Monday, February 16, 2015


None of us like rejection. Sadly most writers usually experience a lot of rejection before they're published. Even authors with books on the shelves are rejected. Rejection is part of the business so don't take it personally. You may need to repeat that a few thousand times before you believe it, but it's true.   

My Irish immigrant heroine/American aristocrat hero story didn't fit the publisher's guidelines was rejected. The editor also told me the hero and the plot had problems. As I thought about what she said, I agreed with her points, but I also knew even with revisions the book wasn't a good fit. I went on to write other books, yet I couldn't forget that tortured hero and desperate heroine I’d created and had left languishing for years. 

Perhaps you have a book worth saving under your cyber bed. Not all of them are. Perhaps too much is wrong. If there’s no conflict, no goals, then there’s no story really. Not that you couldn't create goals, just as you created characters, but without goals and the conflict they produce, the book has no spine and may take too much work to salvage.

Perhaps the manuscript has been rejected but with a vague "Not for us at this time" don’t know what’s wrong with it. You could run the story past a critique partner or hire an editor. Or enter the manuscript in a contest. But remember contest judges usually see only the opening. We can learn to write terrific openings without knowing how to finish a complete, especially keep the pace and plot strong in the manuscript's middle.   

I’m not recommending you revise an old manuscript at the expense of writing new, but if you can identify the problems and have learned how to fix them and you can't get those story people out of your head, then go for it. 

But first a rejected manuscript needs new life. I decided to give it CPR. Dr. Dean version.

I first re-looked my editor’s issues with the book. And then noticed one of my own. I can now see the book had a lot of telling. But I've learned how to turn telling into showing. And have studied craft long enough to fix the other issues. Or so I hope!

Even if the door is closed to a traditional publisher, writers now have the option to publish the book independently, that open door on the right. 

                                 The C of CPR stands for CRITICISM

Criticism of the hero.

1. The hero is unlikable and his characterization is inconsistent. 

Even as I wrote the opening, I knew the hero’s interaction with the heroine could upset readers. As the writer, I understood why he behaved as he did and personally loved their confrontation, but I had to remember that the reader was meeting him for the first time and what the reader thinks takes precedence, especially if that first reader is an editor. 

So before I even submitted the story I put the opening in his point of view instead of in her thoughts. So I could give tiny hints at the back story. Even trying to fix an unlikable hero is not an excuse to dump back story. 

Next I showed through action and his thoughts a loss that tortured him. A universal loss that readers would understand and would react to with empathy.

And finally I had him save a child’s life. Surely that was enough for an editor to like him. 

Nope. My hero wasn't consistent in how he viewed and treated the heroine. I would show his attraction, then he would revert to his rude behavior, then he'd be attracted again. This see-saw characterization will make anyone want to toss my book against the wall. Why didn't I see that? Who knows? 

              The P of CPR stands for Possible Patches  

I had to come up with something that would make HER see him in a more positive light. Then the reader will hopefully feel the same. I decided I could make the hero the heroine's champion and save the day.  

                       The R of CPR stands for Repair

I have him rescue her from some creep’s unwanted attentions. Then in the emotionally charged scene that follows I show their mutual attraction, which is evidence that she's seeing the hero differently, and have him kiss her. That kiss is a risk, but I think it works as long as I show that the dynamics between them have changed. He can no longer despise who she is and she can no longer see him as a threat. 

This attraction doesn't mean they aren't still in conflict. Without conflict I don't have a story. To keep the conflict strong, I must raise the stakes, not keep recycling old issues.    

Criticism of the plot:

2. The plot involving his business and inheritance are not evident in the book's middle. 

I had a huge black hole in the middle of my novel because I’d dropped these elements of the plot, which are important in the end of the book. Yet the way I'd written it, they seem to come out of the blue. I got caught up in showing the romance at the expense of the plot..I didn't know then that the romance is not the plot. It merely complicates the plot. 

An easy fix would be to have him go back to work, but he's driven to find a killer, not to run his company. So how to fix the problem? 

What romance writer could resist this stethoscope?

Possible patches:

Show him interacting with characters who have responsibilities in the company or interest in who inherits. These secondary characters can make demands, hint at trouble, force the hero to take action. I will need to make sure these encounters aren't merely conversations. They must require action, create conflict. 


I can have the hero stop by his office, hire a manager, handle complaints, but the best way to keep the story active is to show him getting sidetracked by more pressing issues or by having another attempt on his life. 

Novels have a plot thread, romance Thread and faith Thread. All these threads force the characters to grow and change. If we writers drop any one thread, the story won't hold together. 

