foggyNightTreeThe relentless onslaught of rejections for my latest novel, The Big Picture, oppress me like the leaden January sky. As with these days that never achieve full daylight, they are bleak, cold and brief.

Then a positive response miraculously penetrates the layers of grey and I bask in it like warm spring sun on winter weary shoulders.

Positive? Ambivalent would be more precise, but at least not totally negative.

Okay, they did say “we do not feel the manuscript is ready for consideration…” but they also said I was a “good writer” and it was “potentially a good story” and closed by encouraging me to “Please come back to us when you rewritten and worked with an editor.”

And what was it that they thought needed rewriting and the help of an editor? Just the first 50 pages, because “the first 49 pages are background and backstory–no tension just set-up”.

Am I embarrassed they’ve called me on something I continually warn the participants in the creative writing circles I facilitate about – starting with backstory instead of in media res – the middle of the action?

Yes, but just a second. You need to know the passengers at least a bit before the crash. Well, maybe not fifty pages worth before the crash.

Since there are no takers for the novel in it’s present form what have I got to lose? I mean how difficult can it be to rewrite fifty pages and maybe tweak a few more?

Six weeks later I’m finished. Changing those fifty pages has necessitated changes in the first one hundred and fifty. If you’ve done this you know changing something on page four means what happens on page thirty-two now doesn’t make sense and your character would have to be a time traveller or psychic to refer to it  like he does on page one hundred and twelve.

The opening is rewritten with the inciting incident now taking place on page twenty-six instead of page sixty-one. I’ve used the pages leading up to it to introduce the main character and give the reader some context in an atmosphere of rising tension. At least that’s what I’ve tried to achieve.

However, rather than being the exercise in nitpicking and tweaking I imagined, I not only improved the opening, but now feel there’s a better balance between action and exposition throughout the work.

Furthermore, introducing the inciting incident very early gave me new insight into my main character and provided her with a stronger motivation, which carried through the rest of the story.

My rewrite is likely now sitting in the agent’s slush pile. Hopefully, sometime in the not too distant future, he’ll pick it up, recall his comments and see I have, dutifully and humbly, taken his advice.

Maybe he’ll decide to represent my novel, maybe he won’t. Regardless, his comments have improved my work.

I’m grateful.

Visit my publisher’s website for excerpts from, and buy links to, my three novels, Spirit Bear, Eagleridge Bluffs, and Not Wonder More – Mad Maggie and the Mystery of the Ancients.

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