Friday, October 21, 2016

The dreaded "I just didn't connect" rejection and how to up your chances!

How many times have we heard that standard rejection, "I just didn't connect with it" or heard the word "SUBJECTIVE." These are realities in the publishing world. They're legit reasons for rejections even if we don't full understand them. 

Truth is, sometimes there is nothing you can do to make a particular person love your work. That's the nature of art.

 Some people are going to love it, some are going to hate it, some will be neutral (this is a life lesson all authors learn when they start getting reviews!) So sometimes that's what we mean when we say "it's subjective." I'm sorry, you're just not "the one". 

During #pitchwars someone compared the slush pile to dating... and boy what an analogy! So let's play with that, shall we?

Sometimes mentors, agents or editors have to say no to books that they know are fantastic. Books they know deserve to be chosen. Because there is another book that just connects... for whatever reason.

Let's think of submitting your work like a first date, and all the things you should keep in mind to up your chances of a love connection-- do's and don'ts.

Step one: Basic hygiene

This one is simple. Wash your hair, brush your teeth, wear deodorant. In publishing? This can translate into grammar and punctuation or even into character motivations that make sense, staying away from cliches, plot that moves forward etc.

Step two: Be Interesting

On a date, if you have nothing to say about anything, we may start getting bored. Naturally, people are going to be more drawn to someone like, say, a fire fighter, than an accountant who has no hobbies-- simply because they want to know more about them. "Is it scary?" "Have you ever saved someone's life?" if exciting questions start running through someone's mind, that's piquing their interest and they'll hang around a little longer to see what's around the corner. 

In publishing, this is premise and the promise of plot. Something that makes us want to keep reading just to see what's going to happen. 

Step three: Personality

Here's where things get sticky, because there isn't one right personality. 

 You might be funny, or witty, or sarcastic, or deep, or intelligent. The main point is that you stand out and draw people in. That people enjoy talking with or about you.

This is the voice/tone of your story. You know that guy who everyone else thought was hilarious but really just annoyed you? Or the weird girl no one else understood but was your absolute best friend?  We are all drawn to different things. We come at it from different perspectives so we see things differently. That's okay. Just makes sure you HAVE a personality. 

Some people like spicy, some prefer sweet, some love sour, and some want savory. Don't add chocolate to your curry sauce just because someone wants something sweet. Your goal is simply to not be bland.

The last and most important step is.... Emotional connection

That thing that's SOOO important but SOOOO difficult to pin point. I'm not even going to try to come up with dating examples because I'm pretty sure I'll fail. It's that thing that takes you from stranger to relationship. From crush to a meaningful part of your life. In books, sometimes it can be kind of accidental, you just happen to hit the right topic or remind the reader of something that really resonates with them. Sometimes we can't do anything more to help someone fall in love, we just have to wait for the right timing. 

But I'll tell you a secret.  Most of the time it comes down to relating to the characters and their goals. So how do we do that? Here's the part you don't want to miss. 

The thing that is most likely to HOOK those readers at all levels, to give you the best chance at falling into love: 

Emotional stakes

So you know how in pitches we tell you we need to know what happens if they fail? The world ends, they freeze to death in the icy tundra, deadly virus spreads across the world, dictator gains power and enslaves millions etc etc. But it can't be only physical. There needs to be emotional stakes also.

Don't just think about the premise as the idea- the logical "will this concept sell?" because just as important (sometimes more) is that you aren't just hooking the head of your readers-- but their heart.
Sort of like the hot millionaire who loves puppies- he sound *amazing* on paper. But it's the broke musician who steals your heart and won't let go. Don't be the millionaire. Be the musician. (I mean, be both if you can but if you have to choose...)

So, I don't care if you've written a survival story where the whole point is them making it through the icy tundra to safety, there still needs to be something emotional at stake. There's a sick little sister with you  and your mother just left you both but you haven't told your sister yet so that's hanging over your head, and all the while you feel responsible for her but your afraid he's going to let her die less than two days into that responsibility *weeps*. All this on top of freezing temperatures and fighting off wolves etc. (also mind you that it doesn't need to be sad like that, there are a million types of emotions you can use) The DEEPER you go with those emotions the more likely you're going to connect to someone