Monthly Archives: January 2014

Rejection’s Evolution

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When No Isn’t Necessarily No – Some Useful Insights

Got two manuscript rejections yesterday. One in the mail the other in my email inbox. But I’ll tell you about these later.

When I first started sending out manuscripts and began receiving rejections I took them hard. I would vow not to do it again – not to put myself out there and be vulnerable. But invariably I would get over it and begin once more. The submission, followed by the waiting and then the rejection. Usually addressed to “Dear Author/Illustrator.” They were forms – mere slips of paper shoved into a SAS that I had provided. But with those I guess I was lucky. For it was when I didn’t hear anything for months that stung the most. My writing not even worthy of a stamp.

But things are changing. My rejections now appear on publisher/agent letterhead or are addressed to me personally via email like the ones I got yesterday. And while they both were a “pass” there still is hope. After getting over the initial let down of rejection, I reread the letters and both included invaluable insights into my writing and where I might improve. Both the editor and the agent suggested that I “tighten things up” and be more “succinct.” The tension needs to be increased.

I will take this generous editorial advice and put it to good use. Those thoughtful words will fuel cuts, rewrites and revisions. And when I think I simply cannot improve my writing any more, I will do it again.

Only then will I re-submit.

My advice to all receiving rejections: if the editor or agent takes the time to write something constructive about your piece you are SO CLOSE! Follow through and do what they say.

Sometimes the “no” is a “maybe”.

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Are the 1970’s history?

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How often we find ourselves using that term – HISTORY.  If we want to make something that happened in our lives seem insignificant we say, “Oh, that’s history.” We’re over it. But what is history when it comes to writing? Some history teachers tell their students that history is anything that happened in the past. So yesterday, I made a broccoli and chicken casserole for dinner. So is that now considered “history?”  I don’t think so. But no one will argue with me when I say that in June 1815 Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo as Abba so poignantly reminded us. So where is the line between “history” and “not history”? There are differing opinions. And what about the terms “historical fiction” vs. “period fiction.” Yikes… This is getting complicated!

According to The Historical Novel Society, a novel is considered to be “historical fiction” if the story is written fifty or more years after the events described therein or prior to the writer’s birth. The American Library Association’s RUSA says that the events within the novel need to be at least a generation (25 years) before its publication. And yet, according to the veritable Encyclopedia Britannica, a historical novel need only have its setting be within a period of history with events and details depicted accurately.

So would the Sherlock Holmes series be considered historical fiction? According to the definitions above, yes. However, there are those that profess it is not because historic events are not the primary focus. The same with Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. There are those that claim that these works should be considered “period fiction” – novels that occur within a specific time period but have no real focus on depicting actual historic events.

So this brings me back to the 1970’s – the time period for my next novel. Will I be writing a historical novel or a period novel? I guess it doesn’t matter right now because I’m just beginning. But come time to pitch The Summer Girl to agents I will need to be sure which genre I use. (Agents hate it when you get your genre wrong!)

What do you think? Is period fiction a sub-genre of historical fiction? Or is it a genre all of its own? Or is there an ever-morphing line between the two?

Food for thought…

Tools to Make Your First Pages Stronger

Advice from someone who knows…Linda P. Eptein, literary agent. Take heed those of you putting pen to paper!

The Blabbermouth Blog

Old Antique Tools in Vintage Carpentry WorkshopThere’s nothing more boring (to me) than a manuscript that starts off with nothing happening. Or starts off with the main character staring at themselves in the mirror (and hating their eyes or fixing their unruly hair or noticing their cheekbones are like their dead mother’s). Or begins with the main character waking up and looking around their surroundings (and describing them in detail, as if they’ve never seen it before, or love it so much, or hate it so much). Actually, can we just agree that manuscripts shouldn’t start at all with a character waking up? Start with something happening!

In the first pages of Bill Konigsberg’s Openly Straight, the main character Rafe is being dropped off at his “new home.” His dad is trying to take a picture of him with his iPhone and he tells Rafe to do some silly things for the camera and…

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Packing for the Trip

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Getting ready to begin a novel is a lot like packing for a trip. There’s a lot of planning. An itinerary. Consideration of transport. Not to mention who’s coming along. It’s like when your finger hesitantly hovers over the enter button before you press it and commit to purchasing airline tickets. Did I get the dates right? Is this really the best deal I can get? Is this the right decision?

Committing those first words on paper (or screen) is a scary step. Either you are the craziest person on earth or you think waaaaay too much of yourself.  At least sometimes that’s how we feel. It’s that little twinge of doubt that keeps us from typing that first sentence.

But sometimes we don’t start for a whole different reason. We simply aren’t ready. That’s where I am. I mean I have the story all here in  my head – the plot, characters, story arc. It’s all there. But for it to be good (and I mean really good) I need to do my homework. Get it right.

That’s why I have decided not to start. Writing that is…

I’ve completed a novel already. It’s not the greatest. It’s not the worst. Do I think it’s good enough for publication? Maybe. But it’s no break out novel. It’s one to be tucked into my sock drawer and whipped out sometime in the future when my agent asks, “You got anything else?”

So for now I’m just packing my suitcase. I’m filling it with knowledge. Places, dates, fads, fashions, culture,  religion. I’m taking that all-important first step in doing a period/historical story justice – RESEARCH. It’s going to take some time and effort but hey, that’s what we gotta do if we we’re gonna do it right.

So every now and then I’m planning on conducting a Baggage Check. Just to let you know how my progress is going. I also plan on providing some helpful information for fellow travelers.

So follow me if you are interested and I will do the same!

Bon Voyage!

 

Marie Lamba, author

Some thoughts from author and agent Marie Lamba

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