Dark Night of the Soul

Hey everyone, back again from holiday. But unfortunately coming back to a bit of a downer so excuse the ranty post. Heard from the ed while I was away and although it was a very nice, long email, it was full of all the things I’m doing wrong and not much about what I’m doing right. And actually, not sure there’s anything I’m doing right at the moment. My major problem seems to be characters that aren’t instantly understandable and relateable, and thus are unsympathetic. Big yays for me.

I seem to like characters that act too much like real people, with all their sad, stupid flaws, rather than aspirational characters that are flawed but ultimately act in more sympathetic ways than real people ever do. This is not bad, by the way, simply one of the requirements of the genre. Because, really, when you read romance, you do not want to read about everyday people being dumb. You want to read about fundatmentally good people who come to see the error of their ways and do the right thing in the end. Not that my characters don’t do that, it’s just they’re not as instantly understandable as the category requires.

So, here I am, working on my synopsis for my next sub, wondering if I’ve made my characters too complicated again, whether they’re instantly understandable, whether they’re acting in extreme ways, is there too much sexual tension, is there not enough, is this even worth submitting because it’s obviously a huge load of crap… Should I give up this stupid writing thing and take up macrame instead.

Sigh. I should add that in fact, there was one thing I’m okay at and that seems to be emotional scenes. Though since they don’t tend to come along until a bit later in the story and as I’ve had two partials rejected, I haven’t even had a chance to show those off of late either.

So there you have it. Welcome home, Jackie.

And no, there was no mention of my NV entry. Everyone else seemed to like it so I’m not sure what the problem with it was. No doubt something I haven’t even scratched the surface of yet, that will lead to undiscovered new territories of rejection potential…

43 thoughts on “Dark Night of the Soul”

  1. (((Hugs))) Jackie. Whoever said this writing gig was easy, hey? Please don’t take up macrame. I think you’re an excellent writer – you just need to keep slogging away and your time will come (even though I know it doesn’t feel like it at the moment).

  2. Angie – love the hugs. πŸ™‚ Whenever that ‘time’ is, feels like a long way away now. Actually, right now it feels like I’ll be one of those ones who keep nearly making it, but never quite do.

  3. Jackie —
    Have you tried thinking about who your real life heroes are, and why. What quality objecitve draws you to them? Now look at the first few pages of ms, can you show this quality in a small way. What can the characters do to get the reader on his or her side? What is your save the cat moment? Why is the reader going to emphasize with your heroine/hero?

  4. oh crap! This business is one hideous roller-coaster… and for all the cliches about how wonderful life is being on a roller-coaster, I think roller-coasters suck. They make you feel like chucking up!

    You’ve had the highs of contest success, and the lows of rejection, and the highs of audience accolades and the lows of your recent editor feedback. Man it sucks.

    I’m going to go away and think of some really positive, life-changing advice. But in the meantime I wanted you to know that I feel your pain. Huge hugs to you. Don’t you dare give up!! From everything they tell us ‘voice’ is one of the hardest things to get right… and you have it. It is worth bucket loads. Everything else we need can be learned.

    word ver. Fraggl = which is a strangely powerful exclamation of digust.

  5. Hugs from me too. I sent you an email before I saw you’d blogged so won’t repeat it here but I really think you’re not as far away as you think you think you are…

    Sending infusion of hard core dark chocolate your way too!


  6. Uh uh! We have a deal! You can’t quit unless I quit and vice versa and the chances of us both wanting to quit at the same time are slim to none. Macrame is too dangerous to do anyway πŸ˜‰

    You’re an amazing writer and I know you’ll whip those characters into line. I can already see your name on a M&B cover so don’t give up!

    ((HUGS)) and showers of chocolate!

  7. Banging my head on the desk for you Jackie *hugs*
    I know it’s hard to keep the faith, but you are SO good at this and you WILL get there.

    I love IT girl. Of all the chapters in the NV comp,and some of them were great, yours was the one that made me wish i’d written it.
    Hoping for good news for you over on the NV announcement this afternoon, you thoroughly deserve some encouragement.

    KOKO, or Keep on Keepin’on – my new fave acronym!
    We should invent the KOKO cocktail to help steel the nerves of flagging aspiring writers.


  8. ARGH Jackie!!!! I reckon the fabulous Jo Dixon summed it all up. There aren’t any words! This business is TOUGH, I’m just hoping it means success will be even sweeter when we get there – and we WILL get there!!!
    Love ya!!!

  9. Hugs Jackie. Really mean it – since the follow up NV authors are out and you are not on it! AND there are a lot of stories that I thought would get the “nod” that haven’t. Sigh…I wonder what M&B really want…Caroline x

  10. Jackie, am writing this at a ridiculously early time in the morning so forgive any mistakes. Firstly welcome home! I started going through Jackie-withdrawals so it’s great to have you back and I hope you had a lovely time away.

