Five Reasons Why I Rejected Your Manuscript

Last month, I wrote about some of the differences between writers and publishers, as well as some of the challenges of getting your work published. Here’s a quick recap: Publishing is a business (GASP!). Publishers want to make money (and that’s okay). Writers also want to make money (and that’s okay, too). It’s not easy to get published (no duh!). But that doesn’t mean you should give up (yay!).

This month, I want to talk a little more about the publishing world, and see if I can’t help give you some more perspective when it comes to that all-important question: Why did you reject my manuscript?

I hear that question a lot, and unfortunately, there’s no easy answer. Saying “It’s not personal,” while technically true, doesn’t do much to ease the sting of rejection. Neither does the standard rejection letter that most publishers send out, which are often devoid of specific reasons for the rejection.

As a slush pile reader, I don’t make the final decision about whether something gets published or not, but I often make the first decision. And while a “yes” or “no” from me carries a fair amount of weight where I work, it’s someone higher up the food chain who ultimately decides your story’s fate.

Here are five of the most common reasons I will recommend rejecting a manuscript, as well as some possible solutions.

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Reason #1: It’s badly written. Hands down, this is the number one reason I will pass on a manuscript. “Badly written” encompasses both the content and the style. Maybe the plot is thin, or the characters are flat, or the dialogue is stilted. Or maybe there are grammatical errors as far as the eye can see. Now, a few problems here and there are not deal breakers—even the most professional authors make mistakes and need an editor’s help—but if the whole thing is a hot mess, I’m sending it back.

Solution: Write better. No, seriously. Write better.

Reason #2: It didn’t follow the rules. Every publisher has specific rules for submitting, and few things will red flag your manuscript for rejection like trying to go outside those rules. Some publishers will only take submissions from agents, for instance. Some publishers only want a cover letter and three chapters. Some only want an electronic copy, and so on. When a manuscript comes in that isn’t in the format that we require (12 point Times New Roman, double spaced, one inch margins), or it is clear that the author didn’t bother to read our submission guidelines, we know they’re probably not very serious about their craft. Or, it may as simple a thing as an author not even doing basic research to see what kinds of things we publish (which is how we once got a hand-illustrated horror story about a serial killer in the Deseret Book slush pile).

The reason for this is not because publishers are super nit-picky (although they are), but because when every manuscript follows an identical format, it levels the playing field. I don’t want to see your manuscript; I want to see your story. I want the manuscript to disappear into the background so that your story can take center stage.

Solution: Whatever publisher you’re submitting to, do your homework and play by the rules.

Reason #3: Timing. Here’s the thing: there are hundreds of manuscripts in the slush pile at any given moment, and we read them (more or less) in the order in which they were received. So it’s quite possible your post apocalyptic YA paranormal romance thriller is, in fact, amazing—but it arrived in the slush pile two months later than another post apocalyptic YA paranormal romance thriller that we really liked and are going to publish. That’s not your fault, it’s not your story’s fault, and it doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer. It’s just bad timing, and sadly, nobody has any control over that.

Solution: IDK, try a different publisher?

Reason #4: It was my fault. Look, I’m human. I make mistakes. I try to give every single manuscript that comes across my desk a fair shake, but every once in a while, I completely and totally blow it and pass on something that was, in fact, really good. I wish I had a good reason for why this happens, but I don’t. Maybe you just caught me on a bad day. Maybe it’s because you write in a genre that isn’t my personal favorite. As with the timing issue, it’s not your fault. It’s not because you’re a bad writer. This one, while rare, is all on me.

Solution: Okay, this one requires a little more than a pat answer. Problems like this are why I’m not the only slushpile reader. Every one has bad days, and this is specifically why we will often have multiple readers look at manuscripts. And the good news for you is that I’m usually aware of when I’m in a bad mood or when I’m just not into your story because of the genre. When that happens, I will make specific mention of it and suggest that someone else take a crack at it. My solution for this problem is to trust that the right readers will see your manuscript 99.9% of the time.

Reason #5: What does the market want? Ah, there’s the question publishers get more than any other. As I wrote last month, publishers and writers are always looking for the Next Big Thing. The challenge is that publishers are always looking and planning really far ahead. For instance, the publisher I work for has 2018 titles all locked down, and is already looking at 2019 and even into 2020. What is being published right this minute is what we hoped would be the Next Big Thing two years ago. Writers see what’s popular at the moment, and think “I’m getting on that train!” and then we get inundated with thousands of the same kinds of stories. So it may be that your manuscript got rejected simply because the market trends are changing. Again, writers don’t have control over that.

