Sometimes bad news is good news

When you’re trying to write something that’s proving very awkward, blogging can be a great respite.

Today I’ve been attempting to rewrite the synopsis of my first novel, which has been something of a millstone round my neck for the past couple of months. (For anyone not in the know, a synopsis is brief outline of a story.)

Depending on who you speak to, when submitting a novel for publication the synopsis should be anything between 1 and 10 pages long, but the ideal size as far as I can gather is about 2 pages.

The difficulty is that my book is 363 pages long, so in writing the synopsis I have to identify the salient points and condense them into less than 1% of the whole book. It might sound easy to write less rather than more, but unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be.

It took me 6 months to write the book, and I have a horrible feeling that it could take me the same length of time to write a synopsis I’m happy with.

Writing the actual book was a picnic compared with writing the synopsis.


A lovely picnic courtesy of The Donkey Sanctuary (

Despite not being entirely happy with it, last month I sent out my synopsis to a couple of agents.

On the plus side, I received my first rejection yesterday.

Strange, you might think, to refer to this as a positive result, and prior to receiving it I’d have said the same. I was fully expecting my first rejection to make me feel miserable and dejected. I admit that it did come as a bit of a disappointment, but it also made me feel curiously buoyed up and encouraged.

It made me think about all the other authors who’ve had rejections (and from what I’ve read on the subject, that would appear to be pretty much every author who’s ever submitted a manuscript). I’ve had my novel rejected, ergo I must be a proper author.

Comparing it to receiving an OBE might be stretching things a bit, but I definitely feel as if I’ve joined the ranks of a noble and esteemed group of human beings.


The library of my dreams: Sir Walter Scott’s study at Abbotsford. If you haven’t visited Abbotsford I can highly recommend it. It’s undergoing renovations at the moment but is due to reopen this summer.

Admittedly, I’m no closer to publication as a result of this rejection, but most of the books I’ve read were written by people who were, at some point, in the same boat.

On a completely different note, another strangely positive thing happened here today.

Several weeks ago my mum fell and tore some ligaments in her groin. Since then she’s been hobbling about in great pain, impatiently waiting for the injury to mend itself.

Last week, her doctor sent her for an x-ray and today she got the results. The x-ray clearly showed that it wasn’t just ligaments to blame for the discomfort she’d been feeling, she had in fact broken her pelvis.

She was inordinately pleased about this; her first broken bone, aged 77!

In response to her jubilant reaction, we celebrated fittingly with tea and cake.

Tea and cake to celebrate delightful assistant no.1’s first broken bone

I think I put too much lemon curd in the middle because it was determined to escape wherever possible.


50 thoughts on “Sometimes bad news is good news

  1. A good friend once sent me a Rumi quote “what you seek is seeking you”…eventually a publisher will come round to loving your book!
    The cake looks divine…oozing lemon curd and all :D!!!

  2. I have two favourite cakes – coffee (with or without walnuts) and lemon drizzle cake, so I would I suspect love this lemon curd ozzy cake! I hope your mum, now diagnosed with make speedy improvments

    • Mmmm, coffee walnut cake – yum! This was a plain sponge and I wondered about putting grated lemon rind into the sponge mix but decided against it. As it turned out, the very lemony lemon curd made it taste almost like a lemon drizzle cake. Thank you for your kind wishes for my mum, she’s enjoying all the sympathy!

  3. Firstly, I am alarmed to hear of your Mum’s broken pelvis – no wonder she was in pain. I’m assuming that they can’t do much other than wait for it to mend? She has my sympathy, though. I can only begin to imagine how painful. And she has my respect as well, for using it as a reason to celebrate! Please do not let it encourage your Dad to do something reckless in order to be rewarded with tea and cake!
    I can imagine how difficult it must be to write a synopsis of your novel because you are aware of how important it is. I wish I could help! The only thing I can say is, don’t try to second-guess yourself – your first attempts at writing stuff like that (in my experience) are usually the best and the freshest. Well done (sincerely meant!) on your first rejection letter. Do not be discouraged – it sounds like you have exactly the right attitude, anyway!

    • You’re very kind, Jo, thank you. There apparently isn’t anything to be done for the pelvis but wait for it to heal. I forgot to mention that the x-ray also showed new bone growing, so she definitely is on the mend. The thought had crossed my mind that my dad might want a bit of the action, but he assures me he’s not going to go looking for pain in exchange for cake. I might make a cake especially for him, to remove any temptation. He did injure himself a bit doing some woodwork last week so that’s enough of a reason for cake.

