Behold my shiny new look

Check out the new theme. I liked the old look but I felt that it was a bit bare bones now that more people are visiting and I have multiple pages. I’ve also updated the About page since I think it’s more likely that people will visit it with the new layout.

In other news I sent off another query email. Since that’s almost certain to fail I’ve lined up the next Agent that I will start procrastinating sending a query to just as soon as the current one emails my rejection. It’s important to chain your rejections for maximum damage. I swear this paragraph made sense in my head.

NaNoWriMo is almost upon us and I really haven’t done enough prep. I’m about to spend a couple of days in Edinburgh with my Mother, which is great, but it does get in the way of the traditional last minute scramble of outlining and research. It could turn out to be useful since the story is partly set in Edinburgh. I just have to remember to take lots of photographs.

 

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Yet more rejection.

I got the form rejection email today from the last agent I queried.

Once again I find myself asking if I’m mad to even try to find an agent. Even if the novel is as good as I think it is that doesn’t make it sellable. If no-one knows how to market it no-one is going to want to publish it. If no-one is going to want to publish it why would an agent want to represent it?

I am so bad at dealing with rejection and I’m not going to get better at it. As I said previously this is just the way I’m made. I’d give up on the dream of publishing if I could think of anything else to do but I just don’t have any other saleable skills. Writing is starting to look like just another one of my non-saleable skills.

It doesn’t matter how good you are at something. If no-one wants to pay you to do it then it’s not a sustainable life choice. I can’t afford for writing to be just another one of my hobbies and I can’t stand putting all that work into something that no-one will see.  I don’t want to die knowing that all I did with my life was to occupy the time between cradle and grave.

Pitching in Public again.

Last year I took part in a pitch event at Xponorth in Inverness. I only sent in the initial submission as an exercise in getting used to rejection. I was surprised to be selected to pitch and and even more surprised at how well it went. I was shocked and stunned to be asked for a full manuscript by a publisher. It didn’t work out but that is the lot of the writer.

Next month I am getting back on the pitching pony again. A friend (Vanessa Robertson) bugged me into applying for Pitch Perfect at Bloody Scotland. It’s kind of a big thing. It’s been going for years. People have been published as a direct result of it. I got a phone call today (Thursday) saying that I’m pitching.

I just hope that my weird novel doesn’t piss off a panel that’s looking for the next big thing in crime fiction.

Not everyone is going to like everything

Yes it’s another post about rejection. If I have to suffer through multiple rejections so do the rest of you.

One of the problems with making any kind of art is that the maker is usually too close to it to tell if it’s any good. So you need to look to others for feedback. But if other people don’t like it then it might be because this is not the sort of thing they like or it might be because your art is not very good. And if they do like it then they might be lying, or have terrible taste or low standards.

I know that some of the things that I like are not very good. There are some films that I’m very fond of that are clearly terrible examples of film making. I also know that there are other things that I don’t like that are clearly very good. I can’t stand the UK version of The Office. It just makes me cringe but I can tell that it’s good.

So when an agent tells me that they didn’t find the concept of my novel compelling enough that leaves me with three options:

  1. This is not the sort of thing they like – nothing I could have done would have made them like the novel.
  2. The concept of the novel is bad and the novel cannot be saved – nothing I can do will make any agent like the novel.
  3. I have failed to properly explain the concept of the novel. The concept is fine I’m just shitty at writing query letters etc.

My instinct is that the concept is awesome but weird and I’m not very good at explaining it. I think that, judging by the other authors represented by this agent, it’s probably not option 1.

I’m dreadfully afraid that it’s option 2. I’ve invested a lot of time into this novel and its sequels. What if it’s just not very good? What if the underlying concept upon which I’ve built an entire series is just terrible and I’m too close to it to see? How would I know?

The whole thing makes me feel like I’ve been presumptuous. How dare I think that I have anything interesting to say? How dare I think that anyone professional would be interested in my shitty little stories?

I can’t be the only writer to feel this way. I just wish there was some way to turn off the internal monologue that is now telling me, over and over again, that I’m an idiot.

The hardest part of writing.

Years and years ago I thought the hardest part of being a writer must be coming up with the ideas. The truly good ones seemed to be so few and far between and how could you ever think up a whole plot and find names for characters and places. Invention seemed like a superpower. I thought that once you had a really good idea the actual writing must flow quite easily.

Later I realised that the hardest part of being a writer must be writing that first draft. Overcoming that fear of the empty page. Daring to risk your ideas not coming out the way you imagined. I thought that once that first draft was over the editing and the polishing must be relatively easy. After all the work was mostly done.