Solution: Like the timing issue, there isn’t an easy answer here. Trends go in cycles, so be patient, I guess?

Rejections are not fun, and nobody pretends like they are. The submitting/rejection phase is probably the worst part of being a writer, maybe second only the marketing/self promotion side once you do get published (but that’s a post for another day). But remember that every published author has been rejected many, many times before—and often, even after they’ve been published! So take heart, because you’re in good company. Rejections can be an opportunity to improve your skills as a writer and to strengthen yourself as a person. Keep at it, and don’t give up!

Also: I swear it wasn’t personal.

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Dennis Gaunt has worked as a slushpile reader for Deseret Book and Shadow Mountain publishers since 2000. All those years of reading other people’s words inspired him to take a crack at writing himself. His first book, Bad Guys of the Book of Mormon, was published in 2011, and he has since published other books and magazine articles in the LDS market, and has even recorded talks on CD for LDS youth and young adults.

Though primarily a non-fiction writer (for now), he loves reading and talking about what makes great fiction stories work. His years of wading through the slushpile from the other side have given him a unique perspective on the writing and publishing processes, and he’s excited to be a part of Thinking Through Our Fingers.

Dennis lives in the Salt Lake City area with his wife, Natalie, who still has the text he sent her all those years ago that read “Holy cow–I think I’m writing a book!” In his spare time, he enjoys photography, playing the guitar, cooking (hold the onions, please), going to Disneyland, and Godzilla movies.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

In real life, people don’t always say what they mean. It doesn’t mean they’re lying or even in denial. Sometimes characters think they’re telling the truth, or sometimes they don’t know the truth. Maybe they’re just not comfortable expressing the truth.

In a work of fiction, there are the words themselves and the truth behind the words. There is the text and the subtext. Subtext is what’s not being said. It’s the implicit, not explicit. Much of the subtext of a story is revealed through actions that characters make, whether simple gestures or big events. Actions tell the truth, even if the words themselves lie.

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Look at a character’s gestures. Sometimes they’re made on purpose; sometimes they’re unconscious. Small movements can be telling of what’s really going on in the character’s head. Like if they clean their gun slowly and methodically, or if they simply close their eyes when someone is speaking to them. Sometimes gestures contradict the words. Someone on the verge of being caught doing something wrong could act nonchalant, but the nails of his fingers bite into his palm as he makes a fist behind his back.

Every week I get together with one of my critique partners at a local café for a writing day. Once, there was a couple in the booth next to us that I couldn’t help watching. The girl kept trying to snuggle up next to her boyfriend. While he let her come close, he eventually leaned away, then scooted away, and even turned his shoulders away from her and crossed his arms. His body language said it all—he did not want to be close to her.

Sometimes people speak with their hand over their mouth. It could mean they’re insecure or aren’t sure about what they’re saying. Or maybe your character walks several steps behind the rest of his group of friends. Does he want to disassociate from them, or does he feel he doesn’t deserve to be with them? So much can be said just with body language.

Characters can tell us about a situation by their pace and rhythm. Do they act quickly? With energy? That could mean they want to get something over with, or maybe they’re running from something. Do they move slowly? Hesitantly? Do they linger, savoring a moment? Their speed alone can tell us so much.

Many people have behaviors that are habits, often times bad habits. If one of your characters is always late, it could be subtext for a number of things. Maybe they’re not good at organization or planning. Maybe they don’t care about anyone else, or they’re lying about where they’ve been. Do they like making an entrance and being the center of attention? It could even mean someone is young or uneducated and doesn’t know how to read a clock. Some other habits could be having superstitions, clenching teeth while sleeping, or always standing close to an exit. Most habits have a backstory and can inform us about the character.

We can often understand what is really going on by the choices characters make. For example in the movie AVATAR, Jake’s and the Colonel’s objective seem to be the same: to find a diplomatic solution to gaining the unobtanium from the Na’vis. But when we read into the subtext as the movie progresses, and the decisions each character makes, we learn the Colonel wants to blow them away, and Jake wants the opposite—to become one of them. Think of the first time Jake becomes an Avatar and experiences being able to run again. His excitement plants those first seeds of subtext of what Jake’s true objective will be.

