Posts Tagged ‘Daisychain’

Rather A Nice Rejection

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

Fascinating though the inner workings of my washing machine obviously are; I think it’s time to write about something slightly more cerebral. Even if it’s not more cheerful. Late yesterday the news came in of my third publisher rejection and, as promised, I’m going to write about it because if it were anyone else I would be absolutely avid with interest. This was the third response out of five; I’m getting quite used to them now. The day that someone accepts my manuscript I think I may fall over.

It was the nicest rejection so far. The email I had from my agent actually said it was ‘rather a nice rejection – but a rejection all the same’. The email was from a fiction editor at a major publisher, and when I read what she had to say I agreed – it was nice. She said that she was “….really impressed with the author’s writing style and her ability to communicate with the reader in an accessible way…” and that “…I do rate Sarah’s writing and if she chooses to write anything else in the future, I hope you would consider sending it to me.” How nice! Obviously mixed in with those lovely bits were the paragraphs where she explained in detail exactly why she was rejecting it, which were not so great to read, but I did think that there were some fair comments in those as well. I wasn’t shocked this time, because it was the third rejection, and perhaps surprisingly, I didn’t have any negative feelings at all. My mind was wholly entranced with the compliments, rather than the actual rejection. That may sound strange, but the more time passes from the point of submission, the less I care about the manuscript. It becomes more and more every day something that is a past project, and whilst I shall mind if it doesn’t ever get published, it’s very far from my main focus. It’s out of my hands, there is nothing that I can do and I am looking firmly forwards to future opportunities. To which end, the fact that a fiction editor at a major publisher rates my writing and would be keen to read more is exceptionally good news.

The only bit that I struggle with, and have for a while, is having the confidence that I am writing the right thing. But as I said on here a while ago, I choose to believe that I’m writing the right thing when I feel that the story needs to be told, regardless of whether anyone else ever wants to read it or not. If you care passionately about your idea, then as a writer you have very little choice but to write about it. That instant when you’re thinking about a possible plot or concept, and your heart rate speeds up and your breathing becomes faster and heavier and the idea wells up and explodes in your mind into a thousand, tiny strands, so many that you can’t possibly use them all – that is a truly magical moment. The last time it happened to me was quite late at night and I’d been wrestling with a particular idea for days and then finally I saw a way that I could make it happen and I literally felt a physical sensation rush down my arms. I was instantly wide awake and focussed and all I wanted to do was start writing. Of course I had no real characters at that stage so it was completely impractical, but the strength of feeling I had showed me that it was something that needs to be written. And this is why I can take the rejections in my stride; even if I do end up being able to wallpaper a room with the letters.

A few people have sympathised and said how awful it must be to have my work rejected, but I can honestly say that I have never found it hard to hear criticism of my manuscript, for the simple reason that no-one has ever (to date, and I’m sure it will come) actually criticised my writing. I think if the editor had said that my writing wasn’t good enough, or it was boring or didn’t engage her then that may be a little hard to take. But the fact that she didn’t like my idea is all right with me. As I have pointed out again and again – whether or not a person likes a manuscript is a necessarily subjective thing. And just because one person doesn’t like it, doesn’t mean that someone else won’t, which is something agents say a lot because it’s true. The market conditions at the moment are apparently very, very tricky and nothing is selling. I hear this from various sources time and time again. I think it will be very difficult for a new author to get a manuscript accepted by a publisher at this precise moment in time, and if I’m brutally honest I don’t think Daisychain will be accepted. This time around. I’m not sure what will happen with it if I get five rejections, I certainly wouldn’t write it off completely, nor would I insist on submitting to every UK publisher under the sun. I think I would probably sit back, continue writing the new manuscript and just bide my time, wait and see if the market conditions improve, wait and see if the new manuscript meets with approval (both agent and publisher) and then perhaps there will come a time when re-submission for Daisychain becomes an option. Who knows? But I am jumping the gun a bit here, there are still two more responses to wait for.

