After weeks and weeks of waiting for the email from the publishing company that requested the full manuscript, I finally got the email. And it wasn’t the email I wanted. I suppose I am grateful that the email wasn’t some blanket email, a standard email that is sent to all writer’s leaving them wondering exactly why they were rejected and frustrated with no clues. She actually sent me an email full of feedback.
Her problem #1, according to her, my manuscript doesn’t know which genre it belongs to. Is it a Historical Fiction or a Historical Romance?
For a romance, the main plot of a romance novel must revolve around the two people as they develop romantic love for each other and work to build a relationship together. Check. Both the conflict and the climax of the novel should be directly related to that core theme of developing a romantic relationship. Check. Furthermore, a romance novel must have an “emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.” Check.
Historical Fiction tells a story that is set in the past. Check. That setting is usually real and drawn from history, and often contains actual historical persons, but the main characters tend to be fictional. Check. Writers of stories in this genre, while penning fiction, attempt to capture the manners and social conditions of the persons or time(s) presented in the story, with due attention paid to period detail and fidelity. Check. Stories are set in a historical setting and it’s the setting that is the effect on the character, like a war, the frontier, or a revolution. Well, this is a sort of. Perhaps there is a romance, but it’s a subplot. Nope. If the romance is taken out of the novel, the story will stand on its own. Definitely Nope.
AHA! It’s a Historical Romance!
Nope, not quite because of the Editor’s problem #2. My novel does not fit into the Romance genre is because it lacks the traditional romance narrative structure.
The conflict in the book isn’t just whether the main characters will save their world, but whether they’ll find fulfillment in their relationship together while they save their world. Check. Such storylines requires not one, but two major plots, which must be intertwined. Check. A romance plot is primary 75% of the book. Check. External plot(s) are 25%. Check. Either the hero or the heroine is present in every scene, with perhaps a handful of scenes in the villain’s point of view. Check. The villain is also associated closer with the external plot than the romantic, but if that character can be tied into both, the story is much stronger. Check. As in any novel plot, the standard elements are present in romance as well: conflict, stakes, crisis points and the climax. Check, check, check, and check.
So where is my problem?
The romantic conflict is emotional, not merely situational. Check, though perhaps this could be stronger. A decade or so ago, the hero and heroine were kept apart by a father or an arranged marriage to another person, but such books are no longer marketable. Crap, that’s not good. A romance plot does not merely detail the changing of the hero and heroine’s feelings, or simply chronicle their interactions. Oh well this is just great. The plot is the formation of emotional goals, being hit by emotional obstacles, and reaching the emotional conclusion of the Happily Ever After ending demanded by the genre. I can see some of my holes.
Stakes in the emotional plot are all personal to the character. Check. The hero and heroine should relate to the reader in a way that allows the reader to sympathize with what the characters are going through. Well, I’ve made people cry, but is that enough? Involving the emotions of the reader is a vital element in escalating the stakes. Again, have I done this enough?
“Crisis points” is a term used to define points in the plot where the courses of actions change irrevocably and the hero and heroine have no choice but to try the next plan. I have these, but perhaps they are weak. Just as in external plots, the emotional plot needs to have such points along its route. Check. The basic structure of a scene in an emotional plot is: goals, obstacle, conflict, which move the plot forward. But in a romance scenes should also alter the emotional relationship of the characters and take center stage. These should also not be solved not all at once. The hero and heroine’s relationship problems should not begin and end in a single scene. I think I have some that end too soon.
The end of a romance novel has two climax scenes, one for each plot. Check. Properly placed, the emotional plot’s climax should be the last one in the book. Check. In the external climax, the hero and heroine join forces and save their world, catch the murderer or whatever needs to be done. Oops, my heroine does it alone because my hero is enslaved. In the emotional climax, they resolve the last, and most personal, blocks against their making a lasting commitment to each other. Check. Romance books no longer have to end with a wedding, though many of them do. The reader must close the book, knowing in her heart that these people will be together until the end, regardless of ceremony, and will live Happily Ever After. Check.
So now that I have figured all of this out what is my next step? I still have submissions out that I have yet to hear back on. Do I begin revisions and wait? When I hear back from them, and if they actually say yes (which is doubtful knowing this) do I inform them I have made revisions? Do I simply ignore what this woman said?