Blind Date Bride


An e-mail arrived in my inbox today with the subject line: “Your Submission: …”

Since I was at work at the time, I had an argument with myself.

“You can’t open that! You’re supposed to be working,” the me with the Midwestern work ethic said. (It’s the same me that never calls in sick because I don’t want to leave my coworkers in the lurch. I have something like 140 sick hours built up because never feel like I can take it.)

“Open it. It won’t take long — and it might be good news.”

“No, really. Good news or not, you can wait until you get home,” the angel me insisted.

My impatient side snorted. “Yeah, right.”

No need to guess which side won. I clicked on that e-mail faster than a hungry dog scarfs down its dinner. I’m not even sure I took time to carry on that conversation in my head before I opened it. (I should have!)

Unfortunately, the news was not good. Another rejection — the second on the partial MS for “Blind Date Bride” … well, the third. Two agents and one publisher have taken a pass.

I still have hope, though. At least it was an encouraging rejection, complete with a “hang in there and stick with it.”

The agent’s complaint? Worry that the voice isn’t unique enough to stand out in the market.

Now that’s a little worrisome, because I don’t have any other voice to write in. And confusing, because in the Beacon Contest judges’ comments, they loved my voice.

Then again, the judges’ comments are on “Beauty and the Ballplayer,” not “Blind Date Bride.” Maybe BDB still isn’t ready for prime time.

And maybe I just need to continue my agent search. Somewhere, out there, is the agent who will fall as in love with my story as I am. I just need to find her (or him).

Lucky for me, my friends at the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood wrote a blog post about just that topic today: the agent hunt.

It’s funny how wildly my mood has swung. I was euphoric about my contest final two weeks ago, especially after reading the judges’ feedback. I had a feeling it was the start of something big. I imagined myself on the verge of signing with an agent, selling a novel or both.

Now, I’m down in the dumps, questioning my story … my voice … even my writing talent. Yes, even a “good” rejection stings. (I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that.) 😉

I know rejection is a — huge — part of writing. We all get them. Even the bestselling authors got them at one time.

Even so, I can say it definitively: I don’t like the downslope of the writer’s roller coaster.

It’s time to make something good happen so I can crest another hill. 😉

 

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Now that I’ve had time to synthesize my score sheets from the last contest I entered, I’m pleased to say I’m on the right track.

No, I did not final. The max score was a 161; mine was 130-something.

That being said, I wasn’t displeased with the results. That was my gut reaction when I read through the score sheets the first time; it didn’t change when I reread them a couple of days later.

I got at least a 3 (average) in every category. I also got plenty of 4s and even a few 5s.

I think I can safely say I’m on the right track. The judges liked the concept and at least one said they liked my writing style.

Now, all I have to do is revise, using the feedback to make the story even better. (Since it’s going to be a GH entry, I want it to be as perfect as possible … and the comments should help.)

Maybe I ought to take the hard copy of the MS with me on vacation so I can get started …

Five queries. Two same-day rejections. I appreciate the prompt replies.

I am a little discouraged, but not giving up. I believe in “Blind Date Bride.” And, as “they” say … Rome wasn’t built in a day. I’m going to find an agent who loves “Blind Date Bride” and wants to represent it (and me).

I just hope it doesn’t take forever …

After reading agent Nathan Bransford’s blog post on the importance of having one-sentence, one-paragraph and two-paragraph pitches ready for your novel (you never know when you’ll run into your Dream Agent in an elevator, after all), I decided to take a stab at crafting some of my own.

One sentence: As the reluctant winners of a cable TV network contest, a painfully shy woman and an outgoing man — neither of whom are seeking a spouse — must marry and live together for 90 days, learning true love — not cold, hard cash — is the real prize.

One paragraph: Thanks to her meddling best friend, Kari Parker earns the dubious distinction of becoming the “Blind Date Bride” — sentenced by the judges in Romance TV’s “Get a Love Life” contest to meet and marry a complete stranger for 90 days. Unable to pass up the cash prize that she wants to help her parents’ failing restaurant, she finds herself saddled with a too-big, too-strong and too-friendly husband who reminds her way too much of the ex she’s been running from for years. Then Kari moves from the spare room to Damien’s bedroom to accommodate a camera crew filming a reality show of their “marriage” and realizes she doesn’t have a chance of making it through the 90 days with her heart intact.

Two paragraphs: Thanks to her meddling best friend, Kari Parker earns the dubious distinction of becoming the “Blind Date Bride” — sentenced by the judges in Romance TV’s “Get a Love Life” contest to meet and marry a complete stranger for 90 days. She agrees to do it because the prize money will save her parents’ foundering restaurant. Damien Walker didn’t enter the “Get a Love Life” contest, either — his buddy was hoping he’d win second prize, a trip for two to Club Med. But when a panel of romance experts says he has the worst love life in America, he realizes he has become too wrapped up in his veterinary practice. He sees his beautiful, bogus bride both as a lifeline to pull him out of his dull existence and a puzzle to solve.

