by Gail Gaymer Martin
By the time novelists sell to a traditional publisher, they’ve donated a large amount of time honing their craft. Rejection points out a weak writing technique: pacing, dialogue, point of view or other flaws. Learning to write a good book is a craft. Many people say someday they’re going to write a book. They sit down, put words on a page and think they’ve written a novel. Anyone who understands writing will soon see the flaws and toss the book. We don’t want this to happen to us.
So what can you do?
First continue to hone your craft. Read writers’ magazines and professional periodicals. Devour articles on fiction writing and your preferred genre. Next, edit your present work using a new skill you’ve gained. Try new ways to approach writing. Pull sentences from your fiction and experiment with ways to make the dialogue or narration better.
Pull out an old rejected novel and scrutinize it. I have done this with numerous unsold books. Some were rejected because the story moved too slow on the romance elements. Some incorporated a genre besides romance, such as suspense or mystery elements, women’s fiction, or a single title style with a longer word count. But I still loved them and the stories never left me.
From Old To New:
With my agent’s encouragement, I pulled out some of these old stories. My writer’s voice was clear and better than I could imagine, but I cringed at the poor writing techniques. So I rewrote the novels employing the skills I’d learned after being blessed with 55 published novels. They are techniques you can use on old novels or newer ones as you’ve honed your craft.
• Cut dialogue and scenes that do not move the story forward in a dynamic way.
• Look for redundancy such as: repeating the same word (use a Thesaurus), telling and then showing, repeating major points fearing the reader won’t “get it.”
• Use dialogue tags only using the two words: said and asked. Anything else is weak writing. Let your words show the emotion.
• Cut dialogue tags when you can make the speaker clear through action or introspection.
• Read each scene and enhance emotion. Do not state the emotion but show it both internal for the POV speaker and external as viewed by the POV speaker who can only speculate the action’s meaning.
These are only a few ways you can improve a novel, but they will make a difference in an amazing way.
Gail Gaymer Martin is a multi-award-winning novelist, including the Carol, with fifty-five published novels and nearly four million books in print. She is the author of Writers Digest’s Writing the Christian Romance. Gail is a co-founder of American Christian Fiction Writers. Named one of the best novelists in the Detroit area, she is a keynoter and teaches writing.
A note from Gail:
One of my old manuscripts, a romantic mystery, had characters that I loved and a story line that I thought worthy of publication. With my agents help, I made the move to become a Hybrid novelist (both traditional and independent), and I self-published Treasures of the Heart. It is in trade book format and ebook. Learn more about Treasures of the Heart here.