JK ROWLING

edited October 2018 in Writing
I read an article today where she was showing the rejection letters she received after deciding to write crime books under the Galbraith pseudonym- there's hope for us all!

Comments

  • I can't feel all that optimistic to learn that good quality writing was rejected multiple times, apparently just because the author's name wasn't known.
  • Are the letter and synopsis available to read? I'd be interested to know what she submitted. Perhaps they were a tad bland - she hasn't had to draft either for some time?
  • Well, my comment on here disappeared during down time...

    I said something like:

    I don't think it's surprising because editors get thousands of manuscripts a week. Those are filtered through and maybe they will get 5. Maybe less, but they will be manuscripts which are brilliant, and maybe one a month to take further. That one will go through acquisitions, costing, and maybe not make it if the marketing don't think it will sell (remember, they are not editors, don't go on brilliance of penmanship, they just go on whether it's marketable at that minute). So, if your manuscript is not brilliant, then you have no chance. If it is brilliant, then a small chance, if the editor you have sent it to likes your style and it has that certain something which is indefinable.

    Having already got a track record her stuff will be much easier to sell to the buying public so therefore she will have a huge advantage in the costing, marketing stages.

    So it really is about luck, and keeping at sending it out, after all, all the stories you marvel at are about people who wrote something marvellous (to some!) which was rejected multiple times before being accepted. you have to send it out multiple times to be rejected multiple times.
  • Which is, of course, the only reason my books have been turned down!
  • It's just not fair that someone knocks up a few stories at her local coffee shop and makes millions.     
    I was told, as a child to "hitch my wagon to a star".     Was never quite sure how to do that but if you can figure it out perhaps there is hope for you as well. 
  • I read that Laurie Lee's "Cider With Rosie" was rejected 30 times.  Now it's a school classic text.  Don't give up hope just yet.
  • Hitch your wagon to a star has the same meaning in my mind as hitching on somone's coat tails, something I am really not wanting to do.
  • I had presumed it meant "aim high" but you may have something there. 

    Rather like a lot of sayings.  I stitched part of my clothing in time but didn't save it totally disintegrating requiring far more than nine.  And I watch a pot today and it soon boiled.  Just turned up the gas.  Have you ever had a bird in the hand? I'd prefer to see two in the bushes any time.   (I'll stop there)
  • I do like sayings. Many are so succinct and some quite beautiful.
  • Phots Moll says above:" I can't feel all that optimistic to learn that good quality writing was rejected multiple times, apparently just because the author's name wasn't known."

    I read the start of Rowling's first detective book and the writing really isn't that good. I've seen better prose from MA Creative Writing students.
  • So have I - but she tells a cracking story and her characters are lovable and interesting. No point in having blissful prose that bores the bejesus out of you.
  • Liz – quite agree. Blissful prose doesn't generally suit genre fiction. But competent prose does. Good prose enhances great storytelling (e.g. Elmore Leonard).

    From the first para:

    The buzz in the street was like the humming of flies. (Was it a hum or a buzz? The sounds are quite different) Photographers stood massed behind barriers patrolled by police, their long-snouted cameras poised, (pigs have snouts but the original simile was about insects – “proboscis” would be a better word) their breath rising like steam (a lazy simile; steam is hot. Better would be something with mist, fog or vapour)

  • LizLiz
    edited February 12
    (pigs have snouts but the original simile was about insects – “proboscis” would be a better word)

    I totally disagree. Proboscides are always flexible and in the public's mind at least, curled. I can't conceive of a worse description. Extended metaphor is not needed here. Whats more they aren't confined to insects - snouts can also be proboscides. Monkeys can have them.
  • Gently does it with new members, Liz. 
  • Yes.  Be careful how you handle members, Liz.
  • LizLiz
    edited February 12
    I'm so glad dora is back! No members have been harmed in the process of my comments to my knowledge, dora.
  • In the ????

    My mind is bogglin, Liz, but my other parts, well, less said the betterer.
  • I'm using two mouses, dora and one keeps cancelling what the other does, have put it right now! (one is charging)
  • I say - call on Sir Lancelot to charge back at him I say.
  • > Proboscides are always flexible and in the public's mind at least, curled. <

    I'd argue that the public in general don't have a firm concept of a proboscis. Certainly I'd never considered them curled, but then I'm not an entomologist. There was no mention of curl in the two dictionary definitions I've just seen. It's perfectly possible for an insect to have a rigid and straight proboscis.

    >I can't conceive of a worse description. <

    Really? "Toilet brush" would be a worse description. Or "French horn." I suggest that there are numerous worse options. 

    >Extended metaphor is not needed here. <

    On what basis do you suggest this? The hum (or buzz) of insects is good simile to suggest prurient interest and congregated masses. To continue it would have been interesting and effective.

    >Whats more they aren't confined to insects - snouts can also be proboscides. Monkeys can have them. <

    Quite right, but an insect doesn't have a snout. It does have a proboscis. Moreover, there's a suggestion of "probe" in the word, and the "sc" sound is suitably slithery and alien.

    Arguably, all metaphors/similes are open to accusations of not being 100% correlative. A snout, for example, might be said to be a means of respiration or snorting, whereas a proboscis is a means of silent parasitic alimentation – a better fit here.