While I’m doing CPR for the plot and characterization, I’m be looking for telling. I can show with metaphors, description, dialogue, actions, physical reactions and the five senses. 

Certain words should alert writers to telling.

Adverbs. Don’t tag dialogue with “she said angrily” when you can show her anger by having her plop her hands on her hips, poke someone with a finger or slam the door as she exited the room. When I was a teenager my mom and I had got along great. But, I do remember after a rare conflict going to my room and slamming the door. Immediately I heard, “Don’t you sass me!” My mom knew what that sound/action meant and so will your reader.   

Was. Its fast and easy to say: The room was cozy. But telling readers that won't make them feel that coziness. Instead give details that show the room. Describe the cushy furniture, the soft glow from lamps, the blazing fire in the hearth.

Looked. Sometimes we replace "was" with "looked" and think we're not telling, as in: She looked sick. Bring her alive with details. Show her flushed face, red nose and dull, watery eyes. Just don't overdo it and have readers taking Airborne. LOL  

Felt. She felt like her world had come to an end, isn't as bad as writing she felt hopeless. But its clichéd and not as good as using details of the setting to reveal her despondency—her mood impacts how she views everything—or by giving physical reactions that show like her trembling hands. Or showing with words, internal or in dialogue. "How will I go on?"

Use the "Find" feature in Word and look for showing words like was, felt, looked.

Not that writers should always show. Sometimes telling works, especially in high action. But vivid details engage readers. 

Do you have a manuscript worth saving? Characters who live in your heart and demand a second chance? if so, give them CPR

As a reader what bugs you most about a book? Have characters stuck with you? Why?  

I'm now wearing my chef hat. I have the fixings for omelets and waffles so grab a plate and let's chat. 

A comment is your ticket for a chance to win a ten dollar Amazon gift card.



Marianne Barkman said...

And sometimes even seasoned authors need to NOT walk through that open door of self publishing. Not always, but they need to decide why they are going that way.
Love the CPR idea. Thanks, Janet

Helen Gray said...

There's coffee to go with the omelets!

Thanks for letting us know that CPR is sometimes the thing to do.

Heidi Robbins said...

Such a thoughtful post! I like how you really got specific.

Cindy W. said...

Hi Janet. I just finished the fifth in a series of five books set in Alaska. The thing I loved about this series is the characterization. Each and every one of the main characters were three dimensional. The author created these beautiful characters that seemed so lifelike with their actions and speaking that the reader almost feels like they were along for the ride. I love it when an author can draw me into the story and I become one with it.

Thank you for the great post.

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

Terri said...

Janet - I definitely have a book in need of CPR. Probably more than one. Thanks for sharing these tips with us.

So what ever happened with your story?

Cindy W. - I think I've read that series of Alaskan books. If they're the ones I'm thinking of, I agree, they are fantastic.

Tina Radcliffe said...

There comes a time with every manuscript that you have to put it away until you have grown or distanced yourself so you can perform life saving CPR.

Well said, Dr. Dean.

Mary Hicks said...

Well said, Janet! It's good to know a manuscript can be brought to life. :-)

Thanks for the excellent tips on how to do it.

Jackie said...


You look so beautiful in your new picture. You always have pretty pictures.

Thanks for this great post. I've already taken notes on it. I'll definitely refer back to your CPR advice.

Have a great day, and stay safe!

Janet Dean said...

Hello, Marianne. You make a good point. Each author must make career choices that will work for her or him. I love that authors can do both traditional and self-publishing, as many here have.


Janet Dean said...

Hi Helen,

Thanks for the coffee!

Seems like most books I write can use a little CPR in the revision process. :-)


Ruth Logan Herne said...

I love CPR.


I love dissecting what's going on in a story and fixing it. Is that weird?

My first "write" is to get the story down, but the next ones are to make the story mine.

I've got one I'm dissecting next month, and I'm looking forward to it because as I think about what was wrong with it, I can mentally plan hot to fix it...

and then when it's on the schedule for fixing, I've got it pre-done in my head.

For me, that's a huge help.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Coffee and omelets.

I'm so here!!!! Thank you, lovely ladies!

Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Heidi. Thank you. I'd hoped using specifics would show the points I was trying to make.


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Janet, I'm not hijacking your blog, blame Mary Connealy... I watched The Lost Valentine on Sunday... Grab the tissues and watch this amazing story. I loved it. Perfect, beautiful romance.

I now return you to your regularly scheduled program.

Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Cindy W. I feel the same when I read a book with characters so real that I join them on the page. That's the kind of characters we authors want to write. Examining wonderful books helps us see how to do that.


Janet Dean said...

Hi Terri,

I'm giving the book CPR now. But will put it aside in March if I'm not finished.


cathyann40 said...

I very much need coffee it's minus 18 out I'm a little cold.

Janet Dean said...

Tina, you give wise advise. You are a doctor's doctor.


Janet Dean said...

Hi Mary H! I'm sure every manuscript in need of CPR has different issues than mine did, though its not unusual for telling and the middle of the book to need work when we're new at this.


Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Jackie. Thanks for your sweet comment on the new picture.

Hope the notes will help. One thing I'm learning, if I can keep craft in mind as I tell my story, I'll save myself a lot of grief. But being able to stand back and see issues isn't easy. Sometimes we need fresh eyes.


Janet Dean said...

Ruthy, planning ahead as you work on something else amazes me. Your brain is a lively place! Love it!

I don't think it's at all weird to enjoy examining a book in revisions. For me that's more fun than getting the draft on the page. Probably why I can't seem to stop revising as I go.


Janet Dean said...

Cathy Ann, BRRRR! No wonder you're cold!!! Have an omelet with your coffee. Or maybe a waffle with warm syrup.


Janet Dean said...

Ruthy, the trailer looks fabulous! Wish I'd known before the show aired.


Rhonda Starnes said...

Wonderful advice, Janet, and very much needed. I'm bookmarking this post.

I may have Mountain Man read your post, and then have him reread the first book I ever wrote. He was so upset when I received a rejection on that story. Two years later and he still periodically says, "I can't believe they rejected that book. It's a much better story than the one you received an r&r on." Bless his heart, the publishing business is very stressful for him.

I do plan to revisit that first story one day and preform major CPR on it, but I feel like I need to let it rest another year or two while I continue to grow as a writer.

Laney4 said...

Characters have stuck with me when I really feel like I am the heroine in the story. Doesn't happen every time.
Sometimes it isn't the characters who stick with me, but the authors: authors who have written a well-balanced story complete with a beginning, middle and end ... authors whose HEAs are not too short, not too long, but just right (to me) ... authors who have the ability to write as if *I* was talking/thinking instead of the characters.

Rose said...


Excellent advice. Time gives us a new perspective on our work and what maybe lacking in it.

Jill Weatherholt said...

I have two NaNo projects that are in dire need of CPR, Janet. Thanks for these great tips. I'm printing this post for my Seekerville notebook. :)

Meghan Carver said...

Good morning, Dr. Dean! :-) How wonderful to meet you at ACFW (yes, I still think of the encouragement from you and Debby)! This post is so timely for me, as I'm in the midst of fixing that story I told you about. Thank you for your honesty and your suggestions for saving a ms. I'll be rereading this when I sit down to my writing time.

Jackie Smith said...

Love your picture, Janet! Your photos are always great. Is there a story behind the perfectly matching necklace?

I am a reader looking forward to all the great Seeker books coming out!

LeAnne Bristow said...

Manuscript CPR! What a great post. I"m going to begin searching for those words right now. Thank you!

Cindy Regnier said...

I can really identify with this post, Janet. I have eight completed manuscripts that will never see the light of day because they're not good enough. I wrote them all for the sheer pleasure of writing - before I understood things like plot and character development and point of view. I love those old stories and so do my friends, but a publisher never would. I have toyed with the idea of rewriting them. Not opening the manuscript and editing profusely, but starting over, from memory and incorporating all the things I have learned since I wrote them. An intriguing idea but one I can't quite bring myself to embark on for the amount of time it would take. I'm wondering if you have any thoughts on this? Again, great post. Thanks Janet.

Audra Harders said...

Perfect timing, Janet! You've offered us a perfect checklist for the revitalization of a book. AND, I just finished a new draft of an old book that had been rejected, so, I'm NOW...TODAY...sitting down and revising from the beginning.

Perfect. Perfect. Perfect.

President's Day is a holiday for me. And it's snowing outside. And, I want this book done and out, so bless you for the quick CPR refresher course!!

Oh, and thanks for the omelette. I didn't feel like cooking this morning : )

Janet Dean said...

Hi Rhonda. You are wise to wait until you recognize and can fix the issues with the rejected book. It's also possible that the problem isn't the story, but the timing or fit with the publisher. The more experience we have, the more we can see the reason/s. I was blessed to get specifics with the rejection.


Audra Harders said...

I love your new picture, too. Very cheerful and inviting.

