Friday, October 26, 2007

12 Rejections

The latest one said:

A clever idea but lacks a central character for me to care about - a hero/heroine - I like the old fashioned sort of story.

I'm back to the same old problem. My book does have a central, sympathetic character: Caroline, the childhood best friend of the victim, but she obviously isn't coming across effectively within the first two and a half thousand words.

I've been re-reading Agatha Christie, particularly a book of short stories called 'Miss Marple's Final Cases'. It's her opening lines that really impress me - they convey so much so efficiently. This is a skill I obviously haven't developed yet. For example, from an exquisite little story called The Dressmaker's Doll:
The doll lay in the big velvet-covered chair. There was not much light in the room; the London skies were dark. In the gentle, greyish-green gloom, the sage-green coverings and the curtains and the rugs all blended with each other. The doll blended too. She lay long and limp and sprawled in her green velvet clothes and her velvet cap and the painted mask of her face. She was the Puppet Doll, the whim of rich women, the doll who lolls beside the telephone, or among the cushions of the divan. She sprawled there, teternally limp and yet strangely alive...

There's so much repetition in these few lines - green, velvet, sprawled - and yet still it works. You can see the room. You already know that the doll is slightly sinister, even before you've clocked that it's a ghost story.

Or this, from Tape-Measure Murder:
Miss Politt took hold of the knocker and rapped politely on the cottage door. After a discreet interval she knocked again. The parcel under her left arm shifted a little as she did so, and she readjusted it. Inside the parcel was Mrs Spenlow's new green winter dress, ready for fitting. From Miss Politt's left hand dangled a bag of black silk, containing a tape measure, a pincushion, and a large, practical pair of scissors...

Even though you've been told it's called the tape-measure murder, and here is Miss Politt, the dress-maker (a coincidence, there are no further dress-makers in the collection) whom we are told is carrying a tape-measure, and whom we can picture perfectly from this brief description, yet it is still a surprise when she is revealed to have murdered Mrs Spenlow only minutes beforehand.

So, 12 rejections, 3 submissions outstanding - possibly binned. I'm beginning to look at The Writer's Handbook in a different way. It's touted as the key to the kingdom but this is a lie. It is the lock on the door. The primary function of The Writer's Handbook is to stop unpublished authors from pestering the better-known agents and publishing houses. Nine out of ten rejections begin As this is only a very small agency, it is not possible for us to.... You can tell it's a non-starter from the address before you even post your submission to Wisteria Cottage, 5 Drystone Lane, Little Foxington, somewhere-in-Essex/Devon/Lincolnshire. It's nothing but an enormous con and I'm sick of it.


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