    Sometimes I think it’s important to give yourself permission to do something different. At the moment I’m having a M&B holiday (ie writing stuff NOT targeted at M&B lines) and it’s really fun.

    I’m not saying don’t write M&B ever again. I’m saying take your too real characters and write a single title – one not bound by M&B rules – one not bound by any rules. You have an amazing voice – sing, baby! Let it out! Then come back to M&B and fulfil your dreams of writing for them.

    Whatever you do, don’t give up. Not when writing is such an important part of who you are. I/we believe in you (this is where I reach through the computer and swamp you with a massive squeezy hug). Your talent shines; far, far brighter than the darkness of any night.

  11. Commiserations, Jackie. This is a tough business–no question! Have you thought about maybe writing a longer book for the more mainstream women’s fiction market? Characters can be real and complicated and it *might* be a better fit although I loved your NV entry!! Good luck & keep writing!

  12. Okay so I’ve just seen the list. And I’m gutted you and a good few others aren’t on it. I really LOVED your chapter Jackie and wanted to read on and on. So in future just write your stories for me, because I’ll read them and I’ll love them!
    Keep going Jackie and please, please sub IT girl, even if they didn’t ask for it x x

  13. First of all ((((((((((HUGS))))))))

    Second of all, you are an awesome writer with a huge following of people who had great things to say about your writing.

    Third of all, you are getting emails from an editor. Hello? There are thousands of writers who would kill to have that happen.

    They’ve told you what’s wrong. You didn’t get “it’s not working” with no idea what to fix. It probably doesn’t feel like it, but lucky you.

    Here’s screenwriting guru Michael Hague’s advice on how to fix how your characters appear and make them sympathetic and relatable.

    5 key ways this happens. The more you can incorporate in chapter 1 the better.

    1. create sympathy for hero by making them the victim of something undeserved
    2. Put the character in jeopardy. Threaten them with the loss of something important
    3. Make them likeable. Show they are well liked by others in the story
    4. Make the hero funny. We empathize with people who make us laugh. Funny people say things that deep down we wish we’d say.
    5. Make the character powerful. Make them good at what they do

    You have so many people pulling for you. It will happen.

  14. Hi,


    I hate the thirteen tag so bang I’m coming in on fourteen!

    Re Category Romance = Fantasy Romance: thereby your problem as I see it.

    In your heart of hearts you desire realism in a romance novel, and a concocted ludicrous storyline of some billionaire prince on a small island in the Atlantic/Pacific is like dreaming up a Prince of Aus or Kiwiland.

    Dream on I say, cos that’s sretching bullshit to extremes. Yee Gods, what are we trying to write for here? Kids wearing pink feather boa and wearing mom’s oversized stilettos and pretending to be a little princess.

    I DO NOT WANT TO BE A M&B NOVELIST – NO WAY! I want people to be proud to read one of my novels on a train/plane/tube/bus etc., so I’m going to run a mile from any publisher who has a pink website! πŸ˜‰

    Do keep writing all, your dream is yours, and mine mine. πŸ™‚

  15. Michelle – thanks for the advice. I think the new sub has this but, hey what do I know? πŸ™‚

    Jo – thanks for the hugs. I may have the voice but it’s not doing me the slightest bit of good now. But when you have some life changing advice, come tell me!

    Lorraine – excellent. Transfusion and hugs is just what I need.

    Lacey – you can quit. I think I might. πŸ™

    Jo P – thanks for the lovely compliments. Right now IT Girl feels like she’s been slapped in the face with a very large, wet fish.

    Rach – love ya right back, sweetie. When you find some success, pass it on huh? πŸ™‚

    Caroline – yeah, I know. And I have no idea what they want since I’m clearly not providing it.

    Elissa – hello, m’dear! I saw my award. Thank you so much, that was a bright point in my sorry day. πŸ™‚ And thanks for your kind words and squeezy hugs. Feeling better already.

    Kate – thanks so much for the encouragement! Yes, single title is an option but part of me is just so damn stubborn with category. I hate failing. I need an idea too. πŸ™‚

    Susan – I think I love you. πŸ™‚ Can you be my editor? I’ve actually emailed her asking if she wants to see more of IT Girl so who knows?

    Cat – thanks for the lovely hugs. You rock. And the advice is fantastic. I’ve just gone through it and looked at my new sub and I ‘think’ I’ve got all of those in that first chapter!

  16. commisserations Jackie.
    I think a few others have said it, but maybe you could try a ST novel? Your ‘real life’ characters will hve the time to stretch and show themselves and you have a fantastic voice – DON’T GIVE UP!!

