Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Once upon a rejection

There is an unpublished novel I wrote called "Lost Soul." It was a sort of "revised story" to the November's Child novel. (Yes, you COULD say it is the movie equivalent of a remake. LOL) I spent several years writing, researching and revising this book, until I thought it was ready for submission. I found a publisher who I thought was "perfect" for this book, but they ended up rejecting it. Their reason was that I used names in place of pronouns too often. I was confused over why this was such an issue with them. I mean, look at Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code! There's tons of "Langford's" and "Neveu's" in place of "he" or "she." Still, I went over the manuscript and realized that in SOME cases, they were right.

Some, not all. I tried changing the writing to where I had more pronouns in place of character names. But as I read that over, I felt disgusted with that kind of writing and thought, 'This is stupid.' There was just too many "her mother's" and "her brother's" in there. UGH! So I started thinking maybe, just MAYBE, the publisher had some OTHER reason for rejecting my manuscript. Because, surely, if THAT was the problem, they could've worked with me in FIXING it. Right?? I mean, heck, I've been working with an editor for OVER A YEAR at another publishing house in fixing up my manuscript. (It HAS improved, but there's one more detail which she's asked me to fix.)

Despite all that, I have moved on from that rejection. Sure, it had me confused, but I'm not going to waste too much time puzzling over it. I had a bigger task on my plate, one which kept picking at me and just wouldn't let up.

Something was wrong with the story. Not something that had to do with the writing. Something that had to do with the story itself.

The story was flawed.

Why did I think it was flawed? Why, after spending so many months revising it and researching it, did I have this nagging feeling the story was flawed? Why did I keep feeling that something wasn't right with the story??

That's a good question, one I pondered over again and again. I couldn't put my finger on it, but I KNEW the story was wrong. Even as I worked on other projects, other stories and other books, I still kept coming back to it to see why it wasn't the story that it should be. (I guess you could say that I'm grateful the manuscript was rejected. I am, indeed.)

Finally, after several weeks of thinking it over, it hit me. (In the shower, no less!) The stroy was flawed because it was not new. It was essentially the SAME THING I wrote in November's Child. It wasn't enough to change my character's names. I had to go BEYOND that. I had to change the location, the setup, the other characters and the ages, etc. EVERYTHING had to change. I could STILL keep my key players in the story -- Jonathan, Jovin and Tessie -- because they ARE essential to this whole story in the first place. They are based on real-life counterparts. Just as November's Child sprang from a real-life event. And I realized, too, that certain factors in each of these books must remain in each story. There are 3 books I will write with these characters, but each and every one of those books MUST retain certain factors which reflect real-life significance.

Because, after all, I DID write November's Child as a result of this real-life event. And Jonathan IS the name of a real-life figure in that event. Jovin and Tessie are not the real names of their real-life counterparts, but they ARE important to the story. (And, what's funny is, when I created Tessie, I didn't HAVE a real-life counterpart for her, but I did later in life. It's funny how life is like that. Life imitating art.)

So now I know what to do with this story. And the next one, as well. The next book is already forming in my mind. But I need to fix THIS book first. "Lost Soul." (I don't have a title for the next book. Boo-hoo.) Hopefully I will find a publisher for this book. Or an agent. Whichever comes first. (Yes, I KNOW I need an agent. Yes, I'm going to try to get one ASAP. Just for my novels, though. Not nonfiction or children's books.)

And I think about something else, too. It's not just these books which were inspired by my whole dream experiences with Jonathan. Other things were influenced by it, too. A children's book I recently submitted, titled "The Yellow Rose," has significance relating to my dreams with Jonathan. (The rose represents eternal love.) And many of my poems, even those in my collection of love poems, were influenced by them, too.

Art imitating life.

The bottom line is, sometimes rejections can turn out to be a good thing to happen to writers. And sometimes, it's better not to rush these things when you KNOW that something is wrong but can't figure out what it is. Think on it some more. Let some time pass. The solution to a dillemma will appear right when you least expect it.

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