer [sorry, Minxes!].

Many times I've heard it said that you are not a real writer unless you have been rejected as that gives you something to show for the hard work you put into your writing.

I didn't really understand that until this summer when I received my first real rejection. After entering the Feel the Heat competition almost two years ago now, I was asked to send something else directly to an editor at Mills & Boon. I was overjoyed with the request and thought I was on my way--I had dreams of hearing back in record time and contract offers!

Life got in the way a little and it wasn't until 7 months later that I sent a new, sparkling chapter to the editor in question who I was lucky enough to meet at the RNA conference last year. She asked for the partial to be sent directly to her. Again, I had the same excited dreams of instant success.

Then I landed in the real world and came back down from post conference romancelandia euphoria. Although I had the partial written, something was stopping me from sending it off. I then heard about the medical fast track and thought it was a wonderful opportunity. After all, instead of waiting for months, you heard back within a month--guaranteed. I talked myself out of it, after all I already had a partial request I needed to send. But on a car journey to the seaside I had *the most amazing idea*. You know the ones, they are the ideas where you literally have to stop the car and scribble down notes to yourself.

I wrote a chapter and a half in record quick time and sent it off. Within two days I had a request for a partial. Two days!! Now I was totally spoilt. After sending off the partial, waiting longer than a few weeks was murder. I was lucky enough to get a full request, again very quickly, and decided why not send both--so while I worked to finish and polish the medical I sent off the Modern partial.

The medical went off in February this year and while waiting for an answer to the Modern partial I thought I'd better write the rest--just in case it was requested. I couldn't. I got to the mid way point and had too many other *wonderful new ideas* to concentrate. There was something wrong. Fast forward to summer this year and my first real rejection. A form rejection of the Modern. I felt deflated, sad, disappointed. But there was something missing. I didn't feel the gut wrenching agony I felt every time I thought about my medical full, the tingle in my stomach every time I imagined someone reading my story.

This taught me something valuable. If you are not emotionally invested in your work, if you don't feel the pain of your characters as they go through their black moment, if you don't cry along with them when they feel all is lost then how on earth will your readers feel it? My Modern may well have been a nice little story, but that's all it was. I was writing what I thought the editors wanted to read. I wasn't writing what was in my heart, I wasn't putting everything I had out there on the page.

And that really is the lesson I learnt this year. I'd read that advice before from published authors, that you need to bleed on the page, that you must feel for your characters because only part of that emotion would come through in your written words. But I'd never really understood what Michelle Styles and Donna Alward meant, never really *got it*. Now I do.

I hope!


Maya Blake said...

Fab post, Jo, and very well put. I treasure it right along with the challenge of, "can you imagine writing 20 books for your chosen line?"

I think you've found your home with your Meds, I really do :)

Kat said...

Your passion shines from your words Jo, and you def poured your heart and soul into your submission. Lots of good luck x

Tara Pammi said...

Am glad you found where your heart lies, Jo.. lots of luck for the full...

Catherine Coles said...

I hope so, Maya! Was it also MS who said about writing twenty for your chosen line?

Thanks, Jo, probably helped I wrote something I knew about. Goodness only knows how I'll manage when I have to move away from my comfort zone!!

Thanks so much, Sri!

Caroline said...

Bleeding is good if you know what I mean. If you, as an author don't "feel" it, then how do we expect our (one day please god, one day) readers to "feel" it? Well that's my twopennyworth anyways! Caroline x

Phillipa said...

Best of luck with your submission, Catherine

Catherine Coles said...

Thanks, Caroline & Phillipa!