Tag Archives: submissions

Mind-Full Monday

Good moaning.

Image: warrelics.eu

Image: warrelics.eu

It’s Monday again, and my skull is creaking at the seams.

The things on my mind this morning, in no particular order, are:

1. The frustrations of being misunderstood;
2. The difficulty of keeping a load of closing dates for competitions and submissions in mind for long enough to write them down, whereupon you lose the piece of paper you wrote the dates down on and forget them all anyway;
3. The need to come up with stuff to write for these competitions and/or submissions;
4. The sheer absolute awesomeness of this:

5. The horror of constantly checking your email inbox, just in case there’s a message in it which will change the course of your future. Or, you know, not.
6. The fact that I watched ‘The Happening’ at the weekend, despite my brother’s warning years ago that it was utter, irredeemable nonsense. I should have listened to my brother.

But the main thing on my mind today is the fact that what I am going to be doing for the foreseeable future is rewriting one of my own books, in line with Very Knowledgeable Advice – the sort of advice it would be foolish to ignore, in other words. So, I am being very clever indeed by not ignoring it.

The book is ‘Eldritch.’ I don’t blame you for forgetting all about it. I nearly had, too.

So, I had originally imagined ‘Eldritch’ as the first part of a trilogy. In my innocence, I had thought the story needed three whole books to tell it: I had imagined my funny little hero, Jeff Smith (who wishes he had a cooler name so that he could have better luck with girls), and his brave and clever friend Joe Araujo (who would rather be at home eating curry than on an adventure), would enjoy being flung through time and space not once, but three times in order to bring their story to a conclusion. I thought I had crafted good, strong characters, including a compelling baddie (I so hadn’t); I thought, in short, that the story was strong enough to sustain a series.

But – *cue dramatic flourish* – I was wrong.

I was wrong, and I didn’t see it until it was pointed out to me. I didn’t see that my baddie was a mishmash of clichés, and that my story was a reasonably good one, but that it certainly didn’t need three books to tell it. I didn’t see that, while my writing was reasonable and the dialogue between my leads was memorable, so much of what I’d written was so-so and forgettable.

I’m not trying to pretend this wasn’t hard to hear. But if you want to know the truth about it – I took this feedback, and I digested it, and after only a few moments (a few stomach-plunging moments, admittedly) I began to see how much sense it made. Taking this feedback was a lot easier than I’d expected, and a lot less painful than I’d imagined.

Image: 8track.com

Image: 8track.com

Not long after this, I began to re-plot the book in my head. It was tough to disassemble the scaffolding of ‘trilogy’ which had previously existed around these characters and this story; it was hard to even imagine the book as a self-contained unit, instead of a series. It meant a total rethink of the plot, the characters, the motivation, and particularly the ‘baddie’ – he needed to be stronger, scarier, more interesting. In short, he needed to be mine, not a mixture of all the baddies I’d ever read about. I hadn’t realised this was what I’d managed to do, until I re-read him. In short, the bits of the book which didn’t feature him were much stronger than the bits that did.

And that’s not good.

Your baddie is supposed to be your most compelling character. Even more so than your protagonist, your antagonist (to give him his ‘Official Title’) should be unique, and marvellously evil, and logically motivated, and in possession of a Dastardly Plan that makes sense and is workable. He or she should be layered and complex and full of secrets. If not, then you don’t have any proper drama or tension in your story. Your heroes have nothing to fight against or overcome. The danger in your tale is neutralised.

My baddie was a pantomime villain. Looking back, I can’t believe I didn’t spot it myself. But that’s why it’s important to have other eyes read your work, of course.

It also leads me to realise that the most important part of writing is the ability to rewrite, up to and including taking your own work, completely breaking it down, and building it back up again from scratch. A mere edit wouldn’t have saved ‘Eldritch’, but I am only human, and I did investigate whether there were any shortcuts to the process. I wondered if there was a way to salvage most of it, and just change the bits that needed changing. I wondered if there was any chance I could keep some of the features that, I thought, made the book unique – but I’ve learned that only what’s good for the story, not what’s good for the writer, should make it into a final draft.

You have to be willing to do whatever it takes to make the story as good as it can be. If this involves starting again from first principles, then that’s what you have to do.

The only rule is: never give up trying to make your work as excellent as it can be, and always ask for (and heed!) good advice.

