For writers, a rate of one acceptance for every eight submissions is standard.
I had assumed that writing that was rejected was writing that wasn’t good enough, and I think sometimes that’s true.
But after a treasured, longed-for acceptance, I couldn’t help noticing that all further correspondence is about what an amazing writer I am. I’m not complaining about this – validation is wonderful.
But it’s a binary.
In or out.
Maybe it was 80% of the way there, maybe it was 40% appreciated, but all I can have is 100% or 0%. And this is before you add subjectivity or any sort of gender bias into the mix.
So I’m trying to be less swayed by both the ‘No, thank yous’, and the ‘Yes, pleases.’
My work is what it is.
I write: I let it fly.
Sometimes it lands, and sometimes it doesn’t.
I have never been patient.
I want it yesterday. I rush things and make silly mistakes in them.
I thought thirteen drafts would be enough. But it’s not.
I’ve been working on my second novel for two years now, and it’s not ready. I had the amazing opportunity to pitch it to a literary agent last weekend, and she told me exactly what was missing, what I still need to do.
Of course I would have loved to have been told that it was ready, and that I should start submitting! I’m OK though. It’s worth it. This novel is literally the best idea I’ve ever had for a book, if I’m going to get representation, I feel it’s my best chance.
And it is teaching me about writing. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
You have to become patient.
‘I’d like to pay off the full balance, please.’
When I was in a hospital. Again. This seemed so far away.
When I was working two part-time jobs, but the biggest time investment was sleeping off my antipsychotic meds. This didn’t even feel important.
When I was living in a flat share, exceeding my income every month. This was unthinkable.
When we blended our families, extended the house so that there was space for children of our own. This was impossible, distant.
When we financially supported two households and four children with different needs. This wasn’t even on the radar.
When I decided it would be a great idea to give up paid work, to be at home with the children? This was laughable!
But I did it. I rang the Student Loan company, and paid off the full balance.
The first few flakes were expected. She dusted them off and kept writing. Later, as drifts of rejection letters built up, she was told to be patient. There were no short cuts. No-one owed her anything. Of course, she had always known there would be snow, it was a given, it was part of the deal.
Later, her voice muffled by the expanding polar landscape, she struggled on, through piles of ‘no thank yous,’ and ‘please do submit agains.’ It became harder and harder to lift her feet above their pull and drag, like she was treading cold sand.
In the end, her voice petered out, and her words got lost in the wind. No one realised she could have changed something for one person. Someone else, looking out at the sleety dawn, today, and wondering whether she should try.
It had been a long time since I had persevered with a book and then, 300 pages in, fell right in, and kept falling.
I spent three days either waiting to get back to my book, or reading my book. I updated social media to let people know I wouldn’t be around. The real world was not as vivid as the one within those 700 pages. When I finished, I was bereft.
I have a lot of ambitions as a writer, but even if I do not fulfill any (more) of them, it will be enough to have been given this gift. How to read. Of course I have always read and loved it, but before I wrote, I wasn’t pushing myself in my book choices. I read to relax.
And I wasn’t aware of what it takes to write a novel.