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Author: adele

Shelving Anna

Persuading Anna was my first completed fiction manuscript. It started life as an attempt at “Literary Women’s Fiction.”

“Wait – doesn’t your bio say you write comic romance?”

Yes, reader, it does. Thank you for allowing me to put words in your mouth just this once. I promise I won’t do it again.

I had a lot of ideas about what I might want to be if I became a writer. I went to a prep school that cranks out amazing writers like Susan Minot, Sebastian Junger, and Matt Taibbi. As such, I was terrified of doing anything that wasn’t “serious.”

I picked at this manuscript for years. I thought long and hard about why I couldn’t get more than a chapter or two of it out. After all, it was a contemporary spin on my all-time favorite novel, Austen’s Persuasion. (In fact, its first title was The Energy and Devotion of Our Youth which is from a Benjamin Disraeli quote that ends with “…was all my persuasion.”)

Finally, I realized why I wasn’t writing the damn thing. It wasn’t fun. Frankly, it wasn’t what I wanted to read, let alone write.

So I started again. Some of the original stayed, and the book grew over weeks and months. It became fun. The characters surprised me. A friend of mine who is a literary agent agreed to read it. She told me it had promise, but I should find a critique group to help me with some issues, pacing (especially at the beginning) being at the top of the list.

I joined RWA, found a critique group, and over the next few months did a fairly serious revision while I wrote my second manuscript, Software and Sensibility (yes, I have a pattern). I started querying and got a few requests for the manuscript and a whole lot of rejections. I began to learn the real definition of “waiting.” I finished Sense and moved on to Acting Up, which is still Austen-related (a very loose spin on Lady Susan) but getting into more original territory. Taking the training wheels off, as it were. It is also set in my first workplace, the theater, which is fertile ground for both bad behavior and humor.

My beta readers told me that while they had enjoyed my first two books, Acting Up represented a marked improvement. They got really excited about this book. I finished that and started to write the next one in a proposed series of three, Acting Out.

Around this point, I entered Anna in Pitch Wars. I was excited about the possibilities of redrafting it, as I knew it still had problems despite the feedback and the rewrites. I knew my odds weren’t great, so I kept my expectations in check. I didn’t get a mentor, but I got another couple of critique partners out of the experience, as well as a whole new community. Though lots of people seemed to like the premise a lot, additional feedback from a couple of the mentors told me what I already knew: the pacing issues that plagued the all-important beginning of the book were still there. That and the fact that it’s written from her point of view only made it a funny muddle between “women’s fiction” and romance.

I reread the whole thing. I commenced another round of revisions on it. And a few days after Pitch Wars’ picks were announced, I found myself in a miserable funk. Impostor syndrome, tears, the works.

A few days after that, after a lot of thought, I decided to shelve Anna for the foreseeable future.

My reasons for doing so involved both my head and my heart. Head-wise, I know that statistically the first book that usually clicks for an author is their third. This makes sense. You learn by writing. I know I’ve learned a lot. Up is intentionally a “category” romance – short (50,000 words), punchy, and fun. Anna and Sense are longer, 70 and 75,000 words, respectively. The shorter format of the Acting books made me structure them differently, and they move along a lot more readily.

On the heart side, I realized I had become invested in the trilogy and, while I didn’t quite resent the idea of spending time on Anna when I could be working on my newer stuff, I wasn’t as excited about it as I might be. As my friend Anne said on Twitter, you have to work with what engages you (at least now, while I have no deadlines and the space to be indulgent about such things).

Will I go back to Anna one day? At this point, I’d say, “Probably, yes.” I agree with everything everyone said about it: the premise has potential, but I failed the premise.* That’s okay. With four completed manuscripts and another started (Acting Lessons), I’m still a baby at this game. If I approach Anna again, it will probably be with opening an entirely new Scrivener project and starting (sort of) from scratch. I don’t want to do that just now, but it sounds like it could be fun.


*Nobody but me used the verb “fail,” to be very clear.

Let’s talk about critique

There are a lot of articles going around right now about critique and a lot of them are very good. I’m going to try to address the power and the pain of critique from a slightly different angle. Because emotional response to critique is where 99% of the rubber ceases to meet the road in my experience.

Who am I to talk about this? I was an actress in a past life (like, seriously, I haven’t been on stage in 26 years, but I was an actor for 11 years*), and I am here to tell you that being critiqued on a performance is really nothing like having your writing critiqued.

It’s worse.

Imagine standing on stage (or more realistically, in a windowless, dingy rehearsal space) and feeling things. Making the lines someone else wrote personal to you, being passionate about something. Throwing yourself into a performance and feeling everything your character is supposed to feel.