All right, so that’s sort of two rules. But you know what I mean.

Image: commitnesstofitness.com

Image: commitnesstofitness.com

I hope a week of wonder awaits you – and that there will be plenty of words in it.

Nothin’ to See Here…

So, it’s that time of year again. That pink, beribboned, heart-shaped balloon, teddy-bears-’round-every-corner time of year.

Ain’t nothin’ wrong with showing your loved ones how much you appreciate them. Don’t get me wrong. But I shudder to think how many people only say ‘I love you’ to someone else on this one day of the year.

Image: profmuluka.com

Image: profmuluka.com

I love to love people. I think love is the most important thing in the world. I love everyone I meet, just a little bit (well, all right. Some more than others.) I love to tell my friends and family that I love them, and – even though it can sometimes be scary – I have found that taking the risk to tell someone they’re loved is, in most cases, worth it. You don’t always get the love back – and you have to accept that – but you nearly always make someone else’s life a little easier.

It doesn’t have to be about grand gestures, or gifts. It doesn’t have to involve spending money at all, in fact. Love’s in the unasked-for cup of tea that you hand to someone when they look like they need it, or the favour done to the best of your ability, or the chore completed without any fuss because you know your loved one hates to do it. It’s in the quiet time, sitting side by side just enjoying being together. It’s in the long walks and the warm conversation; it’s in the moment when you pay someone a visit; it’s in the phonecall or text message when someone you know is going through a hard time. It’s the hand in yours when the world seems dark. It’s the playing along with a child when they want to bring you into their imagination. It’s the hug, or the gentle touch, or the smile just when it’s needed; it’s the switching off of your own thoughts to listen closely to what another person is saying. It’s the hearing of another, and the validation that their words are important. It’s the gentle attempt to understand, and the respectful acceptance of another person, and the assurance that yes, I am here – no matter what.

I am not a fan of Valentine’s Day, mainly because I believe every day should be Valentine’s Day. We should remember to love above all else every day of the year, and remember that love takes many forms. Most especially, we should remember every day never to take all the love we’re lucky to have in our lives for granted.

So, I’m not wishing you a happy Valentine’s Day. Have a happy, love-filled day. Then, go and have another tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that…

**

This Friday, for the Flash! Friday challenge, our compulsory element was ‘Patience’, and our prompt image was this:

Kolmanskop, in the Namib Desert. Image: lovethesepics.com

Kolmanskop, in the Namib Desert.
Image: lovethesepics.com

So, in honour of it being Valentine’s Day, I wrote a story about death. As you do.

Deathtrap

Every breath boiled. Sweat trickled down my spine. The trail was clear, her deep footsteps beckoning. Their darkness calling to mine.

Soon, it would be over.

A tumbledown house swam into view. Sun-bleached, half-rotted, its front door stood open. Paint peeled off its walls.

I paused, breathing hard.

Then, I ducked inside.

In a dim room, half-filled with sand, she waited. Her body bore my scars. I settled my hand around my gun, and my skin prickled.

‘So. Death comes, even for one like me.’ Sand, gritty and sharp, began to whirl like multitudes of tiny knives as she spoke. I spat and blinked it out. ‘Each grain is a life,’ she hissed. ‘A life you took. A life you touched. A life you destroyed!’

‘Not my problem.’ I fired.

But my bullet became a desert wind, and my gun crumbled to dust.

‘I have waited so long for you,’ she smiled, as I shattered, sparkling, at her feet.

**

I’m off to batten down the hatches – another storm is predicted to roll in off the Atlantic today, and I want to try to be ready for it – and to get through my words. I am rewriting one book while trying to do a final, final draft on another, and planning out my strategy for submissions, and trying to keep everything straight in my head, and it’s not easy.

But I love it.

Of course.

Image: catziac.wordpress.com

Image: catziac.wordpress.com

 

Proof Of My Silliness

As if you needed proof, right?

So, it’s NaNoWriMo, as we know. I have a project to complete, as we also know. Other stuff that I knew, but which perhaps I should’ve taken into account when deciding to bash my details into the NaNoWriMo sign-up page included:

The fact that it’s my dad’s birthday this month;
The fact that it’s
my birthday this month;
The fact that my husband is taking several days’ leave this month;
The fact that I have at least two medical appointments this month; and, last but by no means least:
The fact that I have no fewer than three really important family things to attend – yes, you’ve guessed it – this month.

