2/28/11

Submission Advice and Love Stories by Jeffrey S. Savage


Wow. Three weeks on the job and already I've been late on two of them. Wonder if LDSPublisher leaving the help wanted ads folded next to my laptop is a hint. I really did have an excuse though: a six state business trip in five days including visits to Little Rock, Atlanta, Hartford, Salem, New Hampshire, Detroit, and Utah. I also got to add to my weird flight stories with the first time I've ever had the oxygen masks drop on a plane. Fortunately the pilot had accidentally hit the wrong button. But it still took two hours to get the masks all repacked.

It reminded me a little of the way we as authors can make mistakes no matter how experienced we are. I'm sure the pilot knew to keep his finger away from that button. He'd flown plenty of times and never made that mistake. But one moment of carelessness required everyone to get off the plane and created a long delay that ended up making many of us unable to get rental cars, find taxis, etc.

Jaunting around the blogosphere, I noticed several great posts on avoiding mistakes in our writing and submitting.

Frank Cole had an insightful interview with CFI acquisitions editor Jennifer Fielding. Lots of great information here, but one of the things I liked best was this piece of advice.

"Present your premise as succinctly and desirably as possible.

"If you can tell us in the first (short) paragraph of your cover letter what your book is about and why we should be dying to read it, you may grab our attention enough that we decide to put it on our desk instead of on the shelf to read later. You don't need to tell us the story, just tell us why we should be interested. Also, don't waste time telling us that you were nervous to submit to us for whatever reason, let us figure that out for ourselves.


"Telling your story in one paragraph is so hard for most authors to do. We want to give the background, explain the setting, introduce every character. But editors are good enough to realize there's more they will learn on a full reading. What they want is a snapshot. Who is the protagonist, what is she trying to do, and what stands in her way? The key is to create a vivid image that makes the editor want to learn more."

Rob Wells has a very interesting interview with his editor, Erica Sussman.

At one point in the interview, he asks her, "When Sara first sent you Variant, you initially passed on it (though you wrote a very helpful note, and offered to take a second look if revisions were made). Could you walk us through that whole process? What made you reject it at first, and what caused you to look at it again? (That seems pretty unusual in the submission process.) And, of course, why/how did you decide to accept it after the revisions?"

Erica gives a very helpful answer where she describes how the acquisitions committee works and what an editor needs to get a book through that process even if she loves it herself.

"First impressions are absolutely the most important in our process. If I'm concerned that a manuscript won't be able to immediately wow the room in its original state, but I love it and see a place for it, the best thing for me is to be able to take it through a revision and then show the even-stronger-manuscript to the team at Harper."

I think this is true all the way through the writing process. First impressions are huge and you need to do everything you can as an author to make your first impression great. Yes, you can always go back and polish later. But if the first impression you make isn't great. You might not get another chance.

Finally, in honor of Valentine's Day, Jennie Hansen wrote an interesting post on the difference between a romance and a love story. Here's a quote.

"If the story is primarily boy meets girl, they are attracted to each other even if they deny that attraction, an obstacle keeps them from getting together, they overcome the obstacle and live happily ever after, that's romance. If boy meets girl, their relationship deepens as they get to know each other, trust and respect for each other grows, they each make significant sacrifices for the other, they become stronger, better people because of their relationship, and they develop a lasting commitment to each other whether they foresee being together in this life or not, the story is probably a love story."

And later in the same post. "There are still a few romance novels around in the LDS market, but real love stories have almost disappeared. Recently a few authors have produced stylized romances which are fun to read, but leave no lasting imprint."

Interesting stuff. I understand what she is saying, and I agree that there is a difference between a fluffy romance and a love story. Right off the bat, I think about a post I did at my blog recently on my favorite romantic movie scenes. Fifty First Dates would definitely fall into what Jennie calls the romance category. While I think The Notebook is a true love story.

I'm not sure that I buy that there are no more LDS love stories though. I think the style of writing them may have changed. Publisher and readers ask for different things from their authors, and sometimes those constraints require the author to take a slightly lighter or more humorous approach. But I think there are still LDS authors writing stories about enduring relationships.

I'm a guy though, so what do I know? But I'd love to hear what you think. Do you see a difference between romance and love stories. And if so, what books written in the last couple of years by LDS authors do you think fall into each category?

5 comments:

Lucy said...

I think there are still love stories out there in LDS fiction, but a lot of them are disguised within non-romance genres. Traci Abramson's Undercurrents series comes to mind. The main characters definitely deepended their commitment to one another despite difficult circumstances, but the books were all considered suspense.

Melanie Jacobson said...

To be honest, I prefer romances to love stories. I realize that probably puts me in the minority, but given the chance to see The Notebook or Fifty First Dates, I'm going to choose the latter most of the time. The reasons are simple. 1) I'm shallow. 2) Real life is dramatic enough without any extra helpings in my entertainment.

And this makes it sounds like my life is a slog. It's not. It's frankly delightful. The drama is inevitable, though: illness, financial setbacks, etc. So I don't seek it out in my entertainment. I fill in the in-between times with relaxing reads or really thought-provoking pieces of literature, but not really heavy drama.

And now I've overexplained, so I am done.

Jennie said...

The Kiss of a Stranger by Sarah Eden is romance. It's delightful, it's fun, it's relaxing. It's romance and that's OKAY. The Last Waltz by G.G. Vandagriff is a love story. It's grand, it's larger than life, it has depth, and that's OKAY. Like most readers, sometimes I just want to relax with a fun book and sometimes I want to read a book that touches something deep inside me. And Jeff, I agree with your statement that there are still love stories being written; they're just showing up as sub plots in other genres.

Donna Weaver said...

At LTUE they said you have to have a HEA in a romance. Love stories don't necessarily have to have that.

The Bourne stories (books, not the movies) were certainly high adventure tales, but I think at their core they're a love story (Marie's not killed off in the books). She changed Jason/David's his life and helped to ground him, giving him the support he needed to create a new (real) life.

Realizing there are plenty of books that are just romance, I've always thought it was funny that a story with love written by a woman is often dismissed as a romance, while a story with love written by a man rarely is. It's often perception. What boy would have wanted to read a book about a boy wizard written by a WOMAN for heavens sake. Change of initials, and voila.

;)

Anonymous said...

"Despite popular theories, I believe people fall in love based not on good looks or fate but on knowledge. Either they are amazed by something a beloved knows that they themselves do not know; or they discover common rare knowledge; or they can supply knowledge to someone who's lacking. Hasn't anyone found a strange ignorance in someone beguiling. An earnest question: what day of the week does Thanksgiving fall on this year? Nowadays, trendy librarians, wanting to be important, say, Knowledge is power. I know better. Knowledge is love." --Elizabeth McCracken, The Giant's House: A Romance