Whether through gestures, body language, habits, decisions, or rhythm and pace, choose your character’s actions carefully, because it’s through the subtext of those actions that the truth of your story will be revealed. And actions speak louder than words.

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Ilima Todd was born and raised on the north shore of Oahu and currently resides in the Rocky Mountains. She never wanted to be a writer even though she loves books and reading. She earned a degree in physics instead. But the characters in her head refused to be ignored, and now she spends her time writing science fiction for teens. Ilima is the author of the REMAKE series (Simon Pulse/Shadow Mountain) and is represented by Lane Heymont of The Seymour Agency. When she is not writing, Ilima loves to spend time with her husband and four children.

Mindful Details: Paying Attention to the World Around You

How many times do you find yourself in a waiting room, on a bus, sitting outside a restaurant waiting for the rest of your party . . . and to pass the time, you pull out your phone. You might be thinking it’s the perfect opportunity to catch up on social media or to shoot off some emails you’ve been procrastinating on. Maybe you’re playing a game or reading an e-book.

We all do this. I know I’m guilty of it. Actually, I shouldn’t use the word “guilty” here, because I, for one, see nothing wrong with this. I’m not here to shake my fist in the air and shout to the world that electronic devices are destroying human interaction, yada yada yada. (I actually believe they’ve brought people closer together in some ways, but that’s another post for another blog).

Nope, I’m not going to chastise anyone for playing a game of Candy Crush while sitting at the bus stop. I might, however, be so bold as to say that frittering away the “boring” moments of life on our phones is wasting an opportunity to improve our writing skills. When was the last time you kept your phone in your pocket and just sat, observing and experiencing the world around you? When was the last time you were fully mindful of your surroundings? When did you pay attention–really pay attention to the people passing by?

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While at an art museum this last weekend, my friend, who’d recently moved into the town in which I was visiting her, was asking the woman at the front desk if she had any recommendations of other things to do in the area. They talked for a long time, and I sort of let myself fall off to the background. At first, I busied myself taking pictures of the cool architecture in the lobby, then posting the pics onto Instagram. But eventually, as the two continued to chat, I became fascinated by the way the woman’s heavy jewelry clacked with every movement she made. And she moved a lot. She was animated, talking with her hands. I watched for a while, wondering how it didn’t bother her, deciding it would certainly bother me. And then . . . it occurred to me that I could use this for one of my characters. I excused myself, pulled out my phone again, opened up a note app, and wrote the description down.

The next time you have the opportunity to people watch, take it. See if you can find at least one unique detail about a person, whether it’s a distinctive article of clothing that hints at their personality, the way they carry themselves, what their voice sounds like, what they smell like (if they’re close enough)–and write it down. (One caveat: don’t be obvious about it. You never know how someone might react. I take no responsibility for any black eyes.)

Don’t stop with people. Be mindful of scenery too. Of the feel of a room when you enter it for the first time. Of the sounds of wildlife outside your window bright and early in the morning. Don’t push these observations to the background as you go about your day. Keep your eyes, ears, and nose open and really take it all in. Then write it down. Even if you don’t have a place for a particular observation in your current project, it’s good practice anyway.

One more thing: don’t focus only on the strange and/or unique. Focus on the mundane as well. Some of the best writing I’ve read has been able to transport me into a scene via one or two simple sensory details of something as plain as the sticky feel of over-waxed wood beneath fingertips, or the citrus scent and fizz of bubbles in a sink full of soapy dishes. You can feel that wood yourself now, can’t you? Because we’ve all felt it at one time or another. You can smell that dish soap and hear that faint crackle of foam, and now, you’re in the scene. These are mindful details. And the more often you take the time out to pay attention to the world around you, the more often these details will seep into your writing, making it so much stronger.

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File Jan 15, 5 15 03 PM.jpegWhen she’s not writing, revising, or banging her head on the keyboard (it’s all the same, right?), Megan Paasch can be found playing her ukulele (badly), knitting (rarely anymore, unfortunately), or herding two amazing, but rowdy little boys (pretty much constantly) with her husband. A native to the Pacific Northwest, Megan earned her B.A. in History from the University of Washington. (Go Huskies!) Her favorite history subjects were, and still are, Women in History, the Tudors, and the Celts. You can read more about her here.