Image: likeablequotes.com

Image: likeablequotes.com

Over the weekend, I attended a (very fun, and wonderful in every way) birthday party for one of my dearest and oldest friends. I got to see so many people – some of whom I hadn’t seen for ages – and much laughter and catching up was had. We also visited my husband’s aunt and uncle, and that was great too. The silliness in all this, of course, kicks in when one considers that I also knew about all this before I signed up to NaNoWriMo.

So.

I am, at the moment, trying to do several things simultaneously, all of which are vitally important. I am attempting to do them all in the one month so far this year when I have the least time. It’s definitely silly. It’s even perhaps a little on the ditzy side. But you know what else it is?

It’s great.

Image: kwasistudios.com

Image: kwasistudios.com

It’s a privilege to have friends and family to spend time with, and it’s great to have so much to celebrate. (The medical appointments aren’t so much fun, but we’re not thinking about those, right? Right.) It’s also fantastic to be busy, and to have so many opportunities to submit and create work. Having said all that, I still really wish I’d engaged my brain a bit more before making the decision to begin NaNoWriMo. It’ll be NaNoGoSlo at this rate. I was doing really well last Friday – I was way ahead of schedule for the day, and the site was predicting I’d be done with my 50,000 words a week early if I kept up the same pace – but, of course, over the weekend it all went to hell. I’m afraid to check the website now, in case it yells at me – or, worse, tells me how disappointed it is in me, and how it expected better.

I hate that.

The current picture of my situation is like this: I am just over two-thirds of the way through my line edits for ‘Tider’, but the manuscript has been sitting on my desk now since Friday, so I hope I can get back into the right mindset to get through it. I want to finish that job and get the manuscript sent away to the kind agent who gently rejected ‘Eldritch’, but who wanted to see my other work. So, my heart is (not literally, because urgh) in my mouth as I work. Once that’s done, then it’s NaNo time, and to stay on track I have to write something like fifty million words today (approximately.) Then, it’ll be time to turn my attention to my story for Walking on Thin Ice, which has been neglected so long I’ve forgotten what it’s even about. (The closing date for this contest is coming up, by the way, so if you’re preparing a story, get ‘er done.) On top of all that, then, we have the usual stuff – living, eating, breathing, sleeping, attempting to keep the house from turning into a hovel, and all that other incidental stuff.

If someone finds me gibbering gently in a corner, don’t worry. Just leave me be. If you really need me for something, however, just waft a book in my direction and I’m sure native curiosity will drive me out of my stupor.

Happy Monday and happy new week. I’m armed with a brand new jar of decaf, my biggest mug, and my game face. Let’s do this.

Nicolas Cage speaks the truth. Image: brightestyoungthings.com

Nicolas Cage speaks the truth.
Image: brightestyoungthings.com

 

Finding Your Voice

Every new Monday is like a new year, for me. I make resolutions to be focused, professional and productive; I make out my targets for the week ahead; I try to hit the ground running. I have great visions for what the next five days will bring, and I hope to make the most out of every single second of writing time that I can squeeze out of it.

That doesn’t mean I actually achieve any of it, of course. But I try.

Image: educationelf.net

Image: educationelf.net

In the midst of all this businesslike focus, though, it can sometimes be tough to remember that the point of writing is to create something, and that it’s not akin to building an engine or entering data into a spreadsheet; it’s important to keep in mind that in writing, you can’t predict how the working week will go, and how you’re going to feel about your work from one second to the next. It’s also important to remember one other thing: your writing voice, and how it can suffer under pressure. Without your writing voice, of course, you’re in big trouble.

But what does it even mean?

Finding a ‘voice’ is one of these things that everyone agrees is vital for a writer. It’s supposed to be your calling card, your ‘fingerprint’, your unique hook, your selling point. But how do you find it? How do you develop and nourish it? How do you know it’s ‘right’?

