I spent most of yesterday feeling pretty sorry for myself. After spending a great deal of time beavering away on my novel, all I had to show from 3 submissions was 1 rejection which informed me that my submission was not suitable. Inevitably I spent the vast majority of the day desperately over analysing the curt response which I had received. The only conclusion which I could arrive at was that it was clear that my novel is rubbish.
By the time I returned home, thoroughly defeated and deflated, I was able to put my feelings to the back of my mind. From time to time cooking is massively therapeutic to me and I soon found myself suitably sedated by the waft of my Jack Daniels glaze drifting up from the pieces of deceased bovine which sat in my griddle pan. I sat myself down in front of my laptop, glass of red wine one side, my steak sandwich the other and instantly noticed that I had mail. When I opened it I was stunned to find my 2nd rejection of the day.
The reason I am rambling slightly and providing far too many details is to try to get my point across. I had managed to find an inner calm which would have made the buddha jealous. I felt nothing, I found myself grinning like an idiot, yet expecting the worse. It was one of those moments where you can only laugh at what a son of bitch life can be sometimes.
When I read the email I was stunned. Indeed it was a rejection, and it made me smile. The reason was that it was something more than a generic thanks but no thanks. It was personalised, it was encouraging and most importantly of all it felt honest. Whether it was or not I shall never know as I don’t expect that I will ever meet the person behind it.
As the owner of an exceedingly obsessive mind I cannot pretend I haven’t combed over every word trying to find meaning where there is none. What makes it ever harder is that I am a natural pessimist. Despite that, the 2nd rejection has somewhat calmed me. An experience is the sum total of what a person takes from it. I am trying to take it at face value.
I will continue with my plan and I will send it to the next agency on my list. In the meantime I shall finish my current project. When I started the submission process I promised to give it 18 months. It’s only been 3. I am sure I will be just fine. If only I could borrow the buddha’s patience for a little while.
Tuesday marks the deadline I set when I last submitted my novel. So far I have sent it to two literary agencies without reply. I don’t know if it’s better not to hear, or if it would be better to receive a rejection. Any which way the news certainly isn’t positive so I am already turning my attention to my next target.
It’s inevitable that I am asking myself a lot of questions, and that some part of is quietly concerned that perhaps my novel isn’t good enough and I am just a ridiculous dreamer. On a positive note I find myself a lot less anxious than I was a month ago. I believe I have come to terms with the fact that this process if going to be lengthy.
I am much more anxious for November 1st to come around so I can get started on my next project. I have a rough idea that I am toying with in my head. I am eager to get started. So eager that I wouldn’t be surprised if one of these days my brain explodes. I am quietly confident that I can produce a novel in 30 days. The only thing which worries me is that 50,000 words may well be a little on the short side.
The November project is keeping my mind occupied. I am no longer concerning myself with the future. About the only thing which has changed is that recently I have started wondering exactly how strong my submissions are. If my cover letters are too stiff and formal. If they actually say anything about me at all. I have reached the conclusion that I would rather fail honestly, therefore I shall try a different approach with my next submission. Wish me luck.
Last night I submitted my novel to the next agent on my list. This time caring less about protocol and more about leaving my fingerprint on my submission. I don’t really know why some part of me feels it will make a difference, nonetheless it does. Somehow I can’t make myself believe that personal marketing has any impression on an agent’s psyche, especially when the bottom line of any business is profit.
I don’t know whether it’s caused by self-doubt but I find myself thinking more and more about why I didn’t try to write a commercial novel. It is not as if I deliberately tried not to either. I had an idea which wouldn’t leave me alone. Eventually I decided to follow this idea to its conclusion. It wrote itself. When I try to be objective I find myself searching for excuses to explain why it won’t be published, and at the head of the list is its genre.
Now I find myself wondering if that’s what I should do. If I want to write so badly why not try my hand at something more populist. Do I have it in me to write about camp hairdressing vampires, junkie wizards or a detective who is addicted to knitting jumpers for horses? As this point I don’t know.