This is the last week of school before the half-term holiday for my girls. For some reason they get two weeks off in the Autumn term so there are lots of lazy days ahead! For the girls, anyway, rather than me. In the middle weekend of half term I am running the Junior Great South Run. Despite the fact that I look quite young, I am obviously not a Junior, but it is beyond me to run the ten miles required in the Adult GSR. I am running for a group called the Harvey Army; created in memory of a little boy from the school that my girls attend, who died very suddenly on holiday, back in the summer. It was an horrific shock to the school community, and just impossibly sad beyond words. I didn’t know Harvey, or his family, very well, but I do remember a little boy who had the biggest, happiest, most constant smile I think I’ve ever seen around school, and I was so moved by his loss that I felt that I wanted to do something  in his memory. So I shall be running 5k in a couple of weeks. I was training for it by running three times a week, but then last week I developed the worst case of laryngitis I have ever had, and I really felt quite ill. So I haven’t run anywhere for a long time. I keep meaning to start again……..and I will. But only after some Rather Nice Prevarication :)

xxx


 

The glamorous life of a writer…..or not.

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

My week is not going as planned, *sigh*.  My washing machine is still broken.  Which means that I have spent some ultra-glamorous time hand-washing underwear and school uniform. Well, I think it’s washed anyway – how can you tell? It’s been in some hot water with washing powder and I moved it around a bit. I obviously couldn’t get it as dry as the spin cycle on the washing machine can, no matter how many times I wrung it out, so the smallest girl has gone to school today in an ever-so-slightly-damp blouse. She looked startled as it went on and complained “But Mummy why does it feel wet?” with great big, innocent, four year old eyes. Then the eldest girl whipped around and said knowingly “Oh I remember that. It’s horrible. You have to wear a vest to soak up the worst.” I sincerely hope that doesn’t come out at school. I did iron it. The washing machine is under a ‘repair or replace’ insurance policy, but the engineer has already been out twice but failed to mend it and I’m not sure how many tries he is allowed. And while he was here I also caught him cleaning my floor and mending my kitchen cupboard so I’m not entirely sure what role he thought he was fulfilling. I wait with anticipation to see what he will try today. Gardening, perhaps? Prayer?

Last week I was also in hospital overnight with my smallest daughter. As I have already mentioned she has 22q11 deletion (a genetic abnormality), part of which is something called a sub-glottic stenosis. This is a narrowing of her trachea, which can cause problems when she has a cold or cough, especially croup. Guess what she developed last week? Croup. Her breathing deteriorated beyond what we deemed acceptable and we took her to the hospital one evening to be checked. It was a fascinating experience. Upon entering the out-of-hours clinic I noticed that all of the chairs were super-size, I could have fitted in them twice over easily. Then we went in to the examination room where I noticed that again the bed was enormously wide. As the doctor wrote up some notes after his initial examination, I asked: “Are these chairs and beds deliberately big?”

“Yes,” he replied. “This is an obesity clinic during the day. And over in that room we have scales more normally associated with the zoo.” I was avid with curiosity, but my child couldn’t breathe so I thought I’d better stay put.  (I’d like to stress that this was before the damp blouse incident.)

My husband and I are reasonably intelligent and educated, with a vested interest in 22q, which always leads to the assumption that we are medically qualified as we chatter about T-cells, aberrant subclavian arteries, etc. and therefore to the question: “What do you do for a living?”

“I’m a writer,” I told this doctor.

“Really?” he said. “Really, a writer? Wow.”  (Chair swivels round, full attention upon me as my child gasps in the background). He had by this stage decided that she needed to be admitted and was in the process of filling out an admission form for her.

“Yes.”

“Published?”

“Yes.”

“Wow,” (wonderingly), “Wow. I’ve always wanted to meet a writer.” (Pen dangles from hand, form forgotten).

“Oh – right,” (smiled uneasily).

“Anyway, anyway,” he says hastily. “I suppose I’d better fill this in,” (concentrates on the form momentarily). “But can I just ask – where do you get your ideas from?”