The real fun begins when Kari moves from the spare room to his bedroom to accommodate the camera crew they agree to let film a reality show of their “marriage.” As Damien tries to figure out why Kari bolts every time they touch, she quickly realizes she’ll never make it through the 90 days without succumbing to his advances. Worse yet, she finds herself wanting to trust Damien and see if they can make their sham marriage real in every sense of the word.

I was pretty pleased with my efforts, especially when I had a chance today to use my longest pitch on an editor taking pitches on someone’s blog today.

Well, either I did a poor job communicating what I wanted to convey or “Blind Date Bride” isn’t as ready for querying as I thought, because the editor didn’t have a kind word to say. She said my plot was too far-fetched.

What, I ask you, is so far-fetched about a TV network coming up with a crazy, intrusive premise for a show and changing people’s lives? 😉

Maybe I just need to explain their motivations a little better … but this is the short version — even shorter than my one-page query. Hmm. What to do, what to do?

Over at the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood, my writing blog home away from home, I read a fantastic post the other day. It was all about what editors want from a category romance.

After reading it, I wonder if Brad and Erin’s story is as ready as I thought. I break nearly all of the guidelines:

  1. Stir internal conflict on EVERY page.
  2. Minimize secondary characters.
  3. Let your main characters be active.
  4. Get them together.
  5. Keep them together.
  6. Give them reasons to love each other.

Hmm. I already know the story is a little thin on conflict. For the first several chapters, the main one is Erin thinks she wants Mike to notice her but she’s starting to like Brad, too.

My secondary characters, including Mike, all play what may be too large a role. Not surprising, considering they each have their own story. Brad and Erin’s is the first in a series.

Are they active? I don’t even know how to start thinking about that. That means the answer is probably a big, fat “NO.”

As for getting them together, Brad and Erin don’t have a scene together until page 12 — and that’s after Erin has her first scene with Mike. And keeping them together? Well, they go out on several dates (including an ill-fated trip to Chicago for a concert), but there are plenty of scenes in between with one or the other talking to someone else.

Do I give them reasons to love one another? Well, they’re both good people, and fine upstanding citizens of these United States. And it goes without saying that they’re beautiful (most heroes and heroines are, after all). He likes her sense of humor and honesty; she’s attracted to his body and soul.

Hmm. That may also be a little on the thin side. I’m beginning to wonder if this book will ever sell without yet another overhaul … Ugh. That’s a horrible thought, not least of all because I’m way too invested in these characters. Of all my characters, Erin is most like me (education reporter with no luck in love — all me when I wrote the thing).

On the plus side, I thought of a way to make Meg & Matt’s story, “Beauty and the Ballplayer” more closely adhere to the guidelines I just discovered. I’m going to lop off the first several pages (which I’ve decided are all backstory, despite the fact that I love the first line:

Meg looked at the pregnancy test stick in her hand, hoping like hell she misinterpreted it.

The rest of the first few pages have her thinking about how, at 32, she’s too  old to be pregnant and alone, and about how her ex ran off to Vegas to become a professional poker player.

I think I’ll start with her and Matt meeting at the bar instead.

Sadly, not much writing has happened since Wednesday (and that writing didn’t count toward my Word Count Countdown, because it wasn’t actually writing on any of my WIPs).

This type of limbo is much more fun!

I’m at a certain point: Finished MS but no query or synopsis — and since our NARWA meeting next Saturday is on the dreaded synopsis, I’m kind of trying to hold out before working on one of those.

The query and synopsis on “Blind Date Bride” are mostly finished, but I’m still a little scared to send that one out there. I did get a rave review from one of my NARWA sisters, who described it as “delicious.”

With a review like that, why am I not sure? It’s probably plain old fear of rejection — again. I’ve already gotten tons of rejections on Brad & Erin’s story, so why would I expect this one to do better?

Well, it was written much later. Brad & Erin’s MS was my first, and even though I’ve edited it so much that parts hardly resemble the original draft, it could be that it’s just not good enough. Pat said she can tell a huge difference between that one and “Blind Date Bride,” that my writing has grown and changed.

So maybe it’s time to bite the bullet, finish the query/synopsis and send it out there. It’ll immediately expand my agent pool, since this one’s a single title instead of category.

The hits just keep on coming!

That’s right. About 30 minutes ago, I put the finishing touches on the expanded draft of Bree & Mike’s story. It’s 56,000 words (on the shorter side of category romance, but still within the bounds) and will probably grow as I edit.

Of course, with Bree and Mike somewhat settled, I’m back to being at loose ends. What shall I do next?

The task that looms large is synopsis writing … but I think I’ll hold off on that until after our next NARWA meeting on May 15. That’s the topic our guest speaker, Cathy McDavid, will be covering.

Maybe I should go back to editing Kari & Damien’s story, “Blind Date Bride.” It’s my only single-title novel, and my writer friend Pat (who has read both it and Brad & Erin’s story) thinks it’s by far and away the better one.

Since Brad & Erin has been getting agent rejections left and right, I’m starting to think Pat may be right.

Query letter, here I come! Ugh. That sucks nearly as much as a synopsis.

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