 

Puzzling Out Your Revisions

I did it! I finished my draft! And now . . . ohhh boy, is it a mess.

I’m not talking about awkward sentences and sparse details—though there’s certainly plenty of that. I’m talking about huge plot and character shifts part way through, characters I introduced, then ghosted on, a beloved pet dog that appears in the first chapter only—that kind of a mess.

I have chapters I wrote, then moved, that now need to be rewritten so they’ll make sense within their new context. I have location shifts, missing parents, siblings that I may or may not add in. . . .

Basically, I have a TON of work ahead of me. When I look at everything that needs to be done, it’s overwhelming.

As writers, one of the most prevalent pieces of advice we’re given is to get the words down. Just get them down, finish that draft, worry about the mess later. We can’t revise what isn’t there, right? This is great advice; however, once we’ve followed it . . . what do we do next?

Puzzling

First, take a deep breath.

Then another.

Ok, just one more.

Now that you’ve calmed down a bit, open your document back up.

You might even want to go so far as to print it out so you can physically go at it with a red pen. Or, if you prefer, you can use the comments option in your word processing software program of choice. Do whichever feels easier for you when it comes to wrapping your head around the monumental task ahead.

First, read your manuscript and take notes—any and all thoughts that come to mind—but resist making any changes at this time. (I know, it’s hard.) If you make changes as you go though, you might find later that the changes you made at the beginning still aren’t going to work with the changes you end up needing to make at the end. Think of this as the Intel-Gathering phase. Right now, you’re a detective figuring out what best needs to be done to your story and how best to do it—how to fit the pieces of this messed up puzzle together in a way that makes the most sense.

Ok, so you’ve done that, and . . . you’re still feeling super intimidated, aren’t you? Maybe you should take a few more deep breaths.

Better? Good.

The next thing you need to do is categorize your notes. Just like separating out puzzle pieces into groups—grass pieces over here, sky pieces there, what looks like maybe the hull of a wooden boat? Maybe it’s a house . . . over there. I find organizing and separating the different types of fixes that need to be made in my draft, helps me break things down into more manageable tasks that make the entire process feel less daunting. Rather than go through the manuscript one time, tackling each note one by one, I’ll make multiple passes focusing on one problem at a time.

Big stuff comes first. (It’s ok to take another deep breath here if you need to. Ready? In . . . out . . . good.)

What is it about your draft that needs the most work? For me, it’s usually characterization. For you, it could be setting, or filling in plot holes, or smoothing transitions. Take the biggest task and go through only focusing on that. Trust me, you’ll feel so much better once you get that bit out of the way. Next, move on to the second biggest issue.

And keep on moving down the list this way. I haven’t finished taking notes on my current draft, but I’m guessing my big focus areas for example, in order from messiest to least messy, will end up being characters, setting, plot holes, transitions, dialogue.

Once you’ve finished these big picture tasks, move on to the nitty-gritty things, like grammar, punctuation, varying your sentence structures, and finally, removing unnecessary filler words (like, very, really, that, etc.) and adverbs.

And that’s it! Keep in mind, you might need to go back and adjust areas you’ve previously focused on after you’ve made some later changes, but it should be much easier now. And then, of course, you’ll absolutely need to go through the entire process again once you’ve let your critique partners and/or beta reads get a hold of it. But the hardest part should be over. Congratulations! You’ve now turned your huge, jumbled up, intimidating mess into something you’re actually willing to let people read! The puzzle is now complete.

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File Jan 15, 5 15 03 PM.jpegWhen she’s not writing, revising, or banging her head on the keyboard (it’s all the same, right?), Megan Paasch can be found playing her ukulele (badly), knitting (rarely anymore, unfortunately), or herding two amazing, but rowdy little boys (pretty much constantly) with her husband. A native to the Pacific Northwest, Megan earned her B.A. in History from the University of Washington. (Go Huskies!) Her favorite history subjects were, and still are, Women in History, the Tudors, and the Celts. You can read more about her here.

From Passenger to Pilot

As I draft this post, I’m sitting in an Airbus A320 from KDTW to KDEN at flight level 370. I don’t know this because I have a great deal of aeronautical knowledge or because I was even particularly paying attention to the pre-flight speech; I know this because my aviation-obsessed son did a little research before I left.