“Lots of places. Usually just human observation, my own experiences – you know.”

“Wow, I just think it’s amazing,” (pen dangles from hand, form forgotten). “I’ve always wanted to write a book.”

“I’m sure you could. You must have lots of interesting stories. Have you – er – finished the-”

“Not sure they’re interesting. Only medical things.”

“Well there you are. Could we possibly have the – er – ” (child gasps in the background).

“At least when you die you know you’ve done something useful with your life,” he announces.

“But you save people’s lives,” I respond incredulously. (At this point I was hoping my daughter would be among the number.)

“Well yes, but no-one’s going to remember me for that.”

“I’m not so sure.”

“What do you write?”

“Fiction. Women’s fiction.”

“Oh, chick-lit, is it?”

“Yes. I’d say it’s in that category. Could we – er – ” (I indicate the form)

“What’s the name of the book?”

Things He Never Knew. Just Google me – Sarah Haynes – the details will come up.”

“Right, right I definitely will. Anyway, I suppose we’d better – here you go – the form. This isn’t the sort of thing you’d write about is it?”

“No,” I said sweetly. “Not at all. But it’s going on twitter.”

My husband had remained silent throughout this exchange, but as we walked away from the clinic (husband didn’t allow me to go looking for the zoo-scales), he just smirked and said, “My, my, haven’t you made a new friend.” I think there’s about a 70% chance that the doctor concerned will read this and Dr X – if you do, don’t be offended, I’m not poking fun, you just amused me. It’s quite flattering, really.

Anyway, the really bad thing: my manuscript has not progressed at all this week. I am still stuck in seemingly-eternal conflict about whether to write in the first or third person. I started off in the third, realised that this story lends itself far better to being written in the first so I changed and it all went swimmingly for a few thousand words. Then I got stuck, couldn’t progress the plot, doubted my decision and so began the debate. And you remember in my last blog post when I said I’d decided to be brave and stick with the first person? Well, I wasn’t brave. I umm-ed and ahh-ed about it and decided I’d made a dreadful mistake and I had better change the 11,000 words I’d written back into the third person. But when I started doing it I realised that it would require an entire re-write: I write totally differently in the first and third person. This showed me that if I did go back to the third person I would be ruining the story. So the end result is that I’ve gone round in a great big circle and ended up exactly where I was before – writing in the first person and having to be brave. I think the secret is to write regularly (which I am bad at, my general habit is to write thousands of words in a day and then nothing for a week) so I don’t find it too hard to get inside my character’s mind. If I leave it too long I do struggle and then I start doubting myself….

I have no more publisher news. As far as I am aware, Daisychain is still languishing in the inboxes of editors scattered around London.  It’s not too bad waiting though, with each day that passes I am a day closer to hearing some news; good or bad. It will come eventually.

And speaking of bad news, I was sad to hear about Steve Jobs death today. What an amazing, talented, determined person. What he achieved in his lifetime was just extraordinary and will never be forgotten. I’m not a technological person, but he certainly revolutionised the way that I thought about technology and I can’t be the only one. He can take full credit for my figure in fact, because without my iPod I would never go running. Isn’t it funny how just putting a single, lower-case letter in front of a word can have such a dramatic effect upon its success? Well, no, not funny because all it’s doing is including it in the brand and therefore guaranteeing success, it’s astounding I mean: iPod….. iPhone…..iMac…..iPad…..

iDaisychain??

xxx

Submission….and rejection. Nine weeks in the life of an anxious author.

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

I have written only one blog post this summer. That’s it. A far cry from this time a year ago in the run-up to publishing Things He Never Knew when I was writing once or twice a week. This year is very different; first of all I was so burnt out by completing my second manuscript – the final push was tough – that I had little enthusiasm for creating anything, and secondly all I have done for nine weeks is look after my children. Which has been lovely, but not worth reporting here on my blog. There’s only so much playing and plasticine that people want to read about.

