Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Ones That Get Away

by Saralee Rosenberg

Every good writer has a drawer full of possibilities- seeds of ideas, pages of notes, funny stories, great lines, interesting character names, crazy what if's.Call it our inventory.

But which ones do we actually end up using? Ultimately what we gravitate towards (or should) are the stories that 1) scare the ever livin' crap out of us and 2) we feel passionate about. Frankly, that's where the honesty is hiding.

Point being, regardless of the plot, or even the characters we develop, what we are always in search of is emotional truth. Why dream up a fantastic scenario if at the end of the day it hasn't pulled back the curtain on the wizard.

That's why I love to share my "book that got away" story. It was my first novel and it not only evolved over time into a story that mattered, it had a happy ending for me and my main character!

ALL IN THE CARDS was never published but it was optioned by Bette Midler. Her All Girls Productions was looking for a follow-up comedy after her huge hit, First Wives Club and her hope was to turn my manuscript into a feature film.

Exciting doesn't begin to describe it. But after two years in the Hollywood spin cycle, the deal never went further than meetings and my manuscript got tucked away in the basement next to boxes of baby clothes. I thought it was dead forever.

Fast forward to ten years and three novels later. I told my editor that I would love to revive the story. I was sure that the idea of two bickering next door neighbors in suburbia who had to come to terms with each other would resonate with readers. She was lukewarm, but you know what they say about timing. After Desperate Housewives went on the air she said, "Let me take a look."

That original story, rewritten and rewritten again, was finally published in 2008 as DEAR NEIGHBOR, DROP DEAD. It ended up being a much more honest, funny and heartfelt story than the original and also better structured.

Ah, but what about my other novel ideas that have been abandoned? I don't know whether it's a large number in comparison to other authors, but I'd say that I've got at least ten that I pursued with a vengeance until something stopped me.

Sometimes it was my editor or agent who gave the idea a thumbs down. Other times I just lost momentum because I realize I had lost interest in the characters and their plight. Or the moral dilemma seemed trite. Or mostly because I came up with a better idea that got me so stoked I could think of nothing else. Love the one you're with, indeed.

What does any of this mean to readers and writers alike? It's simply a peek inside the mindset of writers who would be nowhere without the three i's: imagination, instincts and intelligence.

I am eternally grateful if I wake up each morning and have access to all three.

Saralee Rosenberg


  1. Great post, Saralee! And I love hearing the story of ALL IN THE CARDS, or rather, DEAR NEIGHBOR, DROP DEAD!! It just goes to show you that you never know!

  2. I hear you, Saralee. I think we almost lose counts of the ideas and manuscripts that go away the longer that we're writers. And those trusted people who say no are so valuable!

  3. Thanks for sharing, Saralee. Your story about how DEAR NEIGHBOR, DROP DEAD came to be has inspired me on this morning as I'm dragging my feet on edits. Always great to hear from you!

  4. Saralee, the cover and title are *amazing* - and good for you for sticking with it! I think sometimes, with certain books, they just need to find their cultural moment.

  5. Saralee, I loved hearing your Bette Midler story. Even if it didn't make it to the movies, the story is a keeper! This truly was a, "you never know..." post!

  6. Such a cool story Saralee! you ladies are inspiring me to drag out the old carcasses from the bottom drawer:)

  7. Love the post, Saralee! I'm going to order your book right now!

  8. Thank you Girlfriends!!! When it's your own story you can't tell if its worth sharing. Glad you found it interesting.

  9. as a reader who loved Dear Neighbor, Drop Dead, and a girlfriend, you go, Saralee!

  10. This is a great post about timing. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Love the title, the cover, and your tenacity. Thanks for sharing this.

  12. "Ultimately what we gravitate towards (or should) are the stories that 1) scare the ever livin' crap out of us and 2) we feel passionate about. Frankly, that's where the honesty is hiding."

    Whoa! So smart and so true. And for the record, I'm SO glad you revisited ALL IN THE CARDS and wrote DEAR NEIGHBOR, DROP DEAD, because it's an incredible, funny, heartwarming and authentic book.

    Thanks for a great blog, Saralee! xo