Jack spends his time watching instructional videos and studying navigation charts. The reward for getting his work done is ten minutes of YouTube aviation channels. It is a powerful motivator. My son is passionate about flight to the point that it’s not enough to fly on an airplane, to be the passenger. He has to become a pilot.

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I think this is not unlike the reason we write. We love story to the point that it is not enough to be along for the ride. We need to be the one charting the course, the one taking others on the journey. But in order to do so successfully—in order to make the jump from passenger to pilot—there’s a tremendous amount of work that must take place. Skills to be acquired. Forces of physics and nature and mechanics to understand. We must learn how to chart the course, how to navigate it safely, and how to listen to the essential voices from the ground that are guiding us in the right direction.

Writing is an art, certainly, but I think all art requires this study and work, unglamorous though it may be. I remember coming to an elementary school arts night and being amazed at the quality and technique of the self-portraits the kindergarteners drew. Just as I was marveling at how many of the kids I could actually recognize from their portraits, I was shocked to hear a parent complaining that art should be free expression and that all the portraits looked the same. Yes, all the portraits looked similar in that they all looked remarkably like human faces. Drawn by kindergarteners! Of course art is expression, but we must first acquire the tools and skills with which to express ourselves. As a friend in theater education says, “If we want kids to think outside the box, they first have to understand the box.” Certainly this is true at any age.

And so it is with our writing. We can take our stories to new heights and undiscovered places—but we must do so with an understanding of the principles and potential dangers, of the layout of the land and the craft that’s taking us there. We keep our skills sharp by attending a conference, taking a class, reading a new book on writing or creativity. Only then can we have the soaring sensation and the breathtaking beauty we first fell in love with, and only then can we share those things with our readers as well.

What will you do this summer to become a better pilot?


profile-picElaine Vickers is the author of LIKE MAGIC (out now!) and PAPER CHAINS (coming fall 2017) from HarperCollins. She loves writing middle grade and chapter books when she’s not teaching college chemistry or hanging out with her fabulous family. You can find her at elainevickers.com on the web, @ElaineBVickers on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, or generally anywhere there are books and/or food for her consumption.

Understanding the Inciting Incident

We had a wet and relatively mild winter, followed by a fairly mild spring. Along came the soaring temperatures with the accompanying winds of June, and the backstory was set. All it took was one person who probably thought he was doing the right thing by burning down the dried out weeds, but the one person set the mountain on fire. Over two weeks later, over 1,000 firefighters have worked through incredible heat to fight the flames that have consumed 68,000+ acres of mountain forest in the #brianheadfire.

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Photo Credit: Stuart Johnson, Deseret News

I could have told you about the lovely temperatures of spring or the fact that there was an insect plague over two decades ago that left the trees on the mountain compromised, but the reality of the situation is that you, as a reader, don’t have anything invested in that, not until you know why I’m telling you. As writers, it is our job to give readers enough of the backstory to understand where the character is coming from and then get on with it.

We can all nod our head and say, “Yes, I understand,” but then when we try to write the inciting incident? Nothing.

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Sometimes it’s easiest to understand the inciting incident better when we can see it in something we know well. Here are a few well known incidents to help provide some clarity:

The Wizard of Oz

Without the assistance of the tornado, Dorothy, Toto and the viewers would all still be hanging out in Kansas with Auntie Em. We get just enough of the story to allow us to see a bit about Dorothy, to understand that she’s a dreamer, and then the story takes a wild turn into a land of unknown and we get to really see what Dorothy is made of.

Romeo and Juliet

We get it. The Montagues and the Capulets don’t like each other. Why? Not important. We just need to see that people from these families are willing to kill each other for a perceived snub to understand the level of tragedy that will accompany the star-crossed lovers, something we know from the moment they meet (hint: this is their inciting incident).

The Scarlet Letter

We get enough of the setting to know that we are dealing with the Puritans, that they have a harsh judgement system, and then we are with Hester Prynne, on the scaffold, holding her baby. She refuses to state the name of her co-sinner, concealing the identity of the child’s father and then looks across the crowd to see her husband (a man who was believed to be dead and who she hadn’t seen in years) staring back at her. Talk about a love triangle with some serious consequences.

