You know all those stories about how some famous writer or other only got published after rejections from every publisher and agent in existence? They’re supposed to be inspiring, aren’t they? Supposed to make you gird your loins, polish your manuscript again, research who is actively seeking submissions and whether they’re looking for stuff like yours, and send out another handful of submissions.
But here’s the thing.What if you are the person who never receives the letter that says, ‘yes, please’? How long do you go on sending out these letters, honing them, tinkering with your synopsis, checking that your submission package is exactly as stated on the agent/publisher/competition’s website, hoping, hoping that the desk it lands on is the desk of someone who wants just what you’ve sent them? How many new books do you nurture and struggle with, every time thinking, ‘This, this is the one!’? Does there come a point when you think, ‘enough’
And what exactly is the point of it in the end. After all, even when you do get taken on by a publisher, in the current publishing climate there’s no guarantee your book’s going to make any money or get any readers.
You’ll have realised by now that I’ve had some rejections this week. Two in fact, in the space of twenty-four hours. One that I had felt very hopeful about. They ought to think of another word for them to take away the sting. Rejection. I have been rejected. Of course I know that it’s not like that from the other side of the desk. I can imagine perfectly well being the agent who already has a book like mine, or knows enough about the market to realise there isn’t a place for such a book, or who is keeping their eye open for something completely different. I’m sure they understand what they do to us writers. They keep it businesslike. They’re not really rejecting us; they just didn’t fall in love with our book. And why should they? Falling in love isn’t something that happens every day.
And me? What should I do? I’m not giving up. Not yet. Probably not ever. It’s about getting published, of course, but ultimately, when it comes down to it, it’s about the writing. It’s about grasping hold of the merest thread of an idea and building it into a story. It’s about peopling it with characters and playing around with them until they become real people in my mind. It’s about reading and rereading what I’ve written, pulling it apart and piecing it back together until it works. It’s about all the words, big and small, and the phrases they make and the order they come in. I would love to do it for money, but until that happens, I’m doing it for love.
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