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.

 

Quote of the day

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“Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it.

Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.”
William Faulkner

Wednesday Word Tangle

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Ever been stumped for the right word?

I don’t mean those days when your brain’s as thick as cold porridge, when you need three espressos and a Red Bull chaser just to get a few jaded synapses to sparkle into life. When you just know there’s a word out there that’s precisely right, that just fits what you want to say. It’s on the tip of your brain but every time you scrabble for it, it darts out of reach, a thought-beetle scurrying into the dark when you lift the rotting log of your memory.

No. I don’t mean that. I don’t mean that at all. Anyway, for me that’s an everyday occurrence. It’s a fact of life that keeps good company with walking into rooms and forgetting what I went in for, trying to remember that actor’s name- you know the one- he was in that thing with wotsit out of that other show and absent-mindedly putting the milk in the cupboard instead of the fridge. I have reached THAT age.

No, what I mean is those occasions when our brilliant, complex, varied language, used by literary geniuses over the centuries to describe shared emotions and experience, the wonderful, horrible feelings and thoughts that make up a human mind, that inform human existence, that describe what it is to live on this blue-green bauble rolling on the black velvet groundsheet of space-time- when all of that just isn’t enough.

You know what I mean. No matter how many billions of people have lived before, are living now, will ever live, sometimes it seems that what you feel is different- that what you’ve experienced is unique in some way. That existing wordage just isn’t enough.

What I mean is YOU JUST WANNA MAKE STUFF UP. You wanna snatch syllables from the air- ones that are nearly right, almost there- and squish them together, mash them so they fuse together like some hybrid mythical creature- a bit griffin, a bit sphinx- kind of weird and totally amazing.

And here’s where my word of the day comes in.

GINORMOUS.

Isn’t it great? It’s the kind of word that eight year-old boys love to use to describe conkers or slugs or farts.

Enormous just isn’t big enough. What about gigantic? Yeah… good, but it needs to be bigger, like all the huge things you’ve ever seen or thought of rolled into one.

GINORMOUS. 

For days when BIG just won’t hack it.

A nod to Kittykat– the originator of W4W