    But now I think about it, "French horn" is the funniest option.
  • LizLiz
    edited February 15
    You think JK would have been better to suggest silent parasitic alimentation? I don't. She was suggesting noisy pigs in a trough looking for titbits. 
  • I would just think of the lens of the camera looking like a snout. But I agree I wouldn't put humming and buzzing in the same sentence as a simile. Still, I would be unlikely to do that much analysis on a book I was reading for pleasure, so probably wouldn't notice anyway. We're all different.
  • Some more different than others!
  • I understand what she was trying to do with snouts. My problem was the flurry of mixed metaphors/similes. And the fact that a snout snorts while a lens is a silent observer. 

    Alas, I do tend to read so analytically. I might breeze over the occasional bit of mediocre writing if I'm enjoying the story, but a glut of mediocre writing in one place – indeed, on the very first page – kills my pleasure. Makes me feel like I'm reading with a red pen in hand.

    "Reading for pleasure" for me means pleasure in the prose AND in the story. I accept that many readers don't care about or even notice the prose. I've met a few people who were shocked to hear that Dan Brown is not a hugely gifted stylist. 

    By the by, it works the other way, too. Sublimely clever prose is just tiring when it isn't attached to a compelling narrative. A really great writer does both equally well. (I'm not a really great writer – just a competent one.)
  • Oh, Dan Brown's writing is dreadful! I really couldn't understand all the hoohah when The Da Vinci Code came out. 

    I agree, GG. Good writing should combine brilliant storytelling with the perfect vocabulary choice and just the right soupcon of fabulous, but fitting, metaphor.
  • Dan Brown's writing is indeed dire. I haven't bothered to see if he has improved... but in charity shops there are gazillions of them. Not s much with JK's detective stories... however, X or whatever it was called, was everywhere. Ghastly.
  • Ditto, I struggled through to the end of Da Vinci, thinking if so many people think it's great then I must be missing something. I wasn't - it was just bad. Didn't read 50 shades either. 
  • To be fair, Dan Brown knows how to structure a narrative. Every chapter moves the story forward and keeps the momentum going. That's what his readers like. The cliche and coincidence and cartoonish writing let him down.

    I vaguely recall that the "Da Vinci expert" in the story is apparently stumped when presented with an "impenetrable code" which is actually just mirror writing and which most people know was a habit of Leonardo's. And one of the character's surnames translated as "red herring." He was a red herring. Not subtle.
  • I'm pretty sure Dan Brown's not worried that some people think his writing is not up to par, nor his publisher - he's the exception that proves the rule I suppose. The old saying that in the creative world 'nobody knows anything' is proved here - if he was submitting his books today as an unknown, chances are he'd have a huge pile of emailed rejections - never mind. (I'm Datco2014 as datco2019 - updated and rebooted as my old log in wouldn't work - probably  because I've not been on here for months!)
  • I think we've lost some people because of that, Datco. 
  • I don't think Dan Brown is the exception, He's the rule. I occasionally pick up books from the bestseller shelf and read the first page to see what the fuss about. I'm usually disappointed at the quality. But then I'm not the target reader for those books.

    Look at this line from the first paragraph of a bestseller: "Eighteen feet below the windswept surface legend says there is a complex network of caves." The grammar of this sentence suggests that legend is eighteen feet below the surface.

  • I want to put a couple of commas in...
  • LizLiz
    edited March 1
    It just needs a comma after surface.  But I can't read the legend being 18 feet below the surface into it at all. 
  • I agree, TN. There are lots of poorly written 'bestsellers' out there. But I also think that your average Jo Public reader just doesn't notice.
    For example, I've just re-read Bill Bryson's Notes from a Small Island and I was astonished to pick up quite a number of blips.
    He uses the word 'fetching' all the way through the book. There was another descriptive word (can't remember what it was off the top of my head) but he used it in consecutive paragraphs. Very sloppy editing. But - here's the thing - I hadn't noticed these blips the first time I read the book. 
    I've always been a Bill Bryson fan and these schoolboy errors saddened me. Ergo, I've become a far more critical reader since I became a serious/published writer.
  • I haven't really. In children's books, yes, because it shows up and it's important to keep them grammatically perfect. But in adults' books... not so much. I tend to get into the story. But then, I'm a fan of Aldous Huxley, and writers I read long ago, when there were real editors, so perhaps I'm not reading the sort of thing that would contain all these errors. I like people like Margaret Attwood and Kate Atkinson etc. list of authors read very recently - Barbara Kingsolver, William Melvin Kelly, Naomi Wood, Donna Tartt, Patrick Gale, Anne Tyler, they've all been fine. 
  • Yes, I would say that the general public has a different reading experience from those of us used to non-stop editing.

    "Eighteen feet below the windswept surface, legend says, there is a complex network of caves."

    Main clause and sub-ordinate clause just need separating.
  • Yes. I don't think you really need the second one. I wonder why there are no commas. Is it like that all the way through? It's very odd, particularly on the first page.
  • Tiny Nell - That's an elegant save: "Eighteen feet below the windswept surface, legend says, there is a complex network of caves."

    Simply putting a comma after 'surface' reinforces that legend is below the surface because the initial subordinate clause is one of description/location and grammatically should have the same subject as the dominant clause ('legend').

    It's true that books these days aren't edited as strictly as they once were. But I think writers have a responsibility to know the grammar – at least at a functional level. If we don't know what's right, who does? (That's why I'm angry when I hear a BBC reporter say, "I'm sat outside the offices of . . .")

    Someone once said to me: 'You never hear a mathematician say, "Oh, I'm not sure where the decimal point goes. I just go with my feeling."'

    Proofreading is a different matter. My experience is that writers often can't see their own mistakes.
  • As Claudia says, learning more about writing makes one more aware of errors when reading.
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