Then I realised that editing both sucks and blows and that you can’t even start polishing until you’ve done all the re-writing. Oh God, the re-writing. Ideas are easy, writing the first draft is fun, editing is like being beaten to death with your own manuscript. But once the thing is done you just have to send it out. How hard could that be?

Turns out – really fucking hard. First you have to find agents/publishers that are willing to admit to an interest in whatever weird combination of genres you’re writing. Then you have to come up with a synopsis of the right length and an extract of however many pages they like in whatever format they prefer. Sometimes they want a CV. And they all need a covering/query letter. How the fuck do you write those? Why can’t I just say “Here’s my novel. I worked really hard. You’ll like it if you like the sort of thing that it is.”?

By now you maybe noticing a pattern. If I ever do attract an agent then it’s going to turn out to be just the start of my troubles. Because here’s the biggest secret about writing. The hardest part is always the part you are doing right now or are about to begin doing. The easy parts are always the part you’ve just finished or the part that’s so far off in the future that it might as well be on another planet.

Woo! Rejection! Again.

After waiting for what seems like years I finally received a rejection e-mail from one of the agents that I sent the finished novel out to. I don’t know if you can tell but I’m feeling a lot less enthusiastic about this rejection. Maybe it’s harder to deal with rejection when you’re in the throws of planning a new novel?

Or maybe it’s just the knowledge that there’s going to be so many more. I know that not everyone can like everything. I know that my writing is weird. But I also know that I’m writing  for a niche market that’s already overcrowded with authors and under-represented by agents.

Or maybe I’m just not very good? I’ve got no way of knowing. I’m the worst person to judge my own work, every writer is. I think my prose is strong and my plot is compelling but of course it seems that way to me. For all I know the plot is completely incomprehensible to anyone who doesn’t already know what it is?

Or maybe I’m just not persuasive enough? Agents are busy. I can’t guarantee that the agent even read the whole submission. They might have taken one look at my query letter or my synopsis and just decided that I was clearly either a lunatic or a hack.

Or maybe I am both a lunatic and a hack.

Woo Hoo! Rejection.

So the “getting used to rejection project” which started back in May has finally come to fruition. The agent got back to me. He wanted my novel for a particular publisher that, as of two weeks ago, decided they were only looking for straight crime series novels and romance. He’s working full time for the publisher and can’t spare the time to represent me.

I have to say I am surprised by my own reaction. I’m really not particularly upset about it. I’m a little upset about having to write more fucking query letters. I’m a little upset about having to tell people who were rooting for me. I’m really not looking forward to telling my Mother because she will surely launch into another conspiracy theory about how he was only after my manuscript to steal my novel.

In a bizarre turn I’m slightly pissed off to have got the bad news so quickly. Could he not have waited for me to finish tidying the house? Now I have to use my precious spoons to chase up agents and write query letters rather than clean the house.

Well I say I’m not particularly upset but I went out this afternoon and bought (amongst other things) loads of ice cream and crisps and then came back and had to lie down for two hours but that’s probably unrelated.

News of the Pitch.

I’ve written several posts on the subject of the pitch. I submitted work to a competition of sorts. If they liked your submission you’d get the chance to pitch to publishers and agents at an event called Xponorth in Inverness.

I only did it because I wanted to get used to rejection. I did my absolute best with the submission but didn’t expect them to like my it because they asked for a headshot and I am a fat, potato-faced middle aged woman and my novel doesn’t fit into any established genre.

Much to my surprise they liked the submission and asked me to pitch. I assumed they must be short of applicants. I was wrong. In fact there were over 200 applications and only 25 people were invited to pitch. That was my first shock of the day.

I was pitching last, which turned out to be a good thing as I’ll explain later, so I had to sit through the other pitches getting increasingly stiff from sitting on a hard chair and worrying that we might run out of time before I got the chance to pitch.

Listening to the other pitches was fascinating. We were a fairly diverse bunch in terms of ages, accents, genders and novels. The youngest writer looked to be in his early 20s and the oldest two seemed to belong to the same generation as my mother (i.e. born during or just after WWII). There were several novels that I sincerely hope get published because I am desperate to read them. The pitching style varied very widely too. Some were formal, some were polished, some were nervous but enthusiastic, some were personal and one was so lyrical it was almost a poem.

During my preparation I’d timed my own pitch and knew that it was consistently 3 minutes 29 seconds. Since I had 5 minutes that meant that I had time to allow for stumbling over my words, dramatic pauses and for adding additional information based on the other pitches. That meant that with every pitch I heard my pitch got better. Fair compensation for the fact that by the time it was my turn my legs had gone numb and I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to stand.