Perhaps I wrote something ‘literary’ to give me an excuse to fail. If I had written something commercial I would only be left with the fact that perhaps my writing is not good enough?
It’s not that I have anything against commercial literature. It’s merely that I prefer a book to have soul. Catch 22, Yellow Train, Shantaram, Seeing and Yes Man are very different books but they have an aura about them which can eat through your skull and devour your brain. Books like these are seldom published these days. And it saddens me.
For me the honesty of the printed page is the last domain of the thinking man. Many naysayers claim that we are witnessing the death throes of the book. They claim that the advancement of technology has rendered the book obsolete. I would rather say that the stagnation of the publishing industry has been an act of suicide. The reluctance to take gambles and the obsession with ever-expanding profits mean that fiction no longer has any trailblazers. The novel has been moving sideways for decades. Despite this I don’t believe we will ever witness the death of the book, it will merely change shape.
It’s happened. I have finally submitted my novel to an agent. Now all I can do is wait with bated breath. I feel sick in my stomach and paralyzed by fear. It is a somewhat similar feeling to the first time you proposition a girl as a teenager. You do your up most to prepare yourself for the worst, therefore logically trying to minimise the likely hurt when you get the expected rejection. As someone who lived through his teenage years, years ago I remember that it doesn’t really work.
There is a distinctly Hollywood element to the act of submitting a manuscript. The feeling that ‘those things only happen to people in the movies’ means that its impossible to think any other way than pessimistically which actually suits my natural demeanor. Nevertheless such an approach creates a natural apprehension.
Another problem which emerges is the inability to be objective about your own work. I can no longer look at my manuscript. Every time I do I have a conflicting feeling. One day I feel it is great, the next I feel it is a disaster. The safest thing I can do for now, is to put it somewhere out of sight and out of mind while I try to busy myself with dull tasks to avoid thinking about the significance of my first submission.
Can I now say I have written a novel? Does that mean I am a writer? What if they reject me? Does it mean I am not good enough? Does it mean that my writing is bad or that my idea is bad or that both are bad? The only thing which is clear to be right now is that it doesn’t bear thinking about.
Now I am finally in a position to reduce the hours I spend playing around with websites(It’s amazing to think that two weeks ago I didn’t know a thing.) I can slowly start turning my attention back towards my novel. I have been fighting with myself for sometime. Namely the knowledge that I must attempt to polish either the first three chapters(I don’t have a single chapter) or fifty pages into a shiny enough state that someone may mistake it for a diamond. And that my friends is a troublesome thought.
Picture the scene. A whirlwind romance. Man and woman meet, fall in love and get married. Man only tells woman about 20% of his true personality. Is the marriage going to work? Hell, no. Picture the scene. Thirty something business executive goes for a job interview. Rather than explain what he has been doing for the last ten years, he only mentions the last two. Is he going to get the job? It’s rather unlikely. And this is the very real issue I am faced with. How do I make the two years which Mr X does talk about so compelling that he gets the job?
This type of thinking can torpedo the most brilliant project in a manner of seconds. You can’t help but wonder whether you should make small changes to suit the people you are going to send it too. If the agent or publisher you are targeting has interests in a broad spectrum of work, but and it’s a very big supersized quarter pounder meal butt recently made a wheelbarrow full of money by promoting a book about lesbian hairdresser vampires flying a spaceship to the planet Ketchup; should you add some hairdressers? It’s hard to resist the temptation. I know in my own case, my novel includes sequences regarding civic unrest. Six months ago I was considering moving the story to the middle east. A fortnight ago I was thinking about moving the story to London. In some respects you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. When you find yourself face to face with the inevitable rejection letter then you will be sternly asking yourself if lesbian hairdressing vampires could add something to your story. And that’s when the problems will really start.
Confidence doesn’t come to many. Those who are gifted with it are often deemed arrogant by their peers. However if you truly love what you have created there is nothing wrong with having faith and sticking to your guns. My novel Lesbian Hairdressing Vampires From Outta Space will be available on………..