      I’m amazed that I still don’t feel bad about the rejection, but then I’ve had such wonderful support and encouragement that I have no need to feel badly about it. This blogging business does wonders for the self-confidence. πŸ™‚

  4. Sorrry to hear all your bad news but onward and upward – great attitude. About to start the long trek north and hoping to reward myself with afternoon tea on board the Brittannia at Leith and at the Balmoral Hotel if the purse is big enough . Will let you know my thoughts for your archive of places to visit.

    • Thank you Morag, and how exciting about afternoon tea on Britannia. I’ve only visited it once, before they had a tearoom, so I must go back and try that out. with any luck it will live up to – or exceed – your expectations. I’d love to hear how you get on. Have a good journey up here, and I hope the forecasters are wrong about the weather at the weekend…. (we had hail yesterday).

  5. Tea and cake looks wonderful. And no you can’t have too much lemon curd in the middle. Lemon curd – food of the gods.
    Don’t be discouraged about the rejection letter. You’re a wonderful writer and I have some small idea of how difficult it is to get published. Keep persevering!

    • I would have to agree with you about lemon curd, it is difficult to imagine too much. I was scraping it off the sides of the box I’d put the cake in yesterday, even after eating a slice of cake smothered in the stuff.

      Thank you for your kind comments about my writing, I will persevere. Now that I’ve got this far with it I feel very determinded not to give up, which you will understand completely from your marathon training experience.

  6. My mom broke her pelvis a while back, and she mended quickly from that. You both have such great attitudes that I am sure your mom will be fine. Here is hoping the right publisher finds you and your book.

    • I’m sorry to hear about your mom but that’s great about her quick recovery. There is definite improvement with my mum’s condition, she’s still in pain a lot of the time but moving about much better than she was. It’ll just take time, I think. Thank you for your kind words, I believe that there is someone out there who will want to publish my book, I just have to be patient and keep the faith.

  7. Lorna you have absolutely the right attitude about placing your novel. So many writers – Life of Pi – have had seemingly endless rejections, so don’t give up! I, too, was alarmed about your mother’s news. And to think not long ago she was having fun poking a stick under a miniature bridge. Only your family could celebrate such news with tea and cake! I hope she will be very much better soon. Give her our best!

    • Thanks Christine, I didn’t know that about Life of Pi although I’m not at all surprised as it’s such an unusual book. It’s years since I read it but I did enjoy it, I should read it again some time. I think the stick poking took her mind off the pain for a short time, and she did enjoy the day out, although getting in and out of the car can be very difficult (and now we know why!). Thank you for your kind wishes, my mum reads all these comments and very much appreciates the sympathy.

  8. O.K… couple of things… first…I think rejections are important and a good thing too (I sent my synopsis to just two publishers 6 months ago and hadn’t heard a thing…then got a rejection this week (the nicest letter too) and felt good that someone had looked at it….so you go girl…all great artists and authors get many rejections…it just takes ONE yes… Second…really…can you EVER have too much lemon curd? I don’t think so πŸ™‚ … Third…thank goodness your mom’s break got correctly diagnosed…now she CAN heal! Will be sending good wishes her way. and you donkey picnic photo is awesome.

    • Six months? That’s a long time to wait, you’re very patient. I’m sorry that you had a rejection after all that time, but glad to hear that it was a nice letter, and I know what you mean, it is nice to think that someone has taken the time to look at what you’ve done. You’re absolutely right that all it takes is one person to like it enough, and the chances of finding that person straight away are very slim.

      As for lemon curd, I know, can it really be too much? I nodded in agreement when I read your comment ‘I don’t think so’. πŸ™‚ Thank you for your good wishes for my mum, and yes, that donkey picnic photo is indeed awesome; I was delighted when I found it online.

  9. There will be a publisher who will like your work eventually, so don’t give up hope! On the synopsis – I imagine that a hard thing to do. I guess you are essentially trying to explain to a total stranger what the novel is about, and you do it in the briefest of fashions while at the same time trying to cover the essence and wetting their appetites. No mean feat and no doubt an exercise in its own right as you have observed already.
    Glad to hear your mum is keeping spirits up, too, broken bones are no fun at any age! Here is wishing her a speedy recovery.