Janet Dean said...

Hi Laney 4. Thanks for your insights. You have nailed the goal of all authors--to impact the reader and draw her into the story with unforgettable characters and an HEA that would please even Goldilocks, who wanted "Just Right."


Janet Dean said...

Hi Rose,

Time increases wisdom and discernment, or so we hope!


Janet Dean said...

Hi Jill,

NaNo like SpeedBo gets that draft down, but that's only the beginning of getting the book ready for submission. Wishing you all the best with your projects!


Janet Dean said...

Hi Meghan, I enjoyed connecting with you at ACFW! It's a blessing to turn a name and face into a 3-D person. :-)

I hope the post encourages you to see and fix the issues with the manuscript. We all have them, btw. Pulling for you!


Zombie Anne said...

Wonderful article. Writing 'was' is something I do all the time. I never heard anyone say not to, but I've had this sinking feeling that my MS has too many. It's my go-to verb. I have thousands of them to change. It's a daunting challenge.

Another challenging word for me is walked. My characters walked here and there and everywhere. I need to look up some synonyms.

*Shakes head* I have a lot to do.

Janet Dean said...

Hi Jackie S. The necklace was a gift from my dh. I wore it and a similar top in my original photo. Hoping readers would still recognize me. LOL


Janet Dean said...

Hi LeAnne. Have fun finding those telling words and turning them into showing. Carefully chosen details are the trick for breathing life into your story.


Kav said...

Oh mercy, I have a whole hospital wing of languishing manuscripts. Never mind the CPR, bring on the defibrillator. Stat.

Janet Dean said...

Hi Cindy R. if you're stuck in the phase of writing the draft but not getting it polished for submission, then I'd pick one you've written and take the time to bring it up to publication.

But if you're writing and revising new and submitting, then maybe you don't want or need to take the time to go back to those manuscripts.

So my answer--it depends on where you're at in your journey. What should you do to bring you closer to your dream?

Whatever you decide congratulations on writing eight completes! Lots of writers get stuck in the proposal stage.


Janet Dean said...

Audra, I love when a post is timely!! Hoping your day goes smoothly and you get oodles of revisions done. You rock!!


Mary Connealy said...

CPR is good, but bring one of those things a defibrillator, too. This could get tough!

Janet Dean said...

Thanks Audra. I love the backdrop of books. Those books are written by Seekers and Villagers. So proud of all of you. Can't wait for more of yours, Audra!


Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Janet, How timely your CPR post is for me. I'm doing just that, reviving a manuscript I always loved and am now able to see the problems.

Its amazing how much we grow in this business.

Have a great day.

Myra Johnson said...

Great post, Janet! I have performed CPR on several manuscripts. Some have recovered and gone on to achieve great things. Others, alas, have not. Sometimes you just have to know when to let a story go. Even so, it's hard to give up when you've grown to care about the characters.

Courtney Phillips said...

I reworked my first manuscript at least five times. Now I'm revising the next and want to concentrate on it for a while.

Today will be a perfect day for revising. :) Can't get out of the house with all the ice on the roads.

Thanks for the CPR tips!

Janet Dean said...

Hi Zombie Anne.

Not every "was" is telling. You can use was to show what a character is doing. She was peeling potatoes. Though some think it's better to say, She peeled potatoes. Either is fine with me, but if your character is peeling potatoes, use that mundane action to show her.

Our characters can stride, saunter, shuffle, trudge, amble, march, pace, glide, swagger, strut, stomp, dart, scamper, stroll, meander, hobble, hurtle, tiptoe, lumber, stalk...

We have to be careful not to overdo all these variations of walk. But when we introduce or want to show characterization and mood using the well chosen word for walk really shows. A hero wouldn't scamper. A child would. Or a scared heroine. A hero or heroine wouldn't shuffle, unless he or she were hurt.

Have fun with it!


Janet Dean said...

Kav, you are a hoot! Thanks for the laugh!! Have you thought about zapping one of those manuscripts and giving your story people life?


Janet Dean said...

Mary, I think you've killed off enough characters in your published books to fill your own Boot Hill. :-)


Wilani Wahl said...

Thank you for this timely post. I am wanting to finish my first novel by the end of march. It can't be revived if I never finish it.

I have written a non fiction book that has been rejected twice. I now have a couple of people reading it to see what I need to fix.

Janet Dean said...

Hi Sandra,

You know how to give the CPR that your manuscript needs! Isn't it encouraging to see that growth? How far you've come?

Have fun with it!


Janet Dean said...

