The Making of Jake – pt 3

Posted by on January 11, 2010 at 4:10 pm.

What I’ve learned along the way

It’s been twenty years since I started writing the story about Jake and Kathryn. A lot has changed. Even if your rewrite is only a few months after the initial writing, check it to make sure your details are still current if your story is set in today’s world.

When I started the re-write in 2007, I had to adjust all sorts of things in my story.

Kathryn no longer needed to look up the number in the phone book to the Bed & Breakfast, instead she found the website on her laptop. On the wharf, I had to make it logical that she couldn’t just whip out her cell phone. It would have ruined the foundation scene for the entire story, so I had to come up with a reason for her cell to be shut off and thrown into the back seat of her car.

Reference points change quickly. Keep them vague if you can. Avoid mentioning models for electronics and specific television shows. Be extra careful if you’re using current celebrities. Three months ago it would have been fine for your hero to want to be just like Tiger Woods, he seemed infallible – umm yeah, now not so much.

Don’t stop writing. This is perhaps the most important and hardest thing to do.

We’re all our own worst critics. Seriously, real editors have nothing on us. And what’s even worse, if we are lucky enough to receive real feedback, it’s our own lack of confidence that interprets the comments to suit our perspective instead of allowing us to take the suggestions at face value. When I received my first rejection, it included a handwritten note saying my characters were wooden.

I was crushed. I put my manuscript and my dreams of becoming a writer up on a shelf and sulked. I gave up. Every time I’d catch myself writing little story starters or jot down ideas I’d stop. My inner editor was constantly berating me – who do you think you’re kidding? You can’t write.

It wasn’t until a few years later that my Mom was speaking to Dorothy Dearborn, a popular local author in Saint John. When Mom told her about my rejection, Dorothy wasted no time in correcting my assumption. Thanks Dorothy! Even if it’s just a scribbled comment on the side of a form letter, it means the editor not only read your work (which often they don’t) but they saw enough merit in it, to take the time and make a suggestion.

For those of you who are just starting out, there are three basic types of rejections.

The form letter – we cannot accept your work at this time, blah, blah, blah. Chances are, your work was not suitable for their target audience or had serious flaws to correct.

The form letter with comment – you’re moving up the food chain. They read your work and saw potential and made a few comments to steer you in the right direction.

The actual letter – addressed to you without any hint of form-y-ness to it at all. This means re-write your dang manuscript as soon as you can and resubmit it. Unless, the letter indicates that your work is not suitable for their audience. If that’s the case, find a publisher who has the right audience. These rejection letters are golden. I’m tempted to frame mine.

One Comment

  • I like your comment about Tiger, every time (to my mind) when people try to make their work cutting edge with the latest this or that, it only makes it appear dated a short time later. Which is why I prefer a refrence that has perhaps stood the test of time a little better than the hot item of the day.

    Probably could have framed my very first rejection letter except it was e-mail-still yeah these are more golden than we may initially realize.

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