How I’ve earned my writers’ stripes


No thanks

Image: Pixabay

I’ve talked about that old writers’ nemesis, rejection several times on this blog. 

Well, when I say ‘several’, what I really mean is ‘many’ (here, here, here – okay, you get the picture).

You see, the problem is, that rejection for a writer is about as easy to avoid as raindrops in a thunderstorm. You can run as fast as you like, but baby, you’re gonna get wet.

I’ve had a fair few rejections – many of the short stories I’ve submitted to competitions and magazines have been rejected. But let’s face it, you should (theoretically) only be spending a handful of hours on a short story, so yes, you work hard on it, you love it, you nurture it, but your whole personality isn’t invested in it in a big way.

You’ve not lived with it for months – years – drafting and redrafting, sculpting and resculpting, deciding it needs completely taking apart and rebuilding all over again because if its findamental flaws. And knowing that decision will take you months to achieve.

Because that’s what you do with a novel.

You get to know the characters so well that if you’ve set it in your own city, in buildings you know, you’ll find your eyes drifting there every time you go past, wondering if those people are actually inside, what they’re doing, who they’re hanging out with.

You’ve lived with them so long, there’s actually a small part of you that believes if you went inside and wandered the corridors, knocked on a few doors, you’d find them and finally be able to say hi face to face.

It’s okay, it really is a very small part of me that thinks that – well pretty small anyway.

Now, I don’t know how many of you are hoping to publish a novel the traditional route, but if you’re not a potential novelist you may not be aware that trying to get direct access to a publisher these days is tougher than getting an audience with the Pope.

Most of them don’t take unsolicited submissions and if they do, the manuscripts run the risk of sitting in the attractively named ‘slush pile’ for a year before being scanned by the intern. Just occasionally, the publishers usually closed to manuscripts will have ‘open submissions’ where unagented authors can try their hand.

I’ve sent manuscripts to three such open subs – one too, too early on in the process, a second just a few weeks ago, both resulting in rejection. Neither was pleasant, but neither was it devastating.

The third was different.

I submitted last August and waited.

And waited … and waited.

In October some people had rejections, but I dodged that bullet.

I waited.

I waited.

At Christmas I still hadn’t had a decision.

Finally, in the New Year, an update was posted saying that anyone who hadn’t yet heard had made it to ‘second reads’, the next level of the filtration process. That was pretty exciting in itself.

Two more months go by.

By this time, I was haunting a couple of forums, waiting to see if any of the members had rejections, reading their chatter, their encouragement to fallen peers.

I started to hope,

to imagine,

to daydream.

Than finally, after waiting 7 months, I had my email.

I’m sorry to say we will not be moving forward …

Was I disappointed? Hell yes.

Is there a tiny part of me wondering if I’ve wasted years of my life writing a book no one will want to publish? Err, yeah. But, weirdly, only a small part.

You see, I’ve got something now no one can take away – I’ve earned my stripes, man. I’ve ridden the rejection rollercoaster that every great (and yes, not so great) writer has ridden. I’m a passenger on the same train and I actually feel I’ve drawn a tiny bit closer to my writing heroes, shared a character shaping experience they’ve all been through.

I’m one step closer to being a published author.

And weirdly, after a serious postal delay, my Children’s Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook came today. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s the UK’s bible when it comes to professional  and legal advice …

and contact lists for literary agents.

I’m ready for my next step.


9 thoughts on “How I’ve earned my writers’ stripes

  1. Oh Lynn! I was reading this on tenterhooks and really thought you were going to make an announcement! Dammit! What’s wrong with those people???? Can’t they see how good you are? Give me their address… I’ll tell em!
    Keep on swimming love! (Dory quote!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, thanks lovely No One Fan (now your official title, of course!) I’m heartened by the forums I’ve read, stuffed with good writers who also had rejections. It’s not a perfect manuscript, so I’m sure they’re right, but it could be good, think, with help. Maybe the way to go is to try to find and agent who can help me polish it some more.
      And I will keep swimming – definitely 🙂 Thank you again for all your support and encouragement – you’re a star X

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you, sweetheart. Yep, heartening that some classics of literature were overlooked for so long before publication. Not that I’m saying my work is a classic, but you know what I mean. X

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve heard editors (and agents, for that matter) say that unless they absolutely love a book, they are unlikely to take it on because of all the battles they have to fight further down the line (cover, title, advertising budget, etc.), what with marketing calling all the shots these days…

    I think it might be a good idea to mention in your cover letter to your dream agent that you made the second rounds in the Hodder open subs, as well. If a publisher has shown that level of interest, there has to be something there – it’ll make you stand out 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Sonya. Yes, you’re right – I’ll do that when I start sending off to agents. It was shortlisted in a Writing Magazine novel excerpt comp too, so I’ll mention both of those in a cover letter. It must have something going for it, even if it’s not for Hodder or just not ready yet. Maybe one day, with a smaller publisher – you never know. It’s actually given me a bit of confidence, getting through to second reads. I shall plough on. Thanks for your encouragement and advice 🙂


  3. Just reminded by a Beeb doc that poor Charlotte Bronte’s The Professor was rejected while Emily’s and Ann’s MSS were accepted — how gutted she must have been! At least she went on to write and submit you-know-what. And the rest, as they say, is history.

    Keep on trucking, Lynn, it’s the only way! And remember, it’s never personal — even if it feels like it at times …

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Chris. Funnily enough, I read about The Professor being rejected just today in Writing Magazine – apparently it was rejected at the same time as Emily’s Wuthering Heights and Anne’s Agnes Grey were accepted which much have been particularly tough for Charlotte. Also read the Bronte sisters had to pay for their first publication – a poetry anthology. A rough start for someone who would go on to write one of the most widely acclaimed books in English Lit! Yep, onwards, onwards, ever onwards. Time for a new challenge – comedy ghosts here we come 🙂 Thanks for the supportive comments – you’re very kind.

      Liked by 1 person

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