If you follow me on a somewhat regular basis, you already know I’ve written an urban fantasy called Gallowglass. There’s a post about it here, and an excerpt here. Gallowglass represents my first NaNoWriMo win, and it’s my most loved project. I mean, I’m a crazy person who gets half an idea and writes s first draft in two weeks, but I researched Gallowglass for years. I taught myself Scottish history, how to speak Gaelic, and gained a working knowledge of geology before I wrote my first word. (For those of you new to the Gallowglass party, it takes place in Scotland, the heroine is a geologist, and the hero is, shall we say, well versed in Scottish myth and legend.) I went into this novel prepared, and–according to numerous critique partners and beta readers–I crafted a compelling and imminently readable story.
Which is why I was shocked when my queries were met with crickets. No, not only crickets; there were rejections too.
To recap, I had the best story I ever wrote, the tale closest to my heart, and I couldn’t get a nibble. Be they agent or publisher, no one was buying what I was selling. As painful as the realization was, I understood what was wrong: my story was broken.
But how was it broken? It had passed muster of all my critique partners and betas. But, critique partners and beta readers are just that – partners and readers, not people willing to invest months or years in your story as you coax it toward publication. Their help was invaluable, and I never would have completed Gallowglass without them. Fuzzy feelings aside, I needed to fix this beast, and since desperate times call for desperate measures, I wrote a Facebook post asking for a few super-honest, give-no-fucks readers to help me out. Five responded; only two actually critiqued the story. I’ll call them Reader A and Reader B. Protecting the innocent, and all.
Here’s what happened: Reader A, a coworker of mine, devoured the manuscript in a day. Her thoughts were that the beginning was aimless, she had no idea what the characters were doing, and that the heroine didn’t grow a spine for at least fifty pages. Reader B, a fellow writer, said much the same, and added that certain repetitive phrasing – again, in the beginning of the manuscript – might be alienating readers. After I’d memorized their comments I re-read the manuscript, and finally figured out what was wrong.
Before I make the big reveal, let me explain a much talked about concept: voice. You can Google the term, or read about it here, but voice is basically this: it’s how you sound when you write. It’s what makes Stephen King sound like Stephen King, and Madeline L’Engle like Madeline L’Engle. Whenever an agent or publisher or reader likes one of your stories – likes it enough to pay money for it – it’s because they liked your voice.
In Gallowglass, you don’t hear my voice until you’re almost a third in. Basically, I’d researched myself right out of my own story.
So what am I going to do? I’m going to tear down that first third and rewrite it. And then the second third. And, just for good measure, the third third. Gallowglass will sound like me, dammit, and once it does I’ll be able to share it with ya’ll.
Moral of the story: don’t take the stories so seriously 🙂
A mad king. An escaped slave. One warrior to save the realm…
Heir to the Sun, book one of the Chronicles of Parthalan. Find it here.
Sara had always been careful.
She never spoke of magic, never associated with those suspected of handling magic, never thought of magic, and never, ever, let anyone see her mark. After all, the last thing she wanted was to end up missing, like her father and brother.
Then, a silver elf pushed his way into Sara’s dream, and her life became anything but ordinary.
COPPER GIRL – Book One of the Copper Legacy