Well, in my opinion, the short response is that nobody knows the definitive answer to these questions. Everyone agrees that a ‘voice’ is important – nay, vital – but there are so many differing opinions on how to go about finding it that it should give any sensible person pause. I’ve read some advice which states things like ‘if it feels like work when you’re writing it, then you should probably think about changing your voice’; I’m not sure I agree with that. I’ve come across advice which tells me to imagine my ‘ideal’ reader and write to them – again, that’s problematic. Some advice-givers tell us that a writer’s voice is always an artifice – a construction designed to showcase their brilliant word-choices and their flawless plotting. Once again, you might have guessed I have a problem with this definition. I’ve also seen articles which exhort me to believe that if a person can talk, they can also write – as in, a good oral storyteller will be a good storyteller on paper, too – but I’m pretty sure I don’t believe this, either. I write a lot more clearly and a lot more coherently than I speak, as anyone who’s listened to me ramble on for hours on end will, no doubt, attest.

The riveted audience at one of my famous 'How Interesting Were the Middle Ages?!?' lectures. Image: profalbrecht.wordpress.com

The riveted audience at one of my famous ‘How Interesting Were the Middle Ages?!?’ lectures.
Image: profalbrecht.wordpress.com

The only key to finding your voice, at least as far as I can see, is to write honestly. I’m talking here about creative writing, more than writing with another purpose such as journalism or non-fiction writing, purely because I have more experience with it – I’m sure honest writing makes for more solid copy in journalistic terms, too, though. In terms of fiction writing, including creative writing and blogs, the only things you need to find your voice, in my opinion, are time and courage. Time, of course, is obvious enough – practice as often as possible, write as regularly as possible and get as much feedback as possible over the course of the weeks or months or even years that it takes you to feel comfortable with what you’re producing, and don’t try to rush the process. There is no race to be run – it’s not like there’s a limited amount of voices on offer and the slowest writers are left with the dregs.

But what about courage?

I will find the words! Image: he-man.wikia.com

I will find the words!
Image: he-man.wikia.com

Writing, by itself, is not really a scary thing. The fear of the blank page is common enough, and the terror that comes to all of us who write when the words just dry up and refuse to make an appearance is also well known. The creation of a document – be it a book, an article, a poem, whatever – is (or perhaps should be) more about joy, fulfilment and a sense of rewarding hard work than about fear; to me, the brave bit is what comes after you’ve finished the writing. Firstly, you’ve got to be brave enough to let other people see what you’ve written. And, even more importantly, you’ve got to be brave enough to write what you want to write.

I’ve fallen into the trap myself, many times, of trying to write what I think an editor or a judge will want to read. I’ve tried to change my focus, write a story the likes of which I wouldn’t normally dream of writing, tried to develop a style which might be more in keeping with the sort of thing they normally enjoy – and do you want to know the truth of it? It has never worked. Not once. I’m not sure if it’s because the editor/judge in question has spotted that the work is not ‘authentic’, or because I’m just not very good at writing when it’s not coming from a place of honesty, but either way it just hasn’t been worth the effort of changing my voice to suit someone else. Being brave enough to write what you want to write can sometimes mean you still won’t win the competition you’ve entered or that you run the risk of not impressing the person to whom you’ve submitted your work; at least, though, you can rest easy in the knowledge that you wrote a ‘true’ piece, something that was meaningful to you. The work will be stronger for it, even if it’s not to the taste of the judge or editor who has the task of evaluating it. Writing is an extremely subjective business, too – so how are you to build up your own voice if you’re constantly changing it to suit the vagaries of editors and judges?

In my opinion, then, you shouldn’t listen to any advice you get on the internet (including this blog post) about how to find and cultivate your writing voice. My opinion is write what you want to write, polish it as hard as you can and be proud of every word, and submit it with courage until you find someone who responds to the notes of honesty and conviction in what you’ve written. However, of course, take that advice with a pinch of salt. Writing should be fun, but it is also hard work and a craft which needs honing and polishing; finding a voice is like learning how to use grammar and how to construct a sentence. It takes time, but it’s worth the journey. It’s not something which should be rushed, and it’s not worth trying to take shortcuts to achieve it. Just write with your soul in your fingertips, and be brave.

And, of course, patient.

A Matter of Opinion

Monday is creaking itself into position once again, and another chain of days is about to start careering down the slippery slope we call a ‘week’. I hope you had a restful weekend and you’re primed and ready for it.

Good woman, Barbara. Image: funkmysoul.gr

Good woman, Barbara.
Image: funkmysoul.gr

This past weekend was full of bad news. I’m trying not to even think about some of the news stories that made me sad, or angry, over the last few days – and there were many. I’m not ignoring the fact that things happened in the world which made my red mist descend, and which upset me greatly, but this blog post is all about the positive. Right? Right.

