When the super-duper lovely agent I’ve been talking to came back with a no, I took a deep breath and pushed it away. I knew from the first line of the email. ‘Thanks for sending in your revisions…’
After a deep breath, I went back to my phone and read the whole email which was generous and fair. But still a no.
I closed it, turned back to my child and had a lively chat about Halloween. It wasn’t unexpected. A few weeks had gone by. The lack of enthusiasm was clear. I apologised at tea-time for being tense lately and told the family my book wasn’t accepted.
‘Why don’t you write something else?’ said number two son, ‘something we can read?’
He’s never been keen on a psychological thriller about stalking. With swearing.
‘It’s a good idea,’ I said. ‘Maybe I will.’
‘That’s a shame. Can you fix it?’ said number one, ever optimistic.
‘I’ll try.’ I said.
It hasn’t all been bad news this year. I’ve had some success with short story competitions. The writing I’ve done recently is better than it used to be. Even I can see that.
‘How do you feel?’ said husband.
I explained to him how I was going to rip out the middle and restructure the whole thing, which would allow me to show great parts of the story I hadn’t shown before. I was really looking forward to it.
But two days later, after a long chat with a trusted reader, I’m bawling my eyes out. It feels like a real loss. It’s not just the scale of the task ahead, though having done one major rewrite over the summer, I’m in no doubt it will be HARD. It’s the thought that this book might never get there.
I LOVE my characters. I love their courage and madness and strength and self-delusion. I love the depths of their despair and the wild solutions they come up with. I just can’t seem to make them come alive, believably, on paper. I don’t want to give up on them. Where will they go? What will they do? I can’t just leave them in the lurch! I’ll miss them. Is that the problem? I can’t round them off and let them go free, out into the world, to be who they are? I question my sanity. I think it’s still there.
On the one hand, I’m maybe gaining stripes as a writer, because so many of my writing heroes have gone through this and maybe I need to, to learn the craft. But in the meantime, years are going by when I could be doing something else useful. There’s no point persevering, if the writing’s just not cutting the mustard. Is it all a waste of time?
Deep down, this feels like a misfire. Or my aim is off. Or I’ve not committed to the act of killing. Writing! The act of writing. Maybe there’s a similar sort of focus required to properly see the target, read the moment, wait for the fatal move.
Maybe I’m not there yet because on some level, I’m not ready. I hope so. Either way, I’m not able to stop.