I’ve always written, ever since I was a child. When I was ten I sent one of my stories to a publisher and was furious when they replied with a kind letter saying well done but it wasn’t for them. So furious, in fact, that I tore up the story and burnt it. There was only one copy, written in pencil on biology file paper. I can still see it now and I wish I had kept it. I’m sure it was terrible!
That was my first rejection and since then there have been many more. Most writers have to learn to deal with rejections. Sometimes there are reasons given – the story won’t sell, people aren’t buying this sort of stuff, we are only looking for a certain sort of story and yours doesn’t fit our list.
And sometimes you have to wait for months and months to hear back from an agent or publisher – or there is no reply at all. At these times, it’s important to keep working, to get on with the next project.
One of the things that’s really helped me during the bad times is belonging to a network of writers and being able to compare experiences and get much needed support and encouragement.
Yes, it is great to share successes, but in my view, even more valuable to share the failures, the bad times, when your confidence is shattered and you can’t believe you were ever arrogant enough to call yourself a writer.
Knowing that you are not alone, that all writers, however apparently successful, have been through these experiences, can be the only thing that keeps you going and spurs you on to dig yourself out of that deep hole of waning self confidence.
There have always been blips in my writing life. It had begun so well and, initially, been so easy. I had written a novel for children and I entered it in a national competition. To my astonishment, it was joint winner and suddenly I found myself working with a brilliant editor who taught me so much and helped me fine tune my work. Four more books were commissioned and I began to believe that I was a ‘proper’ writer. But then the editor in question left and, as so often happens, the new editor didn’t particularly like my work, was looking for new voices, and no more commissions came my way.
That was my first time in the wilderness At these points in your writing life, unless you have incredible self-belief, it is very easy to lose faith in yourself as a writer and even though, by that time, I had a bunch of published books to my name and plenty of ideas, I seriously questioned whether I had any talent at all.
A couple of years went by when neither agents nor publishers seemed interested in my proposals and then, just at the point when I was ready to abandon my writing, a commission came from Hachette for a trilogy of historical novels. – a family saga, this time, from early Victorian times to the second World War.
Those Hachette books were the last ones for which I received an advance based on a first chapter and a synopsis. Now, unless you are a high profile author, you have to write up the full story before you receive a contract.
After that there was another long association with a different publisher but just when I had got my feet under the table there, the company was bought by a larger publisher and they decided not to continue with the Young Adult list.
Now I’m working for a small independent publisher – set up by an editor, as it happens, who was involved in publishing my very first novel, so I have come full circle. But who knows where this will lead, how many more books I shall have accepted?
So, to all you young writers, my advice is to write what you want to write – about what you feel passionately – keep writing and never give up hope. The more you write, the better you will become.
Most writers have had a load of rejections; there is absolutely no certainly in this game.
The lows are horrible. But the highs – a brilliant review, praise from readers and the thrill of seeing a newly published book with your name on the cover – these can keep you buoyed up and confident for a long time.
If you want to be a writer, go for it! Follow your dream. Relish the highs and remember that everyone experiences the lows.