So, let’s not talk about the sad stuff. Not today.

In the spirit of focusing on the non-enraging, one of the more interesting stories over the weekend centred on the kerfuffle surrounding ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling‘, a book which was published to no great acclaim in April. Purporting to be the debut novel of a former soldier and military policeman named Robert Galbraith, the book was receiving good reviews, but had not sold in any huge numbers – reports vary between 500 and 1,500 copies sold – but those who had read it, by all accounts, liked it. Robert Galbraith, the mysterious author, had admitted to writing under a pseudonym to, I suppose, protect his former colleagues and avoid any sort of security issues surrounding his foray into crime writing, but that was far from being the biggest secret Mr. Galbraith was sitting on.

Over the weekend, ‘Mr Galbraith’ was unmasked. Not an ex-military police officer, nor even a man, ‘Galbraith’ is, in fact, J.K. Rowling.

The most interesting thing about the whole situation, I think, is the fact that the manuscript of ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ was, apparently, submitted to at least one publisher (under its pseudonym, of course), and was turned down as being ‘not marketable’; it didn’t stand out from the crowd enough, apparently. It wasn’t head and shoulders above any of the other promising submissions received, and so it wasn’t picked up. I have great respect for the editor of the publishing company who turned the book down purely on its merits, and who is now brave enough to admit it, and to give her reasons for her decision; she could have tried to wash her hands of responsibility, or pretend the decision to turn the book down was a tortuous one. She could have fawned all over J.K. Rowling. She could (horror of horrors!) have apologised for her decision. Instead, she simply explained how she felt the book was solid, decent, well written – but nothing amazing.

I thought this was remarkable. Not only because the editor in question is a brave and principled person, but because it made me feel a whole lot better about the rejections I get which are worded along much the same lines: ‘Thank you for your submission; your work is perfectly fine, but just not marketable in the current publishing climate’, or ‘Your work is not suitable for us – but our opinion is not exhaustive, so don’t give up.’ Whatever your opinion of ‘Harry Potter’ is – whether you believe the books are good, or not – it’s beyond question that J.K. Rowling is the publishing sensation of our time. Anything with her name on it is a foregone conclusion, in terms of publication. It turned out that ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ was eventually published by an imprint of the publisher who handled her book ‘The Casual Vacancy’ last year, but it seems that she submitted it to other publishers, just like any debut author – but found, apparently, little success. The book has received very positive feedback from readers, so it’s not necessarily that her work was not good; it just wasn’t good enough for a publisher to take a punt on it, particularly in the crowded crime/detective fiction market.

Image: en.wikipedia.org

Image: en.wikipedia.org

This news story has given me a lot to think about, and no mistake. The first conclusion one could draw would be this: what’s the point of anyone trying to get a book published, as an unknown debut author, if a writer with the ability of J.K. Rowling can’t get picked up? Well – yes and no. That’s an insidious and dangerous way to think; it erodes hope and chips away at the future, and should be avoided. There are always exceptions; there are always chances worth jumping at. You’ve got to have faith in your own work, and keep on going with the submissions even if there seems to be no light on the horizon. Rowling herself was turned down by twelve publishers before she placed ‘Harry Potter’ with Bloomsbury. It can happen. People get published every day. They can’t all be world-defining geniuses. Sometimes, a submission will be good enough – not the best submission in the history of writing, but good enough for a particular agent or publisher, and that’s all you need.

So, instead of being disheartened by the saga of ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ (in hindsight, rather an apt title), I’m choosing to be encouraged by it. A submission is never going to hit the mark with everyone who reads it; not every publisher is going to like, or even tolerate, some of the work you produce – and that’s not a personal thing, despite how hard it can be to separate yourself from your creative work. It doesn’t mean that if you get knocked back by two, or five, or ten agents or publishers, that you should give up the search – there will, hopefully, be an appreciative ear out there for what you’re writing, and what a shame it would be to give up before you find it.

Of course, if every person to whom you submit your work says something along the lines of: ‘In our opinion, a novel about interstellar time-travelling leprechauns written in rhyming couplets which can, due to the fact you’ve written it in disappearing ink, only be read on the first Tuesday of every month in full moonlight is not exactly the most market-friendly thing; perhaps you should consider submitting something else, or reworking this entirely,’ then maybe it’s time to start thinking: it’s not them. It’s me.