  17. Hugs and all of the above. In saying that, I had similar comments from the Editors at Mills & Boon and it made me step back and wonder why I was trying to shoehorn my voice into what they wanted. My advice to you is be true to your characters and yourself. Take everything you have learnt from this process and write the book of your heart and (gosh, horror) it may not be a category romance. I think there is a fabulous ST just waiting to to escape because I think IT girl has a lot more depth in her than just 55,000 words. Good luck

  18. I think this comp has left a lot of us scratching our heads and wondering what on earth it is we’re doing wrong.

    I think you want to write MH (rather than ST) and I believe you have the voice to do it. You’re doing exactly the right things, not so much banging on their door but battering it in. You’ll get there and I have every faith in you that when you do, you’ll be able to rework some of these mss that have been so close but not quite worked for whatever reason.

    And not to depress you, but I think you’d be crap at macrame πŸ˜‰

  19. Jackie
    It wasn’t macrame for me. It was Irish wedding ring quilts. 2nd highest degree of difficulty (the 1st, in my opinion, is applique – and I hesitate to say I’m saving that for the Ultimate R… pls stop sending us your crap…!) My fingertips took eons to recover – a part of me must have been trying to prick me out of the madness of not writing. Spare yourself the pain, stick to writing. Immerse yourself in reading, do something, dart throwing, falconry, NZ’s famous for high risk/all precautions taken activities… just don’t turn to crafts… Although, having said that, Debbie Macomber’s a passionate knitter (gave that a whirl too, until I ran out of closet space, and it did hone my attention to detail, obsessive/compulsion). Anyhow, fire yourself up and fence off those useless doubts. I’m off to chase mine with a broomstick. Cheers

  20. Jackie, don’t macrame. I mean, you’ll end up with like NINETY knitted owls hanging around the house and…blech. Anyway…

    No, don’t quit. Do something else with writing? Maybe. I don’t think you’ll be happy until you’ve cracked it, so why quit altogether? How is that BETTER?? πŸ˜›

    Also, I like Michelle’s advice there…I’m going to use it myself.

    And to ALL of you who haven’t made the list for the comp…neither did I in any of the comps I entered. Lets be losers together. πŸ˜‰

  21. Francine – thanks for the support! πŸ™‚

    Kerrin – thanks to you too. Ah, single title. I have to have an idea for that to happen. Sadly lacking in ideas…

    Felicity – yeah, have thought about that. Thing is, I’ve learned so much about category and I think I CAN do it. More, I want to do it. I don’t want to give up on it. Argh, sounds like I just talked myself into keeping going. Groan.

    Suzanne – hugs back. πŸ™‚

    Joanne – lol re the macrame. I think I’d be crap at it too. Can’t knit or sew either. Yeah, I want MH. I’ve been told over and over I have the voice for it so… yeah, what’s going wrong??

    Sri – love that chocolate. It’s delish. Hope you’re having some too.

    Veronica – LOL! No craft, okay, I’m good with that. Falconry though, that’s something I’ve always wanted to try…

    Maisey – the part that’s better is not having the disappointment every time a door is shut in your face. But hey, I guess that’s life in general hmmm? I dunno. I care too much about this, that’s the problem. The disappointment is just so bitter. And if you have enough of it, you get sick of swallowing it.

    Lacey – I may never crack it and thus I may never be happy. Don’t know. Sometimes thinking of giving it all away is very liberating. I may never succeed but hey, at least I won’t be constantly disappointed. Don’t know if that’s better or not!

  22. true enough…but if you quit then you’ll be the reason you didn’t make it. That would be kinda sucky. Also…house full of macrame owls.

  23. I hear what you’re saying. I’ve been there but does that liberating feeling beat the feeling you get when you think about getting your own call and know that people will soon be buying your books? Plus think of all those owl eyes following you around… everywhere you go, something is watching you…

  24. Big hugs, Jackie.
    We know you can. You do to.
    A lot of us wish we’d written IT Girl. That should speak volumes and slap the ‘givin up’ gremlins. jx

  25. Maisey – macrame owls suck, it’s true. But quitting…I dunno, jury’s still out.

    Lacey – I’ve stopped imagining my call because every time I’ve done it, it’s ended in rejection and I can’t bear the hope to be honest. Sad but true.

    Judy – thanks m’dear. But since I’m not on the list, I bet many people are now glad they didn’t write it and wish they’d written one of the other ones that was!

  26. Huge hugs, Jackie. As many have said, it’s not easy this business. Keep your chin up, take a break if you need to, but keep subbing. It’ll happen one day! Love, Maya xx

  27. I’m not going to say ‘don’t macrame’. In fact, I’m going to say DO. The arrival of The List made me feel exactly as you do: What am I doing wrong? Do I simply not have what it takes?