Hi Myra. Not all manuscripts are worth saving. Any tips for knowing when its too late to revive them?


Janet Dean said...

Hi Courtney. I'm sure you learned a lot revising that first manuscript but I'm glad you've moved on to another story. Each book written is like taking a college course.

Glad you're staying off the icy roads and spending the day making that manuscript shine.


Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Walani,

Good that you're going to finish the draft before you revise.

Hope your readers see what needs to be fixed with your non-fiction book.

Wishing you the best with both projects!


Becky Dempsey said...

I have many starts to manuscripts that will definitely need CPR! I'm sure the beginning of the one I'm working on now could use some at the beginning since it's taken me so long to write it!

I'll take a country omelet please :)

Julie Lessman said...


YOU SAID: "My hero wasn't consistent in how he viewed and treated the heroine. I would show his attraction, then he would revert to his rude behavior, then he'd be attracted again. This see-saw characterization will make anyone want to toss my book against the wall."

Ahhhhhhh ... so THAT'S why so many of my reader's throw my books against the wall!!! ;)

Seriously, Janet, LOVE everything you did to your Irish hero to make him more likable and cannot WAIT to read this story, so I sure hope you're planning on going indie on it ... :)


Julie Lessman said...

Oh, and I forgot to tell you ... THANK YOU for giving me an opportunity to get this off my chest ...

YOU ASKED: "As a reader what bugs you most about a book?"

When I see some variation of the phrase "his smile didn't quite reach his eyes," I always find myself muttering, "No, no, no, no!!!" I swear on a stack of Bibles that I find this phrase or a variation in half the books I read, INCLUDING my very first book, A Passion Most Pure!! I thought I was being so clever in describing the smile, but apparently most authors had the same idea, so it's definitely not unique anymore. :)

I would LOVE to know how many writers have some variation of this phrase in their books/manuscripts!! :)


Zombie Anne said...

Thank you, Janet.

Sandy Smith said...

I have read some books lately in which I really have not liked either the hero or the heroine that much. Sometimes they grew on me, but in many cases it was hard for me to care about what happens to them.

Please enter me into the drawing.

Sandy Smith said...

Julie, I think I recently read the phrase "his smile didn't reach his eyes." I guess it seemed like a good phrase to me, but now I will probably notice it everywhere!

Jill Kemerer said...

I've been guilty of everything in this post! Thanks for the helpful tips!!

Mark Abel said...

Hi Janet. Thanks for your post, very creative and practical. I'm working on my first novel and have received my fair share of negative feedback, too long / too much telling / is the conflict strong enough / etc.

Are there 'big picture' editors out there who can help in re-shaping a book? And what type of editing would that be called?

Again, great post and response comments, Thank you Seekers!

Sherida Stewart said...

Janet, thank you for all these ideas to bring a sick manuscript back to life. I especially want to remember this thought: Novels have a plot thread, romance Thread and faith Thread. All these threads force the characters to grow and change. If we writers drop any one thread, the story won't hold together. I also appreciate the reminder of the "telling" words to watch for.

Delicious brunch treats....I love brunch! Now off to save a languishing manuscript!

Janet Dean said...

Hi Julie,

Can't imagine anyone tossing your books against a wall. If the heroine gives the hero reason to be upset with her, then that makes sense. But my heroine did nothing to provoke the hero. He needed to be reworked.

I am planning on going indie when the timing is right. Probably later this year. So lots of time to whip that hero into behaving. LOL


Elaine Manders said...

Thanks, Janet, I can use this post. I'll be editing the next two months.

I remember reading romance back in the day when the h/h hated each other in one scene and loved each other in the next and back and forth. I'm glad the genre has moved away from that for the most part.

Janet Dean said...

Julie, I'm inching my hand off the keyboard and into the air. Actually I'm too scared to look, but I'm sure I've used that description. When descriptions flow off the fingertips too easily, they're probably clichéd.


Jan Drexler said...

Hi Janet!

This was a great post!

I had to perform some extensive life saving techniques to my last story - one that was accepted with a big "but." So that was followed by extensive rewrites. It finally has the go-ahead now, though, so I'm on to the next story.

Janet Dean said...

Zombie Anne, Hope my thoughts helped, not harmed.


Janet Dean said...

Sandy S, if you don't connect to characters, you won't care what happens to them. That's why we writers need to make them likable. Or at least relatable. Best of all admirable.

Recently I read a terrific book with emotionally messed up characters, but I cared because their situations were so desperate. Their pain so real. I had to know why and what would happen. A powerful story with very wounded characters.


