March 4th 2018
Got my first rejection last week, from Linen Press.
Really excited by it. It’s one of the first steps to becoming a published writer. A ‘real’ writer. Though I still don’t know what I mean by ‘real’. When I spoke to Mum and Eli about it a year ago, I said that I couldn’t wait to be at the point where I was sending out my manuscript and getting rejections. JK Rowling was rejected 12 times for Harry Potter. I’m no way near her league, but she inspires me because she came from financial rock bottom and she’s generous with those less fortunate, she’s also witty and won’t humour any twattish behaviour on Twitter. I will happily be rejected 24 times, twice the amount of times she was.
The criticism focused on whether I was ready and how terrible the synopsis is (they didn’t say terrible, I said that, what they said is, “The synopsis gave quite a lot away although all the elements mentioned are good hooks”). Fair points. My manuscript isn’t ready, but after Percie, the intern from Linen Press, spoke to me on Twitter and said she’d like to read my stuff I thought I best strike in the moment and I’m glad I did because now I don’t have that first manuscript submission on a pedestal. It’s done.
They gave me good feedback too. Lynn, the director, said she ‘warmed to the boy and his rabbit’ which I was really happy about because that’s my boy who I’ve spent hours and hours with over the past thirteen months.
Linen Press was definitely the right place to start submitting. I know it’s human nature to molly-coddle ourselves when something doesn’t work, or goes wrong, but I say it because they have an ethos to represented the under-represented and are a women’s press for women. Love that. They’re also small and independent which seems noble. Although any writer would be lying if they denied wanting to be published by one of the big guns like Penguin.
I’m half way through draft 2. Completely not ready for submitting. Fool! The more I think about it, the more embarrassing it is, but ‘Fuck it, who cares?’ as Eli says. Everything happens for a reason and I’m still learning to become a writer.
I’m working on the structure. Completely re-working it. The problem with ‘just writing’ (Gavin, uni’ manuscript tutor advised me to do this last year) is that now I have 95,000 words and most of it’s shite. I’ve had to rework character motives, goals and also re-work point of view and plot.
My next novel will be planned thoroughly and I will get my head around ‘the story arc’ first so that it doesn’t need so much graft this end. It’s a proper slog. At the start, the idea of becoming a writer was like la la land. I didn’t realise the work that goes into it. Twat. But the beauty of loving something is that it doesn’t seem like work and every criticism, even though it can be hard at the start especially if you don’t have much guidance, becomes a gift. And the gift of criticism, hopefully, becomes part of a story that becomes a gift to a reader.
I think of my short story, Frank GoldenMurr’s Day Off which Mum and Eli helped me characterise and plot. It’s probably the best thing I’ve written because it won the class competition in the Writer and Place module at uni’ and because it’s the first piece of my writing that made me feel brave enough to stand and read aloud, publicly, down the White Hart. Guess its Christmas theme made it easier. I have lots of ideas around that story to work on, but the best thing about it is that it felt like a gift both times I’ve shared it because people really laughed hearing it. That was special.
Time is so precious and I would be devastated if someone spent months, weeks or even minutes reading something of mine and they felt like their time had been wasted. If someone was to pick up my future book and hate it, I’d rather they put it down without wasting time reading it than to get to the end resenting it. Life’s too short. There are a couple of books I’ve read that I thought were awful, but they built confidence in my own ability so the time wasn’t wasted. However, if I just don’t get on with the style, or setting, they’re my two biggest influencers, then I’ll put the thing DOWN.
Today I am working on part 3 (of 4) of my manuscript. Kai’s in Paris. I need to revert to the same technique I used in part 1 of switching between first and third person to tell the story so it’s going to need more fresh writing – which is both good because it feels like I’m being creative, but frustrating because I just want to get the editing finished so I can work on the final overhaul in draft 3. People say to enjoy the journey. That’s hard. I’m too focused on desperately wanting it to be the day when I get a copy of my published book in my hands. It might seem deluded, but I won’t stop until I reach it. I want to give a copy to Dad and for it to have the surname he gave me printed on the front. I want to go with uncle Rog to Waterstone’s where he took me when I was a kid to buy Roald Dhal and Enid Blyton and find my book on the same shelves. That’s what I want.
But today, I will focus on the few metres of the road in front, not the destination. Back to part 3. Paris.