Mark Terry

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Any Reason Will Do

November 11, 2008
Here's the first rejection of The Fortress of Diamonds:

I thought that FORTRESS OF DIAMONDS was a well-written romp, but in the end, it’s not quite right for me.  It was more plot-driven than character-driven, and I never found myself getting caught up in the fantastical plot enough to be the right editor for it.

I am reminded, oddly enough, of the lovely young woman who came to the door yesterday and handed me a religious tract. Frodo had been going berzerk at the door and she said, "What a nice dog you have." I thought that was interesting because he initially sounds like he's going to rip your guts out and jumps up and down in a frenzy. Maybe it's that his tail is wagging the entire time.

Anyway, she gave a mini-spiel, which I didn't pay any attention to, took her leaflet, closed the door, didn't bother to even look at it, and tossed it in the recycle bin. Now that the political canvassers are done pounding my door, the religious canvassers are back. I mostly wish people would stop interrupting my work day. I'm perfectly capable of interrupting my own work with a million-and-one distractions, thank you very much. I don't need any more.

Anyway, the point is, I'm not entirely sure why "plot-driven" is supposed to be better than "character-driven" although I think what she means--assuming there's any reason to parse what she means at all--is she didn't really like the main character.

But, like the woman at my door might have realized (although I doubt it), I was looking for any reason to ignore her. And it occurs to me--not for the first time--that editors are looking for any reason to turn down your manuscript. ANY REASON WILL DO.

Mark Terry


Blogger Jude Hardin said...

It sounds like she would have preferred it to be more character driven. But like Joe Konrath told me recently, you can drive yourself nuts trying to interpret editors' comments.

If several of them come back with similar comments, though, it might be time to think about some changes.

12:59 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Joe's absolutely right.

The only real way to take an editor's rejection is:

on this day, I didn't want to acquire your book.

Really, that's it. Maybe on a different day they would have. Maybe not.

1:03 PM  
Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

Editors and agents choose manuscripts based on whether they like them and/or they think they'll sell. But that sounds unprofessional so they feel they need to select a reason from the handy-dandy list.

1:05 PM  
Blogger spyscribbler said...

You are so polite and patient! I'm one of those people who take one look and say, "No, thank you. Please don't leave junk on my doorstep," and close the door.

Ohmigosh, my best friend and I laughed ourselves to tears over the latest religious canvassers. It was only a couple weeks ago, and they had a list of questions, such as, "Why does God let bad things happen?" and "Why does God let good people suffer?"

When I said my "no, thank you" speech, she looked at me with complete puzzlement and said, "You don't want the answers to these questions?"

4:19 PM  
Blogger Zoe Winters said...

I just think it's funny that she wrote: "well-written romp"

You know how writers have to have a hook in their query letter? It's like the rejection had a hook.

7:55 PM  
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