Janet Dean said...

Hi Jill. Your comment made me smile. Haven't we all? Those mistakes are all part of the journey.


Myra Johnson said...

JANET, it's really hard for me to declare a manuscript utterly hopeless. Every once in a while I'll pull out an oldie and give it another look-see. Sometimes that round of CPR works, sometimes the ms. goes back in the drawer.

Oh, and JULIE reminded me about your question: "As a reader what bugs you most about a book?"

At the risk of offending LOTS of romance writers, here's my answer. It's any form of the phrase "the kiss deepened."

Jennifer Smith said...

Great advice, Janet! Pinning to my Pinterest board for future reference right now. :)

Jan Drexler said...

Myra, I promise to never, never use the phrase "the kiss deepened" again!!!

Or any form thereof.

Vince said...

Hi Janet:

I just love your medical analogy. If the plot stops being interesting, give it CPR. For a really bad character, perform an amputation. For a nice hero with a bad personality, order a personality transplant. Fortunately, many times all you need are two aspirins and plenty of liquids, (Starbucks, Earl Grey, or Johnny Walker). When in doubt, seek a second opinion. This medical theme is fun. : )

I like to think of CPR as meaning:

Constantly Providing Rewards

Seriously, I think there is a difference between having a likeable personality and being capable of being liked. The grand hero of them all, Darcy, starts out about as unlikable as a hero can get. I can just see one of today’s contest judges commenting thus: “Your hero is an arrogant and pompous jerk”.

Conversely, the handsome, Wickham, has a likeable personality (which helps him be a good conman and liar) but Wickham is not very capable of being liked (as Lydia is due to find out).

As a reader, I like to look into the story’s eyes, and see crystal clear prose. When the wording gets murky, I know the author was having problems. The words are the window of the work's soul. : )

BTW: I find it ironic that one would have to wait a few days before giving lifesaving CPR to the patient. Somehow that image does not work. Not serious. Just being funny. (Disqualify me for the gift certificate.)


P.S. I’m home today and I could take that picture of me again right now as the conditions are just the same.

Janet Dean said...

Hi Mark,

Those critique comments are good place to start. If you look in our archives or at craft books, you can find information on conflict and telling--all aspects of story telling--and see ways to improve your story. The revision process is part of writing books so personally I wouldn't suggest hiring a content editor.


Missy Tippens said...

Great post, Janet! I've got a couple of rejected proposals that need CPR. It's a lot easier to do that later, after being away from them for a while. I can be more objective! :)

Janet Dean said...

Hi Sherida. Sounds like several of us have languishing manuscripts. Have fun applying CPR!


Walt Mussell said...

Sounds like a good overall way to edit a book.


Jill Lynn Buteyn said...

Thank you, Janet! This was an excellent post.

Myra Johnson said...

Sorry, JAN! ;-D

Debby Giusti said...

Janet, great advice about book CPR! I have a few manuscripts under my cyber bed, but doubt they're worth dusting off. Still, you've provided food for thought and practical ways to change rejection to sale. Maybe one of these days, I'll have the courage to revisit those early tales.

Hope all is well in your area of the world. My, what a winter. Sending hugs to all those snowed under, especially Boston folks and Northeastern Villagers. I'm hoping LI has a holiday so our wonderful editors don't have to battle those frigid temps.

Mary Curry and Ruthy, are you okay?

Debby Giusti said...

Waving to Meghan Carver! So glad we met at ACFW! Such a wonderful conference. Loved seeing your beautiful children and sweet hubby too!

Janet Dean said...

Hi Elaine. Romance has changed a lot. In the 80s Alpha males dominated the heroine, saving and ravishing her at will. Goodness.
That mentality surely was part of the reason for love-hate relationships.

I'm thankful today's strong heroine isn't a victim and drives the story by making things happen. A strong hero appreciates the heroine's strength, even when their goals are in conflict.

Writers need to create ways to raise the stakes within the book length conflict. Not just keep repeating the same old issues/conflicts over and over.


Debby Giusti said...

Ruthy, I watched THE LOST VALENTINE too. And cried...and cried...and cried.

Not the usual Hallmark Movie!

It still tugs at my heart!

Janet Dean said...

Hi Jan, happy dancing that you brought that manuscript back to life for your editor!

Have fun with the next story!


Janet Dean said...

Good afternoon, Myra. I'm making a list of things that bug readers, especially writer readers. Deepening kisses...

Done that too.

Janet, shoulders slumped, shuffling off.

