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