Growing Pains – Writing Losses and Gains Part 2

Image via Pinterest - click here for original source

Image via Pinterest – click here for original source

Like I said in Part 1 of this post, I wrote a book and was personally invited by some literary agents to send the full manuscript as soon as it was ready. I also chose a few more literary agents I liked the look of and off I went, drafting pitch letters, personalising approaches and then refreshing my inbox hundreds of times each day in the hope of receiving a positive reply.

Now, I am sure that if you are a writer who has attempted the submissions process, you will have spent many hours scouring author case studies, literary rejection websites and agent’s manuscript wishlists #MSWL. If you haven’t, maybe you should pay particular attention to that last one to help you target your submissions, but anyway. I did my homework, I already had some agents warmed up, and as the process went on a few more full manuscript requests trickled in. By the time I had completed my first round of submissions, I had five of the UK’s most prestigious literary agents giving my book some serious attention. So I did what any self-respecting aspiring author would do and started planning the outfit I would wear on my trip to London to meet them. I wrote a list of questions I should ask the agents when they called to offer me representation and I gave some serious consideration to which actress should play my lead character Marta in the movie adaptation (I settled on Eva Green, dressed down).

My imagination kept me occupied for the first few weeks of waiting for responses, and then I slowly started to sink into self-loathing as the weeks turned into months and the initial interest turned into rejection for at least three of the agents. Feedback was always positive and encouraging, but each time led to a thanks but no thanks. One agent had spent weeks pondering over it and had even shared it with a colleague as she was so undecided, but in the end they had agreed they might not be able to place it with a publisher. Another had loved it, rattled through the first few chapters in a weekend but rejected it because she had decided that she didn’t like my writing voice. Ouch.

The real kicker came when the agent I serendipitously bumped into at that train station finally responded after eight months. Yes, that’s right. Eight months. She rejected my manuscript. She acknowledged that I write well and she asked to see my next book should I write one, but she just couldn’t get into this one.

So at this point I am down to one agent and very little hope. This final agent has had my manuscript for near on 10 months. Her assistant read it, adored it, sent me an email full of praise in which she described it as a page turner, said she was gripped, she even added a wow… and then she left the agency for a new job outside of the literary world. She reassured me that I was still being considered, but that was about three months ago and I am still in the dark.

The submissions process is slow and painful, it can crush your soul and destroy any shred of confidence you ever had in your writing. However, once I crawled out of my pit of despair and naivety I realised that I had actually gained quite a lot from the experience. If I reflect on the successful pitches, positive feedback and encouraging (if upsetting) rejections I realise that I now have confirmation that I can indeed write a book, a good book, a great book. Now I need to decide what to do next.

Do I keep plugging away at the agents? Do I self-publish and share it on Wattpad? Do I toss it in a draw, chalk it up to experience and get on with the next book? I don’t know what I will do yet, but I do know that whilst my debut novel might be finished, my work as a writer certainly isn’t. What would you do? Please share your experiences with me in the comments section below.


6 responses to “Growing Pains – Writing Losses and Gains Part 2

  1. I am an unpublished author so I don’t know if my opinion is welcome here. I remain unpublished not because a fount of rejection and worries about how my writing will be received has held me back, but because I have never submitted my work (that horrible poem I sent to The New Yorker doesn’t count). I am an introvert who hates crowds, my computer and modern writing.
    I think it is more important to live your art every day, to keep writing, because you get better and better with every story or poem. You can write something amazing but if it isn’t trending it won’t be published. Keep that story just the way it is, in your back pocket, and when not IF you get it published I’ll pre order that bugger soon as I can.
    You are awesome you are talented and don’t be discouraged.
    Someday I will self publish this pile of pages to avoid trying to clamber for attention in the literary community. Maybe someone will even read it. But to me it is more important that I keep following my bliss

    • KelleyRose, your opinion is 100% welcome. I am so glad you took the time to make such an insightful comment. I have been coming around to this idea of exploring my creativity as just another part of my everyday, or as you so beautifully expressed to ‘live your art’ and ‘follow your bliss’. Published or not, you have inspired me today. Thank you ❤

  2. I’m sorry my babbling was not very helpful. That’s what happens when you type with a baby on your lap, you talk rambling nonsense and you think it sounds logical. Four hours of sleep does not a poet make. Let me try to say this in plain English:
    Keep sending that manuscript, to anyone and everyone who will read it, eventually you’ll strike gold. Many authors including Stephen King sent manuscripts for years that kept getting rejected, but he kept writing anyhow. He would write a short story and submit to everywhere he could think of and without waiting for a reply he would write something else and send that. Over and over again. He said he got so many rejections all saying “well written but nobody reads horror” did he go write a romance novel? Nope, he wrote Salem’s Lot.
    So keep writing more more more until you hone your pen to a keen edge. Don’t be afraid of the rejection, be secretly smug in knowing they just don’t know a good thing when it’s written down in black and white for them 🙂

    • As I said before, you are very welcome here whether you are babbling (which you weren’t at all:)) or sleep deprived (I feel your pain, I’ve been that one handed, baby cuddling typist too :)) My writing has been plagued by self doubt and fear for such a long time. My creativity dried up because I felt I needed a pat on the head from an ‘expert’ ie, agent or publisher. Once someone believed in me and my idea I would come up with the goods! When I got my first bit of interest from an agent, I got to work and sure enough wrote a full book. What I now understand is that I didn’t really need somebody else to believe in me, I just needed to believe in myself. That’s kind of why I’m considering self publishing. I figured if I truly believe in myself maybe its time I backed myself and put it out there rather than waiting on a fickle industry. I’m learning… Slowly 😉

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