Zombie Anne, that shuffle is for you. ;-)

Janet Dean said...

Hi Jennifer S. Wow, I feel privileged to have this post pinned to a board in Pinterest. And it doesn't even hurt! LOL

Thanks kiddo!


Dana R. Lynn said...

Hi Janet. I really needed this post today! I have a story that I had set aside for over a year, and I recently started trying to fix its multiple issues. Easier said than done!

Janet Dean said...

Wow, Vince, I absolutely lapped up your witty first paragraph. You are an excellent teacher and make your lessons great fun!

I totally agree with your version of CPR=Constantly Providing Rewards. Thanks for reminding us to look at our manuscripts with rewards in mind.

You're right about Darcy. I wonder if today's readers won't give the story and characters time to develop. Hmm.


Janet Dean said...

Good afternoon, Missy. You are so right! If we don't have the input of an editor or a terrific CP like you, then time away from our manuscript will gives us fresh eyes and the objectivity we need to see what's wrong.


Vince said...

Hi Julie:

Don’t worry. If I ever threw one of your books against the wall, it would put a hole in the wall. Can’t do that. My wife is partial to walls.

I think tiresome phrases in current romances are like the flu. They have a season or two and then comes some new strains to infect those who have built up a resistance to the old clichés.

Remember: ‘whisper soft kisses”, “knees turned to jelly, jell-o, mush”, “he placed the strand, wisp, of hair back behind her ear”,

and for your favorite here are some variations:

"his smile didn't quite reach his eyes,"

“just one side of his smile reach up towards his eyes,”

“he laughed but his lips never curved upwards,”

“his lips curved at the edges as he tried to hold a straight face”,

this variant strain is very virulent and it is almost impossible for one vaccine to cover all mutations.

What I don’t like most, however, is when after the first kiss the hero says, “I’m sorry. That was a mistake.” At least one heroine I’ve read slapped the hero for saying that! Brava!

What I'd like to see is a hero, who after an inappropriate premature kiss, says this: “I should have done that sooner. You’re a wonderful kisser.”

I also get tired of being told what the hero smells like in every scene. Often it is the same thing, leather, wood, and a brand name after shave. Enough!

Janet Dean said...

Hi Walt, I hope so. My post looks at what was wrong with my manuscript and how to fix it. I hope that will increase a writer's awareness of issues with plot and characterization that might be keeping a manuscript from selling.


Janet Dean said...

Hi Jill Lynn. You have blessed me by taking the time to stop by and read my post. Thanks!


Janet Dean said...

Debby, you make an excellent point. Looking at old manuscripts objectively does take a bit of courage. And you've got it when you need it.

I suspect our editors have the day off. A good day to snuggle in and read.


Janet Dean said...

Ruthy and Debby, your lavish praise has made me decide to see if I can On Demand The Lost Valentine.


Janet Dean said...

Good afternoon Dana R. Lynn. Yes, the writer's life isn't for sissies! Wishing you the best with your revisions.


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Janet, I took the one week free membership to "FEELN" the Hallmark movie channel. It's a $3.99/month membership and that's plenty cheap enough but I never take time for movies.... My bad!

But that movie is absolutely beautifully orchestrated.

God bless our military and God bless the strength of so many whose faith, hope and love strengthened this great nation.

Janet Dean said...

Vince, your point is well taken. Dump one cliché and another will pop up in its place. That's also true of pet words like "just." Let's hope our stories and characters are strong enough that readers will forgive us.

Need to make sure my hero doesn't apologize for that premature kiss I mentioned in this post. Gathering up my courage...


Valri said...

As a reader, I can only say that what bugs me most is characters that are too whiny or too "something"! I've read a few books where the characters are just too over the top in some personality trait and it bugs me - too sweet, too caustic, too negative, too mean, too flighty - you catch my drift! It's ok to write someone with that personality but don't go over the top! I've wanted to stop reading the book because I feel like I've been beaten over the head with that character! Enough is enough! I feel like saying, "let's move on"! Thanks for the post! I love reading so much and your books are fantastic!

Janet Dean said...

Valri, we love readers and should remember that they will get the point without hitting them over the head with a character's traits.

Thanks for your sweet words! You've made a good day a great one.


Jeanne T said...

Janet, I LOVED this post. It's so practical. And, as I revise my MS, I can use some of your tips to hopefully better prepare it before querying it. :)

Loved this!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Vince, I love you so much right now.

I'm dying laughing at your brilliant remarks because of course I see those in other people's stuff but I tend to be blind to my own gaffes. Thank heavens for editors!!!!

