Friday, August 28, 2009
The dreaded “R” word.
The dreaded “R” word. Rejected! It’s so hard not to take that word personally, isn’t it? Rejection can either be the end or it can be the beginning. We have a choice. Just throw the manuscript in the shredder or log into that computer and start the “rewrites.”
My novel has been rejected a few times now, but I’m not giving up. The common thread has been that the editors like the characters and the story, but it’s my writing. OUCH! Okay, so I was trained as a banker, not as a novelist. My learning curve is steep, so I have donned hiking boots and am approaching this challenge with one of my key strengths I had as a banker: Analyzing. Also, I have consulted with the experts.
First, I looked at some best selling fiction authors and their books and asked myself: What makes these books different from the others in the market? The style of writing? The sentence structure? The subject matter? The characters? I compared these findings with my own manuscript and started the re-writes. In addition, I started reading more books about improving my own writing. Two books that helped me the most include: Plot & Structure Techniques and exercises for crafting a plot that grips readers form start to finish by James Scott Bell (He is a wonderful person who has inspired many writers). The other book is Writing Fiction A Guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway and Elizabeth Stuckey-French. This book was recommended by a senior editor at one of the publishing houses that rejected my novel. This second book is really serious and just like the senior editor promised, it takes your writing to a higher level. However, the $75 list price makes it a real investment in your writing career, and the exercises do take time. But it’s worth it. I feel that my manuscript is now (hopefully) publish worthy.
So what did I learn from my own analysis of best selling fiction? I noticed that Karen Kingsbury typically doesn’t include “said” in her character dialogue. She instead has some kind of action tagged to the conversation that keeps the story moving forward. And of course her characters and stories are always compelling. After reading both of the “how to” books on writing fiction, I realized that the beginning of my book needed to start at a later point with a greater moment of conflict. That change has made a real difference in my novel.
I also consulted the experts, including a dear friend of mine, best selling author, Robin Jones Gunn. She gave me some great advice. “Put more of ‘your voice’ in the story. Dig deep from that well of your own experience and emotion and put that into the novel.” In reading some of my existing passages, I sounded more like a banker instead of a novelist – reporting the facts, not letting the characters express the raw emotion of their unique situations.
Bottom line, don’t give up! I’m saying this myself and to you. If there is a story that is bubbling inside your heart, write it! As my dad wrote in my first Writers’ Marketplace book many decades ago, “Write. Write. Write. Polish. Polish. Polish. Publish. Publish. Publish.”
1) An excerpt from Writing Fiction quoting Lorrrie Moore: “..the proper relationship of a writer to his or her own life is similar to a cook with a cupboard. What the cook makes from the cupboard is not the same thing as what’s in the cupboard.”
2) An excerpt from Plot & Structure “Deepening is to the novel as spice is to food. This chord of fiction is generally not a full scene. It is, instead, what you add to the mix to deepen the reader’s understanding of character or setting. Make it fresh, drop it in strategically, and the flavor will be exquisite.”