And then being told, “Huh. I didn’t see it,” by just about everybody in the room.

This was you. Your voice, your body, your face. Attempting to convey emotion and meaning that nobody saw.

My point isn’t to play “which artist has it worse.” My point is to say I have some experience with dealing with intensely personal critique and to offer some of the strategies and techniques I learned to take the pain of critique and turn it into something better.

  1. Breathe. Really. Sometimes critique can make you feel like you were punched in the gut. It robs you of breath. Breathing helps you think, helps you relax and take in information. So check in with your body. Are you breathing? If not, do.
  2. Nod. Now maybe you’re thinking, Is she daft? Nod? Yes. Nod. What you’re hearing may be hard, but it’s probably true. Unless you have a critique partner (CP) who is intent on submarining you (and if you have one of these, get out. Now.) they’re relating their honest experience. The physical experience of accepting the criticism will hopefully soften your resistance. Your CP is telling you how s/he reacted to your piece. Is their experience universal? No. Is their experience valuable? Yes.
  3. Try to think of at least one thing you could change that might change your CP’s experience of the manuscript. I’m not saying to make those changes. I’m saying to think them through. Your CP has given you a lens to think about your manuscript differently. Use it. Take notes. You might make those changes. You might not. You might make entirely different changes. The point is, your CP is giving you a pivot point to work with. Work with it.

These are brief, Saturday evening thoughts. I’d be delighted if I got more suggestions in comments.

*I’ve spoken at conferences a bunch in the intervening years (fun fact: Adele Buck is my pen name, so looking me up that way won’t help much, but I’m also not hiding, so if you’re super diligent you might find me…though I can’t imagine why anyone would WANT to).

#PimpMyBio – VERSION 2

Hello #PitchWars mentors!

I’m Adele Buck, writing adult contemporary romance. The book I’m submitting is Persuading Anna, a contemporary retelling of Austen’s Persuasion (and yes, right out of the gate, if you have a better title, I am ALL EARS.)

The book has been critique-grouped and edited, but definitely still needs work! I’m eager to get a fresh set of eyes on it. Want to tear it to pieces and put it back together?

Bring. It.

Who would want to read this book? Well, do you like contemporary Austen retellings?

How about a heroine in a male-dominated job and industry? (She’s the Chief Financial Officer of a computer gaming company).

(I love me some competence porn.)

A best friend who’s not afraid to say things like, “Do you always braise your birth control, sweetie?”

And last but not least,

A flawed but redeemable second-chance romantic hero who looks like this:

A bit more about the story:

Successful gaming executive Anna has overcome discrimination and outright abuse to get to the top of her career. But her legendary cool composure is shaken by the reappearance of her seductive high-school sweetheart, Rick. The possibility of future love could bind them together but their differences also have the potential to ruin Anna’s career and separate them forever.

(Oh, and did I mention there’s a Caribbean vacation? No? Well, there’s a Pinterest board if you’re interested in the…extensive research I did for that. It was a CHORE, let me tell you.)

Why Me?

  • I’m a former actress, so I take criticism well.
  • I make it my life’s mission to make people laugh. So hopefully you would find me not only hard-working (which I am) but fun! (Hey, with this book I coined the term, “Chekhov’s Bikini Top.”)
  • I am on my third career (first: actress, second: financial markets and corporate communications executive, third: academic law librarian) this means I’m flexible and open to change, as well as the hard work that significant change brings (each career change required a new degree…)
  • I’ve learned a LOT since I wrote this book (it was my first, I’m now writing my fourth. The third got a nod from an editor in the last #PitMad and is currently on submission at Carina Press). But I need the help of someone with some distance from the manuscript to help me apply those lessons.

Some of my recommended recent reads:

Some of my all-time favorite reads (an entirely un-exhaustive list):

7/23/16 ETA Some more random facts:

