Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Why Rejection is Good and Zola

In November, 2011, after three and a half years, including research and writing time, I finally ‘finished’ my historical novel, Ragtown. I wrote an amazing query letter and an equally awesome synopsis and began the process of querying agents. By the summer of 2012, after approximately forty rejections (and I’m sure I’m underestimating that), I realized something was definitely wrong.

It’s not that it was a ‘bad’ novel-not at all. It was well written, rich in historical detail, a great story of one man’s struggle to overcome his own past while working in the diversion tunnels of the Hoover dam, a treacherous environment, during one of the worst economic disasters in American history. It’s timely. It has a wide audience appeal. It’s American-like baseball and apple pie. But no-one was interested.

So maybe it wasn’t that great?

Rejections are hard to take. Especially when they seem to be coming at a rate of two a week. However, I’ve never been one to assume that when it comes to writing, I am always right and all those that don’t like my work ‘just don’t understand the story (or the concept, or the structure, or the blah, blah,blah)’. No, not at all. The people that were rejecting me have been in this business a lot longer than me, so obviously, they were seeing something that I wasn’t.

Yes, I kind of ate a rock for Ragtown research
So last summer, I pulled out all of those rejections and looked for common concerns. As new rejections came to my email, I started asking questions, specifics-what wasn’t working?  The majority of the concerns seemed to be in the first fifty pages. That’s where I started.

In October, I began a complete revision that included cutting almost 20K words, most from the first one hundred pages. I changed POV’s, I even gave one character a badly needed libido. I sent it through three editors and an additional twelve readers.

Last month, I again finished Ragtown.

And yesterday, I was notified that Ragtown is a finalist for the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Zola Award for Historical Fiction.

Rejection is hard. It’s too easy to say to yourself, “they are right, I am not very good at this” and give up. It’s too easy to be hard headed about what professionals say about your work and claim that they “just don’t get it.” But my goal is to have Ragtown published, and in order to do that, I had to put my ego aside and listen. Rejections may be hard to swallow, but they are also a good way for a writer to see what others find difficult about your work. And by taking heed, you might make that wonderful novel sellable.

Ragtown, a historical novel
Finalist for the Zola Award
Represented by Svetlana Pironko


Jerri Clayton said...

Wonderful, news, Kelly!

Suzanne Shumaker said...

You are such a tenacious woman, Kelly. your succes is hard won and well earned. I look forward to hearing what you concur next!

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

Thanks, Jerri! I am excited!

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

Thanks, Suzi. I'm working on the next in the Deacon series, and it's getting crazier than the first.

Suzanne Shumaker said...

haha - I said "concur" :) Darn autotext - I meant conquer! Write on, my friend!

Carrie Kernel said...

Very Humbly taken Kelly ~ I love you because you can take it all and wear your big girl panties all the time. Bless You Baby & Your Writing Skills ~ Every Word to me is well worth Written !

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

I earned these big girl panties---might as well use them. :)

Loree Huebner said...

Congratulations! I've been so interested in this novel since you started blogging about it. I wish the best for you, and hope that the book gets published soon.

Rejection stings, but when we see clearly again, we pick ourselves up, read the advice, and go back to work on it.
Great job!

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

Loree, I appreciate all of you that continue to follow the progress on this novel's journey. I know it will end well, and thank you, thank you, thank you.

Cathrina Constantine said...

Quite an accomplishment, congrats. And I totally understand. I had so many rejections it made my head spin. After countless revisions, I was finally throwing in the towel when I received an email from an editor that liked the ms, but rejected it, and give me advice. After more revisions, I received 3 offers from small presses. Totally flabbergasted! So it's good to persevere, revise, edit, and get it right. Good Luck and great success to you!

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

Thank you, Cathrina. I think it's important for us to revise, revise, revise. It's tough, but hopefully it pays off in the long run. Good luck with the book!