As I made my way to the podium I got my second shock. I pulled out my index cards with the pitch written on and then I looked up at the audience and started speaking and suddenly it was like I was flying. I was actually enjoying it. It felt good. Not only was I able to deliver the pitch easily but I could add the additional material that I’d come up with while listening to the other pitches.

So I finished my pitch and I got my third shock. People liked it. I mean I know I’m persuasive but I was not prepared for how much people liked it. The panel had actually read my submission. And they’d liked it. One of them was so taken by the first page of it that he asked if I had it with me so I could read it out.

Let me remind you that this was an exercise in getting used to rejection. I went all the way to Inverness at my own expense to get rejected and I failed. What I got was a request for the full manuscript to be delivered in August. My only hope of rejection is that either the rest of the novel doesn’t live up to the first 50 pages, which I’m going to do my level best to avoid, or it turns out to be too similar to one they’re already publishing.

Does this mean that I can succeed at something but only if I’m simultaneously failing at something else?

Still making things worse for myself.

Last month I talked about some submitting work to a pitch event. I didn’t expect to be short listed because I’m not what they’re looking for.  They’re looking for young, pretty people with social media reach and I am a fat, middle aged, munter with a shitty blog.

Now originally submissions closed on the 1st of April with the short-listed writers being notified over the next couple of weeks and everyone hearing back by the end of April. But then the moved the deadline. By a month.

So now I don’t even know when to expect to officially hear that I’m not on the short list.  I keep checking my e-mail and checking the event website to see if they’ve listed the short list that I’m not on. I did not expect to have to wait this long for rejection.  It shouldn’t matter because I shouldn’t care. But I find myself halfheartedly planning a trip to Inverness for the event. I’m budgeting for travel and picking out clothes. I’m expending mental effort planning for something that’s not going to happen but I can’t be sure it’s not going to happen because they haven’t officially rejected me yet.

Dammit I want my rejection in a timely fashion.

Nope

Sometimes I look back at my life and realise it’s been a long string of nope. When I’m not being rejected I’m rejecting things because I think they’re not for me.

I get rejected a lot. I don’t really want to go into my long history of not being good enough except to say that after a while you internalise it and then it doesn’t matter if people are rejecting you or not because you’ve already pre-rejected yourself. Unfortunately it never stops hurting and it never stops feeling personal.

For a long time I thought I could never be a writer because being a writer used to mean that you had to persuade someone to publish you. I was sure I’d never be able to do that because I’m so easy to say no to. Things are different now. Now I’m half convinced that I can’t be a writer because I lack the business sense to self publish.

My heart sinks at the thought of all the self promotion a writer has to do, regardless of how their work is published.  I actually feel ill when I contemplate asking people to buy something I’ve written.  Why the hell would anyone want to do that? It’s not that I think that my writing is bad or that it’s not worth the money.  I’m sure it’s good.  I believe that all artists deserve to get paid.  I believe that my work is worth paying for it’s just that I don’t expect anyone else to agree with me.  Asking people to pay me money is dangerously close to asking for help and asking for help has always been a bad idea for me.

When I try to express my fears it mostly comes out sounding like arrogance.  “Self publishing isn’t for me,” sounds exactly like “I’m too good for self publishing.”  “I don’t want to promote my work,” sounds exactly like “My work is so good it should sell itself.”  “I’m going to have difficulty finding the right publisher/agent,” sounds exactly like “I’m too special for most of them.”

I have this deep and abiding fear that new and more horrible rejection is waiting just over the horizon.  This fear of rejection alone probably means that I shouldn’t be a writer.  But maybe I can manage the rejection?  Maybe I can deal with it in stages?

For anyone still reading this these are some of the reasons you might decide not to continue reading.

  1. I am disabled. And not in any interesting, heroic or photogenic way.
  2. I am fat.  Not curvy or voluptuous. It does not look good on me. I am not cute or fashionable.
  3. I will not be engaging in fat shaming anyone else.  I’m always amazed by how fabulous and stylish other fat people look.
  4. I am female but I am neither pretty, young, nor available.
  5. I am not wealthy.  In fact by British standards i’m fairly poor.
  6. I have been through a lot of horrible shit in my life but none of it makes for an interesting story.  It’s messy, mostly self inflicted and doesn’t make much sense.
  7. I’m Scottish (which is not currently popular in the rest of the UK).
  8. At some point in the future I may promote my own work in forms that you will have to pay money to enjoy.
  9. I complain a lot.

I might be alone now but I can handle alone.