So, dear writer, it’s your turn. Where does your character pivot onto a path that will make readers want to follow? How much are you asking your readers to know before you let them understand why? Are you trying to showcase all the work you did, and by doing so, compromising the opportunity for a reader to get engaged?

These are hard questions to answer, and sometimes even harder to answer honestly. But being clear with our story, our characters, our writing will allow us to move toward the story of greatest engagement.

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TashaTasha Seegmiller is a mom to three kids and coordinator of the project-based learning center (EDGE) at Southern Utah University. She writes contemporary women’s fiction with a hint of magic, and thrives on Diet Coke, chocolate and cinnamon bears. She is a co-founder and the managing editor for the Thinking Through Our Fingers blog as well as a board member for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. Tasha is represented by Annelise Robey of the Jane Rotrosen Agency.

The Secret to Writing Good Kissing Books

“Is this a kissing book?”

Oh hell, yes. Those are the best kind.

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The secret to writing a good kissing book is: don’t have too much kissing.

I KNOW. It seems counterintuitive. And yet it’s true.

Because you know what we love more than the kissing even if we don’t realize it? The stuff leading up to the kissing. Yeah. All that delicious tension, building, making us downright impatient, and then BAM. Kissing. And the crowd goes wild!!!!!!

But only for about five seconds. Then they get bored and you have to pull out a different trick.

And that is why we don’t have too much kissing and it doesn’t go on too long.

I remember my earliest exposure to this principle: Moonlighting with Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd. Mind you, I was the child who would flee the room in embarrassment when the Close Up toothpaste kissing commercial came on. But even I got to the point where I was screaming for David and Maddie to get together. And at last they did and the nation rejoiced! And then . . . yawned.

Remington Steele did the same thing, now that I think about it. You’re just dying for Laura and Remington to get it over with and then they do and YAY! And then . . . yawn. But when Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth get together, we stay happy because it fades to black right after the payoff.

So the tension matters, and the trick is finding the balance between how long you can play it out before you lose the reader while not playing it out so long that you can’t pay it off.

There are two primary schools of thought on this. You can take either the Half Plus Final or End Game Only approach.

I like the Half Plus Final approach. This is when you build up to a character kiss about a third to halfway through, drive them apart through an external conflict, and then reconcile them with a final, epic kiss. That allows you to play with some levels here, pushing the chemistry to a high, then dropping it, then leveling up again. It also allows you to establish the chemistry early and lead the reader to cheer harder for the couple to work toward reconciliation.

End Game Only is one kiss at the end. This is trickier because it means you’ve built the tension longer so the emotional payoff and the kiss are going to have to meet higher expectations, but if you pull it off, then it’s a deliciously rewarding kiss, the dizzying, epic kind.

So what’s the build up? How do you ratchet that tension higher?

Think middle school. Yeah. All the answers to the best tension are there. Think about how loaded every moment felt with your early crushes: every look, every glance was carrying major freight. But why? Sometimes there’s just that chemistry thing that happens. Pheremones, basically. But since books aren’t scratch and sniff, we can’t depend on that as writers.

That’s okay, because if you think about it, the deep crushes were built on the stories we imagined around who the person was, whether it was true or not. I had many middle school crushes on quiet boys because I convinced myself they were still waters that ran deep. (Sometimes that was true. Sometimes they were just seventh grade boys who hadn’t found much to talk about yet.)

So to keep it sustainable, character chemistry must be rooted in something: attraction to physical appearance is the simplest and shakiest foundation to build on. Attraction to that mystery of who someone is, even when a character is fighting it, sets up a mini arc as the characters involved begin to peel back each other’s layers and expose vulnerabilities that make a kiss both emotionally risky and inevitable.

It’s fire, baby. You kindle with it those looks, those jabs and feints, those little brushes of hands, those caught-you-looking moments, those conversations that take each other a little further behind each other’s facades.

And then . . . then you light it up and let it burn.

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Melanie Bennett Jacobson is an avid reader, amateur cook, and shoe addict. She consumes astonishing amounts of chocolate, chick flicks, and novels. She lives in Southern California with her husband and three kids and a series of doomed houseplants. Her seventh novel, Southern Charmed, released in October. Melanie is pursuing a Masters degree in creative writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her contemporary YA novels are represented by Alyssa Henkin..