Wednesday, 29 August 2012

From rejections come strengths

Hello, Lorraine. I’m very pleased to visit you, today.

My topic is what was necessary, and what wasn’t, during the writing of my historical novel, The Beltane Choice, which releases in two days from Crooked Cat Publishing. I’m absolutely delighted it’s going to be published but must confess I wasn’t like Charles Dickens who dashed out his weekly editions whilst doing lots of other writing, and was said to walk some fifteen to eighteen miles a day. I can’t number exactly how many drafts/revisions have been made of The Beltane Choice to get it to the stage of being accepted for publication.

A rough plot outline was written a decade ago, and then abandoned, since I had to focus my vacation time on non-fiction projects for the school I was teaching in. In August 2008, I cut back to part-time teaching, extracted the outline from archived files, and made it into a novel around 95 thousand words. I sent off the manuscript to one of the ‘big’ publishers who accepted unagented work, having proof read and edited myself. The typical story applies. A letter of rejection eventually arrived, after almost a year, which gave no help at all.

(Though, that year wasn’t totally wasted. Whilst dutifully waiting I wrote manuscripts for two contemporary novels in the interim.)

My historical novel is set in a time period I loved teaching about-the Roman Invasion of Celtic Britain-and I really wanted it published. I self-edited again, and made changes. By then I’d learned that many e book publishers accepted unsolicited material. I chose one and sent off the manuscript. The rejection slip from them arrived very swiftly; within six weeks of sending. I was impressed by their prompt response, even if *saddened* by a second rejection, but the most important thing was I received suggestions for improvement.

Manna from heaven! Some authors might have been offended, or daunted. Not me. The premise was good, but the sexual content needed to be developed. My grammatical structure was too complex; I used vocabulary too difficult for the average reader; I used too many commas to separate clauses and should remove most of them. UK English spelling was an issue. English idioms wouldn’t be understood by most readers.

Slash and burn became my motto! I’d not set out to write a sensual romance, but I was prepared to make changes. Another draft was written-the sexual tension built up, and most of the other suggestions addressed. The novel changed in plot terms during that draft.

Cut out unnecessary historical detail? That was a tough call, since for me that prose gave substance to the environment in which my characters lived. The task then became –how to rewrite without losing information. I deliberated quite a bit and took time revising. During that rewrite I gained contracts for the two contemporary romances I’d written in the interim, which was a huge boost to my morale. When I believed the manuscript for The Beltane Choice was ready, I sent it to Crooked Cat Publishing.

What stayed in and what came out? During editing processes with Crooked Cat, points of grammatical structure have been reinstated and commas have been reinserted-which has totally delighted me. Though, I’ll be looking more carefully in the future for those sneaky wrong… or missing commas. Yet, I’ve learned more than one lesson. I’ll be wielding my checklist of areas to pay special attention to as I pore over a new piece of writing. My target audience will be carefully considered, and a salutary lesson has been-accept the consequences if I choose to rework my manuscript for a different publisher.

Everything in life has a purpose! From rejections come strengths. I’ve got to believe that…and I wonder if you do, too?

Thank you for inviting me today, Lorraine.

A former Primary teacher, Nancy Jardine lives in the picturesque castle country of Aberdeenshire, Scotland, with her husband who feeds her well or she’d starve! Ancestry research is one of her hobbies, as is participating in exciting events with her family which drag her away from the keyboard. In her large garden she now grows spectacular weeds, which she’s becoming very fond of! She cherishes the couple of days a week when she child-minds her gorgeous granddaughter.

The Beltane Choice  Book Trailer for the Beltane Chocie:
Other books by Nancy Jardine:
MONOGAMY TWIST  Book Trailer for Monogamy Twist:
TAKE ME NOW  Book Trailer for Take Me Now:
THE BELTANE CHOICE (Crooked {Cat}Publishing release date: 31st Aug 2012) Book Trailer:

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DW96 said...

An interesting and familiar tale, Nancy, but do you know what annoyed me the most about your experiences? English UK spelling is a problem.

It really does rattle my cage when I get this from US and other publishers. If we're expected to comprehend American English in your average Dan Brown or Stephen King why don't they work on understanding Brit English?

Nancy Jardine said...

Morning David, and yes, I have to agree that its a nuisance that a reciprocal acceptance doesn't seem to be in force. I also know that my experiences are very similar to many other authors.

Cathie Dunn said...

A great post, Nancy. I'm glad to see you didn't give up. It's such an unusual but fascinating setting.

As a historical fiction writer, I'm always a little wary about reducing historical background in a story - it's what makes the characters and their setting come alive. However, some authors overdo it, and sometimes novels end up sounding like history books. The fine balance of historical detail and plot is what makes an engaging, exciting historical novel or romance. Sounds like you got it spot on.

Good luck with your release!

Jane Lovering said...

Nancy, I sincerely hope you didn't take out any of your 'vocabulary too difficult for the ordinary reader'? Reading isn't just a passive absorption of fact, it should stretch and inform the reader - if they don't understand a word and can't infer from context, they can always look it up! And then they'v learned something new...

Hate this 'dumbing down' approach, next thing we'll all be writing single-syllable words 'for the average reader'.

Nancy Jardine said...

Hello to Cathie and Jane. Thank you for the good wishes, Cathie. Jane- I, also, think the reader needs stretched in terms of vacabulary. I've not removed too much, as far as I can remember!

Paula Martin said...

Good post, Nancy. I also feel that British spelling should be retained if it's a story about British people! As DW96 says, we Brits are expected to accept American spelling, so why doesn't it work the other way round? I heard of one British author who was given a 1 star review by an American because of 'incorrect' (i.e. British) spelling in his book!

Paula Martin said...

I left a comment here earlier, but it doesn't seem to have appeared. Sorry, Nancy - but all the very best for your new release!