Writing as a Character Building Exercise

All writers expect knock-backs. We know it comes with the territory; it’s part of the game. You send stuff out and even though the hope for a “Yes please!” burns bright, the damp stream of “No thank yous” starts gurgling.

Well, today another rejection drifted my way. I’ve taken a deep breath and resolved to press on. Maybe I’ll start papering the wall of my WC with the notices. If only they were a little more personal–handwritten on cute little notecards with business cards attached and scrawled on the back a note saying: “Shows promise–contact me in 12 months.” So far they’ve been impersonal bulk emails. Not even a “Dear Alison.”

Last year I wrote my first novel, and what an adventure it was. The learning curve was steeper than I expected. One of the strangest discoveries was that writing the book is actually the easy part. And the quick part.

It was the funnest part too. Honestly, I can’t think of a bigger buzz than unearthing a story. It was almost like receiving it rather than writing it. Time after time I was amazed at what came out of my imagination–or wherever. My soul/psyche/heart/head.

It was after I typed “the end” that the slow slog began. The magic dried up and the toil ensued as I researched markets, sought advice, sussed out the world of publishing, and took some tentative first steps towards publication.

I edited. I passed out copies of manuscripts to patient (beautiful, kind) friends and scarfed up their feedback with great slurping noises. I even set up an opportunity to pitch the manuscript to a real live editor from an actual publishing house. But it was all way too early. I was bumbling along, like a hillbilly taking her pet nanny-goat for a walk through the 17th Arrondissement. Thank God I learned a thing or two; otherwise the whole six months would have been a write-off.

I went back to the drawing board and did another four drafts. I sought professional advice and stopped haranguing my kind-hearted buddies. I read blogs on agents and attended courses. My investment in a hot-off-the-press copy of the 2010/11 Australian Writers’ Marketplace was one of the wisest investments of the period.

In a ten-month period the new and improved manuscript of Photophobia has been resubmitted twice and re-rejected twice, with today’s being the fourth in total.

I confess, I doubt it is good enough. I fret over weaknesses despite the good feedback and objective appraisal. It bugs me that I can’t seem to summarise it into a single sentence, something one is supposed to be able to do in case one ever gets stuck in a lift with a literary agent. I do resolve to go on, but I am in a quandary about whether or not I go on with this novel…

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