How to Know When Your Novel is “Ready”

Kim Rendfield, author of Ashes of Heaven's Pillar and Cross and the Dragon

Kim Rendfield

Kim Rendfeld worked as a journalist in Indiana for 17 years before her husband took a job on the opposite side of the state. Now she she’s a copy editor for an Indiana university.

While on a family vacation in Germany when she was still in the newspaper business, she heard the legend of Roland. He was said to be a military figure under Charlemagne.

“The story grabbed hold of me and wouldn’t let me go until I started writing about it,” Kim said. “I didn’t know much about the middle ages then, so it took me a while.”

After nine years, Fireship Press published Kim’s first novel, The Cross and the Dragon. She calls her second book a companion to The Cross and the Dragon. Published in August 2014, The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar features the same historical times and some of the same characters, but a different protagonist. It’s about a medieval mother who goes to great lengths to protect her kids when they are taken into slavery during the first Saxony War.

Ashes of Heaven's Pillar at Kim Rendfield“My publishing journey is a long one,” Kim said. “I thought I was done with my first book in 2003, then started collecting rejection letters. I was fortunate that several contained useful comments on how I could improve.”

After several revisions, she secured an agent in 2007, but the agent was unable to sell the book. “I knew I had to do something different and entered Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award in 2011.” She reached the quarter-finals and also received a positive review from Publisher’s Weekly. “That boosted my confidence and gave me the encouragement I needed to keep trying.” She decided to go the small press route, and found Fireship Press.

Kim’s Advice For Aspiring Authors

“The first thing to remember is that you need a good product,” she said, suggesting that a good critique group is vital in helping a first-time author know when you’ve said what you intended to say. “My early drafts sounded more like newspaper articles than fiction. My critique group honestly and constructively told me where it was failing and where I was getting too wound up in backstory.”

She cautions that you need to be in a group with writers who are as serious as you are. “Make sure they’re commenting on what you’re trying to do, not what you didn’t intend. Whether or not you take the advice is a judgment call on your part. If more than one person is having trouble wit something, it’s worth paying attention to.”

But what if you can’t find a critique group? If you have the resources, you can also hire editors. Be careful, though. Connect with other writers, get recommendations, and watch your budget. “If you have editing skills, you may be able to trade with another good editor.”

She also said that in publishing today, it’s a mix of artistry and business.  Your book must be marketable if you expect an agent or publisher to pick it up. That means you need to understand the publishing industry and keep up with what’s selling. Membership in Publisher’s Marketplace is a good way to keep up with the deals being made and what agents are making those deals.

“You never really know if your novel is ready for publication until you start getting rejection letters,” Kim said. And while you’re getting them, keep writing. She also takes advantage of promotional opportunities by submitting guest posts, blogging and being on social media.

How Kim Finds Joy

Getting a novel written, perfected and published can be a long and discouraging process. It’s important to not lose yourself while you’re doing it. Kim finds joy in everyday life through her family, writing, gardening and volunteering at the local library. You can connect with Kim on Facebook, her blog, Goodreads, and by follow her on Twitter at @kimrendfeld.

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