I started writing a novel in 1993 after finally getting my Arts degree (and having two kids). I didn’t believe in it or myself enough and gave up.
I went and lived: Got a job, worked overseas, witnessed revolution and war, got divorced and had a relationship with an abusive guy.
I wrote another book inspired by some of these events, this time fully supported by my new partner. I received publisher interest, but was rejected many times.
Each time I picked myself up off the floor and went back to the drawing board. I wrote three different versions of my story over 13 years. That’s around 4 years per book! (It doesn’t feel that long.)
Late last year a publisher finally said, ‘I love it. Let’s do it!’
My debut novel, Gunfire Lullabies, will be published in August 2019.
My message to my fellow writers and anyone doing something challenging is:
NEVER give up
BELIEVE in yourself
BE OPEN to constant improvement
And just KEEP ON WRITING!
Now for the next novel…(eek!)
I submitted my manuscript to two new publishers this week, dutifully complying with all their requirements before I sent it off as well as checking and rechecking my letter, author bio, synopsis, book comparison, marketing appraisal and so on.
But what to do, or not do, now?
Tread the fine line between hope and lowered expectations
Rejections can be gutting. I’ve written about this before. You need to prepare yourself in case that’s what happens. On the other hand, you want to believe in your work and be open to success. It can be torturous when you’ve invested so much time, effort and even money. But aim for zen like detachment, understanding that you’ll be rejected until you aren’t.
Start something else immediately
If you’ve written fiction, perhaps you have an idea for a non-fiction book. If you’ve written long form, maybe it’s time to try short stories, which if published can help build your author biography. Alternatively, your short stories might make great novels.
When starting a new project remember two things. First, you learned how to write your last story, not necessarily others. A new story might demand other skills. Second, first drafts are often terrible. Don’t judge yourself. Just get something down and redraft, redraft, redraft…
Take a break
Is it time you did something else for a while? Doing nothing can be anything but doing nothing. You might actually be creating a masterpiece in the background. More on that here.
Have a Plan B
I like to have a back up plan. Perhaps there are other publishers you haven’t tried such as overseas or independent ones. If you’ve exhausted all channels, consider other publishing options, as I’ve discussed here. For me with this manuscript my Plan B is joint publishing. But perhaps you want to consider self publishing. Then again, after some reflection, you might conclude this was your learner novel. There’s no rush.
Patience is not an inherited trait, it’s a learned and practiced skill. Get on with the next thing in your life, quarantining a place of hope inside you in case that positive outcome arrives.
What not to do
Don’t reread your work
Unless you’re prepared to endlessly rewrite your manuscript, don’t reread it while you wait. You can do that later if your submissions is rejected.
Don’t make changes and resubmit to the same publisher
Once you’ve submitted that’s it, so make sure your manuscript is ready. Some people put their work away for weeks or months before deciding whether their piece is ready. I wish I’d done that in the past. Still, everything is a process, including mistakes, or rather learning experiences.
Don’t harass publishers or agents
It’s a test of patience, but if your potential agent or publisher said they usually reply in 3 or 6 months, then wait the allotted time. If they’re considerably late, inquire politely. Harassing won’t earn you a favourable reputation.
Remember, publishers want commercially viable books.
If you don’t succeed, it doesn’t mean you can’t write
or that your work is rubbish.