  • I have 2 cats. One of them is on Twitter.
  • My husband is a fantastic cook.
  • I am dead serious about working out. Favorite workout is Bar Method, which a MMA friend of mine referred to as, simply: “Pain.”
  • Somewhere in the last three or so years I became a morning person. No, I don’t know how that happened either. No, I won’t make you wake up at six on a Saturday.
  • I live just outside Washington, D.C. which is currently hotter than Satan’s balls. I’m originally from New Hampshire where the mosquitos are the size of helicopters. Still can’t figure out which is worse…
  • Some favorite non-book media (definitely not an exhaustive list):
    • Movies: Monsoon Wedding, Holiday, Bend it Like Beckham, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, Persuasion (duh. The one with Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds), Sense and Sensibility (also duh. I once made my husband take my photograph in front of a costume from that movie because I was out of my mind over standing that close to something Emma Thompson once wore).
    • TV Shows: Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, Leverage, Orphan Black, Lip Sync Battle, Supergirl, Agent Carter, and I’m still not over the fact that they cancelled Terriers after only one season (on a cliffhanger, too).
    • Where does the ’96 miniseries of Pride and Prejudice go? Because that.
  • Yes, I’m both very feminist and very silly.
  • I’m a librarian (subtype: academic, sub-subtype: law). So when I find out something you like, I will almost inevitably surprise you by sending you stuff about that thing pretty much forever (or until you tell me to stop). It’s a hazard of the profession.

Looking forward to submitting!

Check out other prospective mentee bios here.

#1LineWed – June 15, 2016

#1LineWed is a hashtag prompt from @RWAKissofDeath for writers to select a line from a work or work-in-progress on a particular theme and post it to Twitter.

Theme: Lines from Page 6, 16, or 160 (I did all three)

When Colin first meets Alicia, he makes the mistake of questioning her honesty because of her profession.

From Acting Out, in progress.

Ellie and Mari’s mother is a master of guilt.

From Software and Sensibility, completed work, as yet unpublished.

Anna’s sister-in-law Sofia assures Anna that her New Year’s Eve outing will be safe.

From Persuading Anna, completed work, as yet unpublished.

All of my #1LineWed responses

#1LineWed – June 8, 2016

#1LineWed is a hashtag prompt from @RWAKissofDeath for writers to select a line from a work or work-in-progress on a particular theme and post it to Twitter.

Theme: Number.

Laurie defends himself against his boyfriend’s accusations of excessive shopping.

From Acting Up, completed work, as yet unpublished.

All of my #1LineWed responses

Pitchwars – PimpMyBio

EDIT 7/22/16: Aw heck – this old thing? I wrote a much more fun one which you can see over here.

Greetings to all who came here from Lana Pattinson’s generous blog hop…I’m going to be holding my breath, crossing my fingers, and entering one of my books into Pitch Wars this year.

A New Hampshire native, Adele has lived in the Washington, D.C. area for almost 20 years. Her very first fiction writing experience was a serialized story about a girl who turns into a horse that enthralled her second-grade class. She continued to indulge her creative side with a theatre degree from Syracuse University and then her less creative side with degrees at the University of Maine School of Law and the University of Maryland’s iSchool. Returning to writing was like a return to acting for Adele, especially in writing comedic dialogue and sorting out unusual character motivations.

In her non-writing life, Adele is the Instructional Technology Librarian at a Very Big Law School. Prior to beginning her library career, Adele spent two years as a legal index editor and 12 years working in executive relationship management with the NASDAQ Stock Market and in corporate communications for NASDAQ-listed companies.

She’s a lot more fun than that sounds. Promise.

#1LineWed – June 1, 2016

#1LineWed is a hashtag prompt from @RWAKissofDeath for writers to select a line from a work or work-in-progress on a particular theme and post it to Twitter.

Theme: Late.

Cath doesn’t know how to behave the morning after her best friend and business partner kisses her…

From Acting Up, completed work, as yet unpublished.

All of my #1LineWed responses

#1LineWed – May 25, 2016

#1LineWed is a hashtag prompt from @RWAKissofDeath for writers to select a line from a work or work-in-progress on a particular theme and post it to Twitter.

Theme: Anger.

Former teenage sweethearts Anna and Rick finally talk openly about their past.

From Persuading Anna, completed work, as yet unpublished.

All of my #1LineWed responses

#1LineWed – May 18, 2016

#1LineWed is a hashtag prompt from @RWAKissofDeath for writers to select a line from a work or work-in-progress on a particular theme and post it to Twitter.

Theme: a closing chapter hook.

When the discovery of Juan’s secret devastates Mari, her sister Ellie tells him where he can go.

From Software and Sensibility, draft completed, partially edited.

All of my #1LineWed responses

#1LineWed – May 11, 2016

#1LineWed is a hashtag prompt from @RWAKissofDeath for writers to select a line from a work or work-in-progress on a particular theme and post it to Twitter.

Theme: opening lines (from any chapter)

In the previous chapter, passionate kisses on Ellie’s front stoop following a promising first date were interrupted by Ellie’s mother paying an unexpected visit. Though Ed, her date, handled being given his walking papers with aplomb, Ellie is mortified and frustrated.

From Software and Sensibility, draft completed, partially edited.

All of my #1LineWed responses