    • Thanks Sonja, I was expecting the synopsis to be a challenge but I wasn’t prepared for quite how much of one it would be. Still, challenges make us stretch ourselves, which is a good thing, if we can stay sane while dealing with them. Thank you for your kind wishes for my mum’s recovery, I’m sure having a broken bone is horrible although I’ve thankfully never had cause to find out, but she’s keeping her spirits up and is determined to get back to normal as soon as she can without overdoing it.

  10. Very cool post! I like the things you celebrate :)’and that you celebrate them. You’ve made me smile, which, since I am very tired, is an excellent start to the day!

  11. So sorry to hear of your mum’s broken pelvis. Does she now have to rest up in bed? Not sure about the treatment for broken pelvises.
    Sorry to hear your novel was rejected, I didn’t realise you had finished it. That is impressive, 363 pages is quite some novel. I have trouble writing a paragraph.:-) Hopefully it wont be long before a publisher realises its true worth and puts it into publication.

    • Thank you Heather, the doctor said she should get a mixture of rest and gentle exercise. If she sits for too long she stiffens up, which isn’t good, but if she moves around too much the pain gets very bad, so she’s trying to find a happy medium. All she can do is wait for the pelvis to rebuild itself, which it is doing slowly and there are definite signs of improvement in her mobility.

      I think it was the end of February when I finished the book, and then I spent two months editing it and trying to write the synopsis. The 363 pages are A4 double spaced, which I think is similar to the size of an average paperback. I do hope someone who reads it likes it enough to take it on, but I appreciate that it’s a gamble with any new writer and I completely understand that they have to really love it to take that risk. I’m sure if I were in their position I’d turn down lots of perfectly good books, just because they didn’t particularly appeal to me.

  12. Congrats on completing your book! You have a great attitude and I’m sure it’s fantastic. I hope your mum feels better soon too – the very best wishes to her πŸ™‚

  13. Congratulations on your book and your first rejection…each rejection is one step closer to a yes! Sorry to hear about your mom’s pelvis, hope she heals quickly! Also, that cake looks amazing! Do you have a recipe?

    • Thank you Kat, you’re absolutely right, rejection is a part of the journey. Thanks also for your good wishes for my mum. The cake is a basic Victoria sponge recipe with lemon curd in the middle and icing sugar on top. I used this recipe: with slightly less fat and sugar, and soft brown sugar instead of caster sugar. I could have used quite a bit less sugar because I put so much lemon curd on it, which boosted up the sweetness.

      • Ooh, sounds good! Thanks for the recipe πŸ™‚ I’ll have to try it! Also I tracked down some of that genmaicha popcorn green tea you mentioned before at a local Asian market. It was really good!I love the toasty smell and flavor that the brown rice adds πŸ™‚

        • Yippee! I’m delighted to hear that you found the tea and enjoyed it, that’s great! You’ve put me in the mood for some now, I’ll be raising a toast to you as I drink it. πŸ™‚

  14. Sorry to hear about your mum and also your book rejection. However, I like your indomitable spirit of coming back with better drafts of the synopsis, you will shine my friend, a day will come when things are going to be perfect. Wishing you all the best and hugs to your mum and you! Cheers πŸ™‚

  15. Beautiful cake and beautiful sentiments. I’ve no doubt that it’s difficult to take that first step (and allow others to critique your work,) it’s often the hardest bit. I’m thrilled to hear you picked yourself back up again.Life is often about the little and big moments, (the moment) you received the rejection letter is but a blip, the bigger and more grand moments (yet to come,) will outshine this by far one day!

    • Thanks Alice, I quite agree, we need to keep a sense of perspective with these things. That can be difficult to do but it’s worth the effort, and there’s always something good waiting round the corner eventually!

  16. You and your assistants – I just love you all! Speedy recovery to your tough-as-nails (in a good way) mom. I’m afraid I would have been quite the whiner in her place! And a speedy snag of your manuscript. I’d say one rejection is quite enough, let’s get on with the publishing!

    • Aw thanks Annie. πŸ™‚ Likewise, I would have been making a terrible fuss if it had been my broken bone. I like your thinking on the manuscript front, here’s hoping!

