Well, I got a rejection for the Superromance submission in the post today.
A not too bad, personalised R, which I really appreciate, but still an R. I was kinda expecting that, even though obviously I hoped for something different. No real positives to take away from it, I’m afraid, not even the invitation to sub another story, which is more upsetting than the R.
Except yet again I have the chance to learn, and this time from some real live editorial feedback, so it’s not all bad. I would have been gutted to get a form R, but this I can work with.
She thought “the plot relies too heavily on external forces and secondary characters to bring Cady and Lock together. Everything that happens comes about because of actions taken by other people, not from any decision made by the hero and heroine. For this story to be successful, we’d need to see the characters be more proactive in their lives and their relationship instead of simply reacting to the other people around them.”
My initial response- Well, that’s not really how I saw it, though the set up is very based on external events- but aren’t all stories? It’s how the characters run with that that makes the story.
I had about 30 seconds of being weepy and sorry for myself and “But all stories are like that”, then I started thinking about it.
Second thought- light bulb moment- I think I see at least one thing I could change about Cady and Lock that would make the characters more proactive – or one of them, at least. I need to make a similar change in the story I’m writing now, it has exactly the same issue.
It still may not be enough to fix it though. The real problem is that my characters tend not to start with obvious goals that are in opposition. One may have a goal, they impact on the other’s life, but for one character their goal is usually just to keep their life the same. That’s always going to make them seem to be not proactive, just reactive. Actually, stories don’t start with an external factor, it only looks like they do. Stories start with one character’s goal impacting on another, and that’s the inciting event. So it can be totally internally driven, on that level. The problem with my story was neither character was working towards their own goals.
Arrgghhhh! All my stories are the same!
Anyway, I think I can see now several things that could make Cady and Lock’s story better. Drop her mother’s illness as the reason Lock seeks her out after so many years. Probably take out the whole subplot about her mother being ill- it’s just a fairly clunky plot device to give him the reason to contact her. It’s not needed, another complication to clutter things up. What that thread is really about is Cady repairing her broken relationship with her mother, which parallels her repairing her broken relationship with Lock.
Lock needs to instigate their meeting for his own reasons, not anyone else’s. I’m thinking seeing Cady on the television reignites his smouldering old feelings for her. Not the love, but the anger at how she ended things. He realises he’s put his life on hold waiting for her to come back to him, and it’s time to move on. (Their son needs to be a few years younger in that case, I don’t think he would have waited that long!) He seeks her out to demand answers to all those unanswered questions, then discovers she had his son and never told him.
Nah, still not there. Maybe that’s too coincidental too, I have two coincidences- he sees her on the TV, and then at the exact same time he is with her their son is injured so he finds out he has a son by accident. Not good enough. Those plot devices are clunking so loud, no one can hear the story. LOL, now I think about this, no wonder they rejected it!
The trigger needs to be him finding out he has a son after all these years. That’s the motivation strong enough to set the whole thing in motion, and at the most only needs one coincidence! I need to scrap everything in my partial and some significant chunks of my first draft, but the story will be better for it. I obviously tend to rely too much on plot devices and not enough on the character’s real goals and motivation.
The other thing I need to do is strip down to the real core of what the story is about and go deeper with that, rather than adding in other complications. The complications are often due to the plot devices I started off with anyway. It’s a product of writing my way in- I don’t always know enough about the characters to start, so I use a plot device (like the sick mother in Cady and Lock) to get me started. Where I go wrong is leaving that in the future drafts!
So the heart of this story is Lock discovering he has a son with Cady, the woman he once intended to marry, growing up without a father. He experienced this himself when his own father abandoned him and his mother. No way is he going to be a deadbeat dad. He’s going to be part of his son’s life, whether Cady wants it or not. Cady doesn’t want to deny her son Josh the chance to know his father, but deciding to allow that threaten all she’s built her life on. She made the most painful decision of her life nine years before, when she chose to end her relationship with Lock rather than reveal a shameful secret. It’s time to set things right. Going home to Haven Bay for the summer means being around Lock, the man she betrayed, thinking it was best for him not to tell him the truth. It means seeing her estranged mother again. It means learning what it really means to be part of a family. It means taking the biggest risk of all- trusting in love.
Or something like that! The essence of the story is identical, all the other junk I hung off it is removed. The interesting thing will be seeing how much of my first draft is salvageable, and how much was clutter that needs to be pruned back to make more space to go deeper with the real story. Megan was so right in her comments on the partial- the characters aren’t focused enough, there’s a lot of clutter. Much of what is in the partial can be dropped without touching the core story at all. In fact, the three chapters, when it’s stripped back but taken deeper, become one. The end line of the revised chapter one will be the end line of chapter three in what I subbed!
Phew. It’s going to be an interesting rewrite. I’m looking forward to tackling it.
And now, I need to do the same with my WiP, the story for SYTYCW. Take off all the dangly jangly rings and bells and bangles, and find out what the naked essence is of the story I want to tell. All those extras and messy plot devices detract from the story, get in the way of emotional intensity.
Fun! I’m excited about this!