Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Novel News

When I opened the door, the postman stood there with a Big Parcel. It was a jiffy bag which meant this was my novel back from the New Writers Scheme. The fact that it had been returned meant it wasn’t good enough for a second reading. My stomach plummeted as if I was in a very fast lift, along with my confidence. Bugger.

With trembling hands I ripped the package open, desperate to know what the report said. Well, I had an idea – “ this is well written but xxxxx needs looking at and I wasn’t happy with xxxx and your plot needs working on and you could improve it by xxxx and good luck and keep writing.”

I stood in the kitchen, shaking while I scanned through the compliments (those are always first) waiting for the BUTs. A few very minor ones – like missing pages, a briefly mentioned character who never reappears again – she could be got rid of as she doesn’t add anything to the story. I could perhaps sharpen it up by cutting down on the description but don’t get rid of too much because it’s lovely.

Then at the end, a warning that there is no guarantee that an agent or publisher will take this on. If they don’t, I might need to tighten up a certain passage of the book, but it reads well as it is. Next page, a list of agents to send it to.

So this is a good report? Where’s the list of things that are wrong? If the writer thought it was good, why didn’t it get a second reading?

Brain went into complete overdrive and I couldn’t concentrate for the next hour.

Thankfully I was due to meet a friend in town so I had a long walk, a good chat and came home and sent the first few chapters off to Piatkus.

I’ve now re-read the report several times and while I’m delighted, there’s no guarantee that this will succeed with an agent or a publisher. If it did – well, we won’t go there. I’ve been disappointed too many times.

But – and this is the tricky bit about being a writer - I know this is the best thing I’ve written. Can I do it again? Already I’m thinking that the next novel, which I’m plotting, is weaker. The characters aren’t as strong or as quirky. Or are they?

Oh hell, who’d be a writer? Why, a friend of mine asked, do I do something that continually tests my flailing confidence? Why do I work in a business that means I’m continually up against rejection?

That I can’t answer. I inherited the writing gene – no idea from whom - and I have to go with it.

29 comments:

laurie said...

oh my gosh, flowerpot, that sounds like an excellent report to me. i don't know anything about the new writers scheme or whatever that group is, but it sounds very encouraging.

of course there are no guarantees. one step at a time. find an agent. that's your next step.

good luck to you!!

Flowerpot said...

thanks laurie. I'm still in a state of shock i think!

The Rotten Correspondent said...

Can you hear all the noisemakers I have going? I think that's wonderful news - absolutely fabulously wonderful.

You're through the first hurdle. One step at a time (sorry I'm copying laurie, but how many ways can you say one step at a time??), ever forward.

We're rooting for you!

Hannah Velten said...

Ohh, I could feel your butterflies...I also found myself nodding to the 'why be a writer with all that rejection' bit - why do we do it to ourselves...ummm because we love it?!

Anyway, shame about the novel not getting a second reading, but then the report doesn't sound too damning - persistance is the key, I would say...good luck with the publishers.

I've got a meeting with Bloomsbuy tomorrow to discuss another project - getting nervous now....

Flowerpot said...

correspondent - How cheering! I guess I'm not getting overexcited because I've been there before and had hopes dashed. Thanks for the rootin' and tootin'.

Flowerpot said...

Hannah - thanks also for your encouragement - no it wasnt at all damning - and I've now sent partial off to two people... Good luck with Bloomsbury - keep me posted!

Miss Understood said...

I bet the characters are only weaker in your second novel because they haven't got under your skin yet. When they start living and breathing, you'll love them just the same.

I would be so overjoyed to get a report like that. Keep going, FP...if writing was easy peasy then everyone would be doing it!

I think a writer's biggest mistake, by the way, is writing what they they think other people want to read, rather than just writing what they know they do well.

KeVin K. said...

Editors love stories they can't buy all the time. I have no idea what New Writers Scheme is or how it works, but it sounds to me like you had something of merit that just didn't quite fit whatever they were looking for. Which is a very good thing. If you've got the craft down, finding the market is just a question of investing enough postage.

And I always hate a story by the time I mail it and nothing I'm working on is any good. So sounds like you've got a pretty standard mindset for a writer. (The ones who think their every word is golden are the ones churning out reams of drek. Fair game for the vanity presses.) Professional writing requires a higher standard and pride in craftsmanship carries with it the nagging suspicion that your best isn't quite what it should be.)

Lane said...

I'm not that familiar with the NWS and reports but this one does sound positive.
You're putting it out there and that's the main thing:))
x

debio said...

When you are a famous best-seller I shal claim to have known you - well, virtually....as you do.

Well done. Too thrilled.

Come on over to pick up your award.

Crystal Jigsaw said...

Yes, I'm rooting for you too. This was a great blog and I'm sure that report is a positive outcome to what could be look upon as a challenge.

Good luck.

Crystal xx

Graham, Prince & Tilly said...