You are absolutely right. The "use all senses" thing gets ridiculous when overdone unless of course we're smelling chocolate or cookies or garlic bread, in which case:



I put my current cowboy story heroine in the middle of the Washington woods, in a hobbit house.... and then I wrote to Natasha and asked her to describe the woods by her because I own a 6 acre woods and a little marshland with my spring peepers!!! BUT.... theirs are so different, that I wanted the feel of a true Washington woods. Hopefully I'll get it right so Washingtonians don't throw darts at me or the book!

But I agree with you. We fall into patterns and we could use a slap upside the head of originality.

Zombie Anne said...

Got it! ;-) Thanks,Janet.

Pat Jeanne Davis said...

Another excellent post, Janet. I'll be referring to it as I attempt to revive a rejected story that won't let go.

CatMom said...

Wonderful post, Janet!! (or should I say: "Dr. Dean" LOL). ;)

I've got several manuscripts that need a lot of CPR, so your post is definitely going into my Keeper File. :)

Still giggling over your "Airborne" comment, hehehe!

Hugs, Patti Jo

Chill N said...

Great post, Janet! And yes, I did have a WIP that needed CPR. I set it aside for a year, then returned to it and am so much happier with it now. Very easy to see what needed work after that amount of time.

What bugs me most about a book? Exactly what you pointed out -- when the romance is at the expense of the plot.

Thanks for the help and the examples.

Nancy C

Janet Dean said...

Hi Jeanne T. Happy that the post is useful. Wishing you the best with your manuscript!


Janet Dean said...

Good evening, Pat Jeanne. When a story won't let go, it deserves another chance. Wishing you the best with yours.


Janet Dean said...

Hi Patti Jo, few people take the title seriously. For some reason they want to see a degree on the wall. Weird, right? :-)

Just seeing your pretty face makes me crave peaches. Off to get a peach yogurt out of the fridge.

Dr. Dean

Janet Dean said...

Hi Nancy C. Congratulations on CPR properly applied! Hope that manuscript finds a home.


Janet Dean said...

Ruthy, a slap upside the head of originality? Have butt kicks gone out of style?


Janet Dean said...

Mark, the edits are called substantive. Mary found this link you might want to check out:

Email me at WeRSeekerville if you want more information.


Dana McNeely said...

It's 5:00 a.m. and I'm about ready to start my CPR. I've been rewriting my first book forever, it seems. My goal in Speedbo is to finish the rewrite and I'm hoping, if I can't quite hit that goal, I at least come closer. After I get the planned changes made, like Courtney, I'm anxious to move on to a new book. Thanks for the helpful tips.

Sandra McGregor said...

You're right...rejection is just part of a writer's life, but thanks so much for the great reminders about fixing our babies...and showing vs telling.

Deanna Stevens said...

I am learning more & more about what it takes to be an author.. Thanks for the interesting post today..
toss me into the drawing please :)

Carolyn Chambers Clark said...

Love your suggestions for fixing a m.s. I think they're quite unique and very specific. I will save your ideas for sure.

As a reader, what bugs me most is when there is no conflict and the author goes on and on about what she thinks or wants without any action.

Deanne said...

What really bugs me when I read is not enough description of a scene. The book can be going great, smooth sailing then allof the sudden a scene is just skimmed over with barely any description. It makes me feel like asking myself, what just happened ?

Janet Dean said...

Hi Dana,

Hope SpeedBo CPR brings that manuscript to life! Then you can take what you've learned and create a new story!


Janet Dean said...

Hi Sandra, We put so much into our stories that our manuscripts do feel like our babies. Sometimes that makes it hard to be objective enough to give CPR. Sounds like you're up to the task. Go you!


Janet Dean said...

Hi Deanna. Sometimes knowing so much about craft makes writing seem daunting. I have to remind myself to be fearless. :-)


Janet Dean said...

Carolyn, no conflict means no action, no story. Thanks for the reminder!


Janet Dean said...

Deanna, we have to give enough description to satisfy the reader, but not so much that it bogs down the action. A fine line for sure.


Janet Kerr said...

These are great suggestions to breath life back in.

The Artist Librarian said...

I like your CPR method!

The most annoying thing about a book can be when I don't connect to any of the characters --if you can't get a reader to care about your characters, there's no reason to keep reading (unless you have an amazing/unique "I must know how this ends" plot or mad world-building skills?) It's kind of subjective though --the series I'm thinking of is loved by many. =)

Susan said...

As with any advice, the trick is making it fit one's own ms.