    So I spent last night working on a rather intense jigsaw puzzle and I can’t tell you how much better I feel today!

    So please, for all the readers who love what you write, DON’T GIVE UP WRITING. But do take up macrame. It’ll help you stay sane, both before and after you’re published.

  28. Maya – thanks my dear.

    Romy – I’m as baffled as you are. I thought your chapter was fabulous. So you DO have what it takes. Jigsaw puzzle sounds great. Better than macrame. πŸ™‚

  29. Hey Jax,
    ((Hugs)) on the shat news. That sux. I know this was mentioned in an earlier comment, but what about single title? I know what it’s like to want to sell to a certain pub and in a certain line. When I started writing, my total focus was on writing one saleable Nocturne Bite. Every idea I came up with, I fashioned around the (extremely specific) guidelines that are so common in category romance. Dark? Check. No humor? Check. Super sexy? Check. Billionaire Alpha hero with at least one tattoo and a chip on his shoulder? Checkerooni. Absolutely no life or personality left in this ms by the time I checked all this off? CHECK. I subbed my novella, titled Pray, to NB and got a form R. I really liked the core of the ms (which I had already written a sequel to) so I added back in the things that I had forsaken in order to meet the line requirements (some humor, a little more beta in my alpha) and subbed it to other e-pubs. I sold it (and five more ms) in the course of a few months. I just started writing what I liked and the stories I wanted to tell rather than trying to squeeze them into a box that didn’t feel like a natural fit for me. That doesn’t mean I won’t ever sub to HQ again. If I write something that fits into one of their lines, I certainly will. But until then, or until I decide to write a full length single title, I’m happy working with Carina, who has been GREAT and the epitomy of professionalism and will publish almost any genre as long as it’s good, Ellora’s Cave and Cobblestone. I guess what I’m saying is, even if your ultimate goal is to write category, maybe, given how down in the dumps it’s making you right now, you should think about writing for YOU, and not worrying about guidelines. Give yourself some time to fall in love with writing again and just write rather than walking through a mine field that doesn’t seem like you are in a place to navigate right now. Then, look to find a pub- Print OR e-pub, who sees the gem that you are. Your voice is fab, and I know you can find success if you widen your lens a little. Not forever, I’m not saying give up. Just allow yourself to explore other options until you find the line for you. Or, even WHILE you are trying to pub in a certain line. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. You can do them simultaneously. On one hand, try to decipher what the editor is trying to say. On the other, spend your time writing something you love, and sell it elsewhere. Signing a contract and getting a royalty check really takes some of the sting out of a rejection.

  30. Dang. I thought i figured out the email thing and it bounced back again. (sigh) Jackie, do you have a functioning email addy somewhere?

    And Christine? ITA with what you said. πŸ™‚


  31. I realized in hindsight that the way my post was worded sounded like none of the category romances could be humorous etc. Obviously that’s not the case, sorry about that! I was trying to say that most lines have strict guidelines. The ones I mentioned were (except for the snarky part about tattoos, *grin*)just NB guidelines (they say to save the humor for other lines b/c it takes away from tension, danger etc.) I just wanted to clarify in case anyone thought I was suggesting that there is no humor allowed in category no matter what line, and that they only take billionaire alpha males.

  32. OK.I’m not the type to offer writing advice… mainly because I don’t think I know enough yet to recommend anything of substance. But, I DO know what I like to read. (I’ve been doing that for decades!) I would buy your novels… and they’d have a permanent place on my keeper shelf. I’m just saying… πŸ™‚

  33. Jackie, sorry for the disappointing news and I understand totally how frustrated and disappointed you must feel.

    I say rage, vent, scream, vow to quit. Whatever you need to do to get all this negativity out of your system.

    I thought your NV entry was fabulous – fast-paced with a sparkling voice. So, once you’re feeling better, I hope you rediscover your optimism and joy in writing. Best of luck.

  34. Anne – thanks for the understanding. Yeah, venting is how I like to deal with it. Get it all out, wail, gnash the teeth etc. It does really help. In fact I’m feeling better already. πŸ™‚ Thanks re my NV chapter. I’m glad you liked it. Who knows what the eds thought but I’m pretty happy with the response I got from readers. It made my year.

  35. Jumping in late to the bandwagon …

    (((((Jax))))) I wish all our hugs and belief in you, take out the sting of the R..

    I googled “macrame” and felt that, if that’s what is so enticing to you, go ahead ! I’m sure the characters will wink at you from nearby, enticing you and making you itch to get their story down on paper.. And at that moment, I say – get on the ride!

    I’m not saying writing is easy or hard.. its tough to get published or not.. but remember that, when the time is right, everything will clink into place, no matter what !

    And in spite of all what I said above, I’m hoping I’ll see your name on the books soon !

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