Well, it was bound to happen, and we were prepared for the eventuality, and I thought I was handling it really well—if eating cold pizza for breks whilst hovering over the inbox is a sign of mental fortitude—and then I walked into the bathroom and realized that my shirt is both inside out and backwards.
And, you know, maybe it’s more honest to just say it sucks.
I heard back last week from the agent who’d asked for an exclusive on my book Lilies a couple of months ago. It was about as nice as rejection letters get. I am apparently a “really good storyteller,” but the hero and heroine failed to meet in the first couple of pages, the story was too complex, and ultimately my book, set in the 1850s, reads too much like “historical fiction.”
Ok, you knew I was going to spin this my way, right? That being said, those were her actual criticisms.
I’ve suspected for a long time that Lilies had a couple of fatal flaws—most notably the lack of focus on a single character (hello, ensemble cast), it’s modest resolution (read: not everyone gets married), and it’s startling lack of knife-wielding villains. I knew she wasn’t the prom queen of all novels, let’s say.
But, ah, to be young and arrogant and naive—to believe one really could breeze into the rigidly entrenched world of Christian fiction and write something where the hero and heroine do not lock eyes on page three… Actually, it is sad, because I would really like to write Christian fiction in the sense that, being Christian, it seems like basic honesty to write about how I see the world, but it turns out either I’m not Christian enough or Christian fiction has a slightly disingenuous first name.
The way I saw it, who wants to read a book where you know how it’s going to end by the time you get to page three? Pretty sure that something in the genre or my brain is going to have to change before Christian fiction is the right peg for my pen.
… Chalk it up to another lesson in the art of calibrating to genre. I told Carl that, on the bright side, it really is the better of the two problems. I’ve gotten 100% rejection at this point, but at least none of the agents have cited bad writing. Writing ability isn’t what’s keeping me from getting published. What’s keeping me from being published is a basic lack of research at the front end of the process, a lack of double checking my market and the rules I’m not allowed to break.
I’m curious to see what happens with Execution, my (secular) historical crime novel that’s also floating around agencies these days. I tried to be more intentional about genre issues, but it still breaks a couple of small rules. Closer yes, but close enough?
All I know is that I’m writing a murder mystery next, and the only rule I’m breaking is the villain monologue in the second to final chapter. Because I’ve been reading mysteries all year to prep for this book, and it’s the only thing that makes me roll my eyes every single time.
What kind of idiot villain doesn’t know that monologues ALWAYS lead to ruination?
Famous last words, I know.