As we turn the calendar into a new month I wanted to write a post updating on the things I’m writing and forthcoming releases, and so on.
The first item of note (I feel like I’m in an imaginary meeting, with myself, talking to myself about all that’s gone on, so feel free to join in) is ‘NaNoWriMo’, which is effectively an online community which started a few years back to inspire people to write; whether you were a budding writer needing the kick up the backside to finally get your idea down on paper or a more experienced writer who is in a bit of a rut and could benefit from some, or any, motivation.
I fell in the latter category and so I tried it out. It started well, and this is primarily because I had an existing idea, the majority of a storyline mapped out and all of my characters fleshed out. Perfect. It was, as all of my fiction works are, a standalone piece, but exists in the same universe as my others, so technically works as a series.
I was given a big boost at the start of the month when a publisher I had submitted ‘Peach’ (the first in the series, one I’ve written about on this website often) to expressed a strong interest. I was on cloud nine; it was a vibrant publisher with a multimedia approach (any budding writers can check them out here, I really can’t speak highly enough of them) but the most important part was that they really understood the story and what I was trying to say. Best of all, it was the publisher I’d really hoped would be interested.
With everything looking good, my creative juices were flowing as I looked forward to meeting with the publisher and talking about the future. And then, a few days later, I received an email from them saying that they had had second thoughts, they wouldn’t be able to publish Peach because their schedule was too full and they felt they couldn’t commit the necessary time. This isn’t the sort of thing that is cool to admit as a writer. You’re not supposed to reveal your rejections.
I don’t mind admitting I was devastated and even now, a few weeks later, I still am, in a sense. It was a real kicker. I resolved to pick myself up and find some new publishers, and literary agents, who may be suitable to submit to, and there are definitely some interesting places; despite my positive hopes, I have been prone to fairly long periods of feeling deflated and defeated. As John Cleese put it in Clockwise, “It’s not the despair, I can stand the despair, it’s the hope!”
You can find all kinds of figures online to tell you how difficult it is to be published; how many stories are finished by their writers, how many of those stories are enjoyed by agents or publishers, and how many make it into print. I understand those odds more than most and so I appreciate it so much when one of my ideas does make it to print; to have something come so close and then have it not work out for reasons other than its quality is soul-destroying. That said, I am also aware enough to know that if they did enjoy it enough, then a way would be found.
Peach is a literary fiction body of work, it requires an investment of time because the themes are quite heavy, and no matter about how much I as the writer want to say it’s worth the investment, some people just don’t want to. Some agents and publishers are oddly specific, they want certain things… which, for some writers, must be great (in fact, one of my tips for any writer is to actually look for what agents are asking for before writing, because if you can tick their specific boxes, it gets you a leg in the door before writing what YOU want to write), but for me, as stubborn as I am and as sure as I am in my story, I just have to hope that the right person or publisher is out there to help bring the story out. As it stands I’m more optimistic about it being developed into a movie first!
And it does feel to me as if it’s very white man, first world problems, because I understand that I am part of the privileged demographic, so how dare I whinge about how difficult it is? Nobody is interested in my difficulties, and I don’t write that as a ‘woe is me’ statement, it’s just a cold hard truth. I feel that I had some hardship growing up; I was bullied quite severely in secondary school, so much so that it has forced me to be fairly reserved, which is at odds with my creative inner core. I have always wanted and tried to express myself through writing but I lack the confidence to be a shameless self-promoter. Does being someone who was bullied make me a marginalised person, should I use that to describe myself when trying to convince someone that the story I wrote is worth their time? The idea is ludicrous to me. And so I want, and I need, my writing to be able to speak for itself but it is difficult when the publishing world is deaf to your voice. I think it’s brilliant that publishers and agents are actively looking for and embracing minorities and marginalised voices and I understand that time is such a valuable commodity that they can’t afford to gift it to every member of society. Of course it may well be the case that my writing isn’t good enough but I’ve had the reassurance from a number of people I respect that it is, so, in that respect I have always felt confident enough to wait for the ‘right’ people to come along. The confidence is gone but the hope remains, because I dare to dream.
The setback stopped me writing the NaNo story. I was around twelve thousand words in, which was pretty good, but I just couldn’t pick it back up, despite trying to for almost fifteen days straight. I don’t know if trying is the important thing, but at least I did that. The problem is, I’ve taken one step forward and two steps back, with my motivation to write fiction at least on hold.
I don’t wish this to be a completely downbeat update. My eleventh book was published last month and my twelfth will be published next month, both of them sports books, and I’m very proud of them both for different reasons. The feedback for them in these early stages has been great and I’m very appreciative of it, particularly in light of my other difficulties outlined above.
I hope to, in the near future, have more positive updates!