Until then, keep the faith.

Bootstraps

‘Writing’ and ‘being a writer’ aren’t the same thing, by a long shot. ‘Writing’, that wonderful thing, is something I could do all day, fancifully kneading verbs and adverbs together while mixing a few adjectives in for good measure, trilling with ladylike laughter as I sprinkle the whole with punctuation; writing, in and of itself, is a wonderful thing. I love it.

Being a writer, though – and I’m the first to admit that I’m not even on the first rung of the very long ladder that’s labelled ‘A Writing Career’ – is, at times, obscenely difficult. Getting rejections is hard (I’m going through a spate of that at the moment); writing to deadline is hard; juggling deadlines is harder still. I’m still not completely ‘on top’ of the various deadlines I’m aiming for this summer, and several have just whooshed by. I’m telling myself that sometimes, you’ve just got to admit you can’t do everything, and give up worrying, but the problem with good self-advice is you don’t generally listen to it.

There’s still nothing else I’d rather be doing, however.

Image: sarahhina.blogspot.com

Image: sarahhina.blogspot.com

Today the things that are on my mind include: wondering how I’m going to get on this Saturday (I’m recording one of my stories for a podcast, of which more next week); worrying about all the stories I have out on sub at the moment and hoping some of them – even one – will make the cut; thinking about the stories in piles on my workdesk or in pieces on my computer and hoping that I can save them in time to get them ready for some of my aforementioned deadlines; the constant low-level worry about whether I’ve done the right thing with my life, and – the biggie – my novels, and my plans for those. And, as the title of today’s post suggests, I’m pretty much telling myself to buck up, take a deep breath and just get on with it.

Seriously. Just get on with it. I wonder, sometimes, why the niggling ‘am I doing the right thing?’ is constantly gnawing at the edges of my mind – I know I am. I’ve never been more sure. But when rejection emails are pouring in and nothing I write seems to be hitting the spot, perhaps worry is the only logical psychological response. It’s a bad cycle to allow myself to get into, though, because the rot of ‘well, nothing I’m submitting is any good,’ will eventually turn into ‘nothing I write is any good.’ Once that happens, I’ll only be one step away from giving up. And that can’t happen. I don’t want it to.

I know I want to write for the rest of my life because none of the challenges that I’ve so far faced have put me off the idea, and none of the warnings from other writers – ‘It’s a long, hard slog!’ ‘You’ll never earn a penny!’ ‘You’re in competition with far too many others!’ ‘You need to be exceptional to succeed!’ – have given me a second’s pause. I don’t know if it’s unhinged optimism, or simply self-delusion, but I still want to write, even knowing all this may be true. There is a lot of competition out there, and you’ll never be a millionaire. You could work for the rest of your life doing this, and still you may never succeed.

But I never wanted to be a millionaire anyway, and there’s a lot of competition in every walk of life. There’ll always be a better bookseller/teacher/lawyer/rocket scientist than you, but should that put you off wanting to be one? No way. Isn’t every job, and every career, a long hard slog? Yes. So why should writing be any different?

I know I want to be a writer because I’m willing to accept penury, long hours, hard work, brain-ache, rejection, disappointment and isolation to get there. In fact, it goes further than being willing to accept all these things: you have to be willing to inflict them upon yourself. That takes a special kind of masochism, and probably explains a lot about writers and their tendencies towards alcohol and oddness. (Hopefully I’ll avoid those bits.)

But I know I’ll succeed as a writer because I already have succeeded as a writer – I’m doing it. What more success could I ask for? Anything more than what I already have is gravy, as the saying goes. I’d love to see my name on the spine of a shelf-full of novels, and I’d love to see my stories appearing in some of the high-profile publications I’ve recently submitted to, and I’d love to think that I could bring the same joy into a young reader’s life that my favourite authors brought into mine – but if it never happens, I’m still a writer. I’m giving it my very best shot, and for that if nothing else I should be happy with what I’ve achieved.

I’ll try to remember all this the next time I get a rejection! Oh, how easy it is to write all this self-encouragement in a blog post and forget it completely when the dark cloud of doubt decides to settle over your head once more…

If you write, you’re a writer. End of story. Get on with it!

