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Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Please welcome guest blogger Beth Henderson

I don’t know about you, but when I was first trying to break into the romance marketplace editors kept turning me down with madding words like “Love your writing but the story isn’t right for us.” Or “Enjoyed this a lot, but…”

Would be nice if they explained why it wasn’t right for them or what that unfinished sentence REALLY meant. My only comfort was that it wasn’t a generic preprinted rejection.

One editor at Silhouette even sent me a dozen of their latest books from her line for me to read so that I could figure out what these titles had that my manuscript didn’t.

Sad to say, I found what she sent a bit boring and what I wrote WASN’T boring. It was amusing, it was cute, it was tender, it was…Heck, it was better than what she’d sent. And yet I was missing something, I didn’t measure up. But in what way?!!

I had to teach myself how to find what those missing elements were. Those NECESSARY BITS.

Turns out there is a lot more to look at than just delightful characters, which I did have…well, there was SOMETHING that editor had liked and it had to be my characters since I tend to write character driven stories. She never said, naturally.

That didn’t mean I should stop right there, though. By going through books I actually liked in the line…and there were some…I began taking notes, highlighting things, seeing what sort of things were repeated in each of the stories I enjoyed, particularly when they were written by different authors. That was the key.

I know it was because they bought three Special Editions, two Yours Truly’s (a line that came and went back in the 1990s), and pushed me through the Harlequin Historicals door for two books for them.

In June, I’m ready to share the system I worked out with you when FF&P will trots out my online workshop, PUZZLING OUT THE “NECESSARY BITS”. For 4-weeks we’ll tear into other writers’ work to sort out what we need to include (not imitate) and what shouldn’t appear in our manuscripts for a particular publisher as well.

Wish I could say that doing this will land you a contract, but that still depends on the story you turn in and your brilliance level when it comes to finessing the English language. It will put you closer to the goal though.

I hope you’ll join me in June. In fact, head right on over to the Workshop section at FF&P and click those buttons that register you for a great adventure in writing.

And if you were wondering, yes, this system works for figuring out what is needed – NECESSARY – in other genres, too. I recently used it to sort out the Steampunk requirements. Now I just have to finish the new manuscript.

See you in the virtual classroom!

Beth Daniels

aka Beth Henderson, J. B. Dane, etc.


The author of 26 published novels (historical romance, contemporary romantic comedy, romantic-suspense, and YA contemporary romantic comedy), non-fiction articles about writing fiction, and presenter of “like a gazillion workshops…or so it sometimes seems”, Beth dipped into the mystery world as J.B. Dane with a short story in GREAT MYSTERY AND SUSPENSE MAGAZINE, which then folded. Not her fault, she says. Forthcoming is “The Dragon’s Tale”, another short “J.B.” tale, which is part of the anthology MOTHER GOOSE IS DEAD, out from Dragon Moon Press later in 2010. Currently she’s primed to christen a new pseudonym for the fantasy market’s subgenre of Steampunk.

Puzzling Out the “Necessary” Bits runs from June 1, 2010 through June 28, 2010

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