Historical Post by Gail Gaymer Martin
Cut, Snip, Tighten
I have been blessed to have been given an amazing career as a writer of Christian fiction, and in my days of creating stories that I hope will touch your hearts, I have learned so much about writing stories readers can enjoy. Most people do not understand the amount of detail and craft that goes into being a writer, and most people do not sell their first novel. I did, but not before it went through “refining fire.”
I knew nothing about writing fiction when I began to write. My first romance novel began with the death of the heroine’s husband, traveled through months of her grief, and on page 102 she met the hero. The book was rejected numerous times until I realized that a romance begins with the meeting of the hero and heroine within the first couple of pages. I also learned a story starts at the point of change—not the husband’s death, but the heroine’s new beginning. With the advice of a few kind writers who knew about writing fiction, I had to cut one-hundred glorious pages from my novel. That made all the difference, but by then the book had been rejected a number of times.
I courageously continued to submit books, and most of those were sitting on editors’ desks, waiting for rejection. In 1998, I submitted a new book to Barbour Publishing. Within a few months, I heard from them. Though the editors felt that particular book would not work for their readership, they liked my voice and writing style. They asked if I had anything else. I thought of my first novel…just sitting there. I said, “Sure I do and I’ll get it in the mail right away.”
But “right away” meant doing some serious edits. At that time the completed book was seventy-five thousand words. Barbour accepts only forty-five to fifty-five thousand words, so I had some serious cutting to do. I had learned so much more about writing by then, and I went through the manuscript tightening the story by removing useless dialogue and scenes that did not move the story forward. I cut a sub-plot and tightened my language. When I’d reached the right page count, I mailed the book in. Within eleven days, SEASONS sold to Barbour Publishing and I became a published author.
I have learned to cut, snip and tighten. I continue to improve my writing skills by honing the craft, listen to those who know the business, and understand that tightening a novel can only make it better. Those lessons have reaped great rewards and blessings for me. Now with 76 published novels and over 4 million books sold, I conclude that I finally know how to write a good book. It takes time, patience and tons of perseverance. Improving the craft never ends! I continue to read and study writing techniques and find new ideas for ways to improve my work.
In my next post, I will cover what I have done when I’ve received the reversion of rights and can now republish my older books for readers who hadn’t read them years ago when they were published. My goal is to use what I have learned to this day and to make my old novels new and improved. I hope you look for this blog on Reversion of Rights.