Grab those bootstraps, and keep on going! Image: wikiality.wikia.com

Grab those bootstraps, and keep on going!
Image: wikiality.wikia.com

 

The Plunge? Taken!

We find ourselves on the rocks of Thursday once again. I trust you’re all well? Good, good.

So, this week, I finally got around to doing that thing I’ve been promising to do for, oh, the last six months, or so. I’m sure most of you had given up all hope that I’d ever make good on my word, and had probably come to the bitter realisation that sometimes, you just can’t believe a thing you read on the internet…

I never should have trusted her! Sniff! Image: nature.com

I never should have trusted her! Sniff!
Image: nature.com

Yeah, or not.

In any case, it might be of interest to you to know that this is the week in which I finally did it. After many months of waffling about it, I’ve at long last begun to make contact with agents. Literary agents. Actual literary agents. With connections in the publishing industry, and everything. So far, I’ve lived to tell the tale, but we’ll see how long that lasts.

You know, sometimes, how you can pay visits to really tall buildings – in places like America, I mean, because of course Ireland doesn’t have any *really* tall buildings, on account of how we’re all short and oppressed – and they have glass floors that you can walk on and look down hundreds of feet to the ground below?

Like this? *covers eyes* Image: alexderavin.blogspot.com

Like this? *covers eyes*
Image: alexderavin.blogspot.com

When I tell you that I had to have a cup of strong coffee before I could even do a Google Image search for that picture, I’m not joking. I hate heights so much that even looking at that photograph is giving me vertigo. Standing on a kitchen chair is as high as I ever want to be off the ground – and even at that, sometimes, I get an attack of the wobbles.

And, my dears, that feeling of vertigo, and the sensation of ‘ooh, I think I might be out of my depth here,’ is now a permanent fixture in my life.

Pressing ‘send’ on an email which contains the first five pages, or the first three thousand words, or the first ten thousand words, or whatever the case may be, of a book over which you’ve (almost literally) sweated blood, is no easy thing to do. The email doesn’t just contain words, of course – it holds your hopes, and fears, and plans, and ambition. It contains everything in you which is good and admirable, and everything which is desperate and terrified, too. Every submission made is an hour, or two hours, or a day of preparation – writing a synopsis, crafting a cover letter, reading and re-reading and re-reading your opening chapters just in case there’s an error you’ve missed the last five thousand times you read it; it’s the hours spent researching the agency to which you’re submitting and making sure they have an interest in what you’re writing, as best you can; it’s the hours of self-talk, trying to convince yourself that this isn’t completely crazy and that you can actually go through with it.

So, you see. Not just a case of ‘whack it all together and let it go wherever it needs to.’

I’m trying not to look back over the emails I’ve already sent, because they’re sure to make me cringe. I’m trying to be positive, and hope that something in what I’ve sent will spark interest, somewhere; I’m aware, though, that what I’m doing is akin to trying to light a match somewhere on the deepest ocean floor. There are a lot of people trying to do what I’m doing – most of them with more to offer than I have – and it can be hard to keep dredging inside yourself, expecting there to be endless supplies of optimism and hope just waiting to be tapped; that, however, is what I have to do. Every time I sit to write a synopsis (because I do a new one each time I submit to an agent, in the interests of keeping the whole thing ‘fresh’ and relevant to each particular recipient), it gets harder to shake the feeling of boredom surrounding my novel – it all seems so old, and worn, and overdone. I’m telling myself that’s because I’ve read it so many times, and I’m clinging to the hope that this is the truth.

And, of course, I’ve only just begun the whole process. I still have the weeks and months of waiting for a reply to come yet. At least the waiting process will give me some time to build myself back up again, just in time to cope with the lovely, kind, well-meaning emails which will read something like: ‘Thank you for your submission – we can see you’ve worked very hard on it, but unfortunately, it’s not for us…’

And, the best bit of all? I’m not even halfway through my list of agencies, so this will be going on for some time yet. Someone pour me a whiskey…

'Tomorrow... Is... Another day!' Yes, Scarlett. Another day in which I have to turn around and do all this again! Yay? Image: lesscakemorefrosting.com

‘Tomorrow… Is… Another day!’ Yes, Scarlett. Another day in which I have to turn around and do all this again! Yay?
Image: lesscakemorefrosting.com