In my previous post I mentioned that I’d submitted my book to a handful of agents last year with no luck. I can still remember, I think it was July of last year, finishing my first book. It was as though the torrent of words that had been pouring out of me slowed to a trickle, then stopped, the characters letting me know that, for the moment, their stories were done. ‘Awesome,’ I thought. ‘I shall polish this a bit, do an edit, then send it out! Off we go! I shall have an agent by October (sorry, I still laugh when I write that) and all will be well.’
Ha. Well, as you can imagine, that didn’t go too well. I was not ready. Not at all. My fossil was clear of the ground, that was true. But plenty of dust remained in the crevices, waiting to be removed, small details needing to emerge, larger chunks of dried earth that I’d mistaken as necessary to the whole needing to be removed so the true structure of the piece could be revealed. A whole world of research was needed, not to mention just not looking at the thing for a while. Blissfully unaware I sent it out into the big bad publishing world, and then the rejections started to arrive. Some were personalised, which I took as a good sign. One commented on my talent as a writer, the fact that it was a great idea and that I wrote with energy and imagination. Still ‘it was not right for them.’
At the time we were in the midst of moving house and so, though the rejections stung, I had a lot of other things I needed to focus on. So I put my manuscript to one side for a couple of months. Then another rejection email arrived, a straggler from that first group of agents, and I had a mild freak out. ‘My book is crap! It’s too long (it was, possibly, kinda long). The story sucks!’ I emailed a dear friend and fellow writer who had been with me on this journey from the start and he talked me down from the ledge (thank you), and my husband kept reassuring me that writing the book was accomplishment enough. But it wasn’t enough – I wanted to be published! So I sat down and took a deep breath and pulled my book out from where it had been languishing in a drawer. And, revelation! The time away meant I could see my work with fresh eyes, able to weed out all the repetitive phrases, the bits where I was telling, not showing, and basically tighten the whole thing up until I had something I was really happy with. Luckily, the story still held up, the characters speaking as true as ever – it was the language that was the problem.
So the lesson for me was that I needed to let go. Perhaps, as writers, it is what we all need to do at times. Put our work away, hide it, go outside, ignore the rattle from the drawer as it calls to us, demanding to be tweaked and reworked. Let it grow fainter until it’s gone altogether, and then we can take it out of the drawer and hopefully find we can read it with a fresh perspective. They say Rome wasn’t built in a day, that good things come to those who wait, and I’m sure countless other phrases about hard work and patience being required when you are building something worthwhile. And I believe when it comes to writing that they, whoever they are, might be right.