  17. Hi Lorna,
    Welcome to the club. Rejection letters, writing the synopsis, the whole yoyo ride of expectation, dejection, crushing self doubt and niggling hope – oh my, have I been there! When I look back it’s been a long winding road with bumps and precarious drops on either side. How I stuck to the path, I have no idea. Like you, I had the most godawful time writing the (damn) synopsis. It was still pathetic but my manuscript sold despite it. Don’t fret too much. What agents are really looking for, is an overall feel for your story, more in terms of subject matter and the narrative arc. All they are thinking is “Does this have a market and which editor can I sell this to?” You may be too close to your writing to do your own synopsis. I had to enlist the help of my writer friends. Please let me know if I can help in anyway.
    On another note, “Teatime for the Firefly” is now available on Amazon (UK, USA and Japan) as well as Barnes and Noble. I am going for a big book launch to BEA 2013, NYC end of the month. Much happening on that front and I feel like I am in one of them big cup and saucer bumper rides. It’s dizzy, unreal and a little terrifying.
    Sending my love and good thoughts to Delightful Assistant No. 2 and wishing her a speedy recovery. I was very sad to hear about her fall. Oh, and I love that oozy cake, Lorna. You slay me with your pictures of food.
    X Shona

    • Thank you Shona, and before I say anything else, many hearty congratulations on the publication of Teatime for the Firefly! You must be thrilled that it’s out now after all your hard work, and I hope the book launch is a huge success. I can imagine the thought of that must be both exciting and scary, like a fairground ride, as you say. What a result though, to have reached this stage.

      It’s very reassuring to get your views on the subject of writing, and writing a synopsis in particular. I suspect you stuck to the path because you believed in your story and your ability to tell it. I couldn’t have got this far without the help and support of friends and family, and I’m interested in hearing that you enlisted help for the synopsis writing. I’ve done that too, but only up to a point because I didn’t want to feel it wasn’t my own work. Sometimes the more you look at a thing the less clearly you see it, and having someone else cast their eye over it can be invaluable.

      Thanks also for your kind thoughts re: my delightful assistant. She’s doing well, all things considered, and even had a little walk yesterday in the sunshine. Looking at that lemon curd again just now makes me crave some more.

  18. First of all, congratulations on finishing your book. That is an amazing achievement in itself. Also your outlook on this is amazing, we all know eventually something will happen and when that time comes it will be amazing! Keep fighting forward!

  19. I certainly admire the McInnes spirit! Rejected manuscript? So what. Broken pelvis? Pish tosh! It only confirms my belief that positive thoughts manifest a positive life…and that a hot cuppa and a gooey piece of cake can cure anything. –Lucinda xo

    • Thank you Lucinda, it does pay to try and look on the positive side when possible, although admittedly it isn’t always the first thing that springs to mind. I couldn’t agree more regarding the hot beverage and piece of cake. You really can’t go wrong with that, can you? πŸ™‚

  20. …by the way…it’s so true that you’re in very good company when in comes to rejected manuscripts. I’m certain the right publisher will come around at the right time. I also wish your mum a speedy recovery. I hear that pelvis injuries are extremely painful. I’m sure you’re giving her all the TLC (and tea and cakes) that she needs, and then some.

    • Thanks Lucinda, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a publisher, although there was a great story in the news here recently about a farmer who’d failed to get published and self published an e-book because he was so fed up of rejections. He gave away the book and ‘sold’ hundreds of thousands of copies, which brought five different publishers clamouring to sign him and he had his pick of the bunch. My mum is slowly improving and I’m making sure that she keeps up her intake of tea and cakes like a good girl.

  21. Congratulations on your first rejection! I was once told, “every rejection is one step closer to an acceptance” I think I had about 25 rejections until I found my puublisher. I too found writing to synopsis more difficult than writing the book. Hope your mum heals quickly and it is good to know what the problem actually is.

    • Thanks Darlene, I know you’ll understand very well what this feels like and I like the positivity of that little comment about getting closer to acceptance. Weird, isn’t it, how hard it is to write a synopsis? I have read about people writing the synopsis first, before they even start writing the book, but I haven’t tried that myself (partly because when I start writing I really have no idea where the story will go, I’m not well enough organised). My mum is definitely on the mend, thank you.

  22. What a fantastic post Lorna, you and your Mum must be the most upbeat stoics in the world. Respect! I hope the publishing industry comes to its senses sooner rather than later and your mum heals quickly too!

    BTW Your lemon curd cake looks absolutely delicious and the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea.

    • Thank you Finn, most kind. I must say, I was very impressed by my mum’s response and she is certainly a stoic. I’m remembering that there’s still some lemon curd in the fridge and looking at the cake again reminds me of how lemony it was. I think I might be making another cake today.

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