That sounds like pretty good news to me! Piatkus are fairly forward thinking as far as I'm aware, and seem to showcase new writers quite often - so fingers crossed for you....

Lesley Rigby said...

I don't know a thing about the getting a book published process. I do know you are B***** wonderful and so press on!!!

laurie said...

look at all of us who are behind you, flowerpot!

you tell that agent, once you hire him (or her), that there are at least a dozen of us out there who will absolutely buy your book.

JJ said...

That sounds a great encouragement, Flowerpot. Well done.
JJx

julia said...

Wow - excellent, Flowerpot! Being a writer myself - not yet published, but cousin to a multipublished working writer - I know that the most important part of getting published is both the simplest and hardest:
Never Give Up.
My cousin still has dark days when she's sure she's lost her ability to string two sentences together, let alone write another book. But then she hands in her latest manuscript. She works hard to keep her confidence in good health. It's the best writing muscle you have.

Flowerpot said...

MissU - you've hit the problem on the head. Yesterday I took Moll fora walk, came back and suddenly realised another acute angle to the plot - yay!! It isnt as bad as I thought.

kevin k - good to meet you Kevin and good to know I'm not the only paranoid writer! I agree with your assessment of nothing being good enough either. It means you dont get so disappointed either!

Flowerpot said...

lane - thanks for that. It was a positive report and I've sent it off to 2 people now so fingers crossed.

Debio - thanks for such wonderful encouragement. By the way, why aren't you writing for a living? You should be!

Crystal - thanks so much. And best of luck with your novel - I love the sound of it.

Flowerpot said...

Graham - yes, I went to a talk PIaatkus gave once and they seem to have a good selection of writers - and non fiction. Havent they been boughht by LIttle Brown or is that someone else? anyone know?

lesley- you are a tonic to my soul!

And Laurie too - I'm gobsmacked. When I get agent (hah!) I will piont her in the direction of this precise blog - or rather, the comments!

Flowerpot said...

jj - many thanks and best of luck yourself.

Julia - very very wise words. I have a Never Give Up frog on my desk - and I can quite unddrstand how your cousin feels. I get days when everything is just C**P as I'm sure you do. Never thought of confidence as a muscle - brilliant!

Flowerpot said...

THANK YOU all of you for such wonderful support. (I sound as if I'm at the oscars giving a speech. Thank you darlings, and I love my husband (sob) and my dog (sob) - you can tell I'm over emotional cant you?
No I mean it. o are a great lot and will keep me going whatever happens (probably nothing!) THANK YOU.

debio said...

Your question has made my day, flowerpot. Would love to write for a living but don't really know how to begin on the ladder having only written for in-house mags to date. I am reluctant to research as don't know about the inherent 'rejections'.

One step at a time, perhaps...

Flowerpot said...

debio - please email me on flower.pot@btinternet.com!

Rebecca Taunton said...

It sounds like a good report FP, and well done for sending it straight out again.

It must be a little confusing that the novel wasn't put forward for a second reading, but they gave you a list of agents, which is great.

I shall be keeping my fingers and toes crossed for you. And, when you succeed (when - because you must stay positive that it will), I can say that I live next to a famous writer and...perhaps...I can find out how you manage to have so much of a drive to keep writing.

Flowerpot said...

RT - thank you so much for those very kind and wonderful words. I think the drive comes from a lot of years of trying and I don't want to see those years wasted. Remember I'm a bit further on in life and you get a bit more conscious of time passing at my age. It's also sheer bloody mindedness - I will get there you bastards. That sort of attitude! You get stroppier with age or I have done anyway.

CTaylor said...

Congratulations flowerpot - that sounds to me like excellent and very encouraging feedback.

Is the New Writer Scheme the one with the RNA? I'm thinking of joining them next year.

It's fantastic they had so little to criticise - now you just have to find an agent or publisher who falls in love with it. And I'm sure they will.

BTW - am very reassured by the conversation between you and Kevin about hating your work when you send it off. I HATE the novel I'm editing at the moment and think it's terrible. But...funnily enough I've just discovered the teen novel I wrote two years ago and, having re-read it, love it (and am surprised I wrote it). It must be down to how close you are to your novel. A bit like going on holiday - you can even get sick of your best friend if you spend all your time with her!

Akelamalu said...

Well done you, that sounds like a great report to me.

rilly super said...

why do you do it you ask, well, if you've got to the point of finshing something and sending it out to be reviewed then probably it's because you love doing it, you need to do it and you might not be quite the same person if you didn't do it flowerpot.

Flowerpot said...

ctaylor - yes that is the RNA - it's good value for a crit, depending on who does your report which is of course a pig in a poke. Otherwise try Hilary Johnson who is more expensive but worth every penny I think. Good luck with your novel!

Ak - thanks for your encouragement.

Rilly - lovely to see you again. Yes, the sad fact is that I'm addicted!