Summer has gone so quickly! Staring down the gun barrel of nine weeks of childcare is always daunting, but before I know it the diary is filled up with playdates, visits and weekends away – there’s always something going on – and oh so quickly September is here and they’re back to school. It’s extra poignant for me this year because now it’s time for my younger daughter to join her big sister in the main school as she starts Reception. As I’ve said before Alice has a genetic abnormality called 22q11 deletion, and when she was born I didn’t know if she would ever go to school, so preparing her big girl’s uniform for her has been extra-special. I’m not an over-protective mother by any stretch of the imagination, but I can’t deny feeling a little anxious this time round. However she is going into a class with lots of her friends from the Nursery and she is happy and excited about starting school so she is as well prepared as she can be. Which is more than can be said for me as I attempt to return to some semblance of routine with both girls occupied Monday-Friday. I decided back in June to give myself the entire summer away from writing, partly because of the intensity of finishing Daisychain (my manuscript) and partly because it’s impossible to be able to focus on anything with two girls to entertain, and unfair on them to try. September however heralds a return to writing…..hopefully….

At the beginning of the summer I wrote a blog post about the submission of Daisychain; after it had been approved and I had cut 30,000 precious words from it (easier than it sounds, actually) it was sent to five publishers. I was told to expect a four to six week wait and probably longer because it was summer and everyone would be away. Or sitting in the sunshine, drinking cider in a beer garden somewhere. No, she didn’t say that really. Anyway, exactly four weeks to the day it was submitted I received my first rejection. From Headline. I had a lovely email from them forwarded to me by my agent which was the nicest rejection I could have received – but it was a rejection. And I was hit far harder by it than I had ever anticipated. As any author, aspiring or otherwise will know, rejection is very much part of being a writer. Inevitably, not everyone who reads your work is going to like it. I’ve never been that bothered by rejection from agents however, most of the time I doubted they had read it anyway and if they had I respected their opinion that it wasn’t for them. In fact, strange though it may sound I didn’t see rejection as dispiriting, I saw it as a challenge – and I love challenges. I shrugged metaphorically and turned elsewhere, hoping that I was simply a step closer. I had a lot of confidence that I would be taken on by someone one day – whether this is due to the sometime positive feedback that I did receive, or just my over-inflated sense of ability I really don’t know. But I do know that you can never give up hope. And this is something that I clung to in those days after my first rejection from a publisher. It was far more of a blow because I thought finding an agent to represent me would be a lot harder than getting a publisher to accept the manuscript. Now I know that the reverse is true. And each publisher rejection is a further signature on the death warrant of the manuscript; if they all reject it there really is nowhere else to turn, I shall simply have to put it to one side and move on. And four weeks after the first I received a second rejection, from Ebury this time, which whilst it didn’t shock me as much as the first, it certainly didn’t help either. Though I’m loath to admit it I was plunged into despair, convinced that I would get five rejections and my confidence to write anything else disappeared entirely. And this was a real problem to me. I like to be quite organised and as the end of the holidays approached I wanted to be in a position to start writing something else as soon as the girls were back at school – but I had absolutely no confidence in my ability to judge the appeal of a plot. If my manuscript is being rejected surely that means there’s no market for my writing? Surely I’m writing the wrong stuff? And at that point I had ideas floating around my mind but nothing definite, and try as I might I simply could not twist them into something compelling enough for me to start planning. So then I started wondering whether I should change my writing style, choose something a little more light-hearted perhaps? But no, that would be silly and weak I decided. Whatever I write has to be true to me and if the market isn’t ready for it at the moment then perhaps it will be in the future. I can’t try and predict future trends and tailor my writing to them; that would be crazy. No, I just had to be patient and hope inspiration would come. And tonight it did. An idea that I’ve been toying with for a while suddenly morphed into a tangible shape and took on contours and colour. It truly was a Eureka! moment. Before I knew it I had the title and the cover image flooding into my mind and my heart was beating faster and I was thinking – this is it! That’s when I reached for my phone by the way and quickly the tapped the news into twitter. My idea was seconds old but I had to share the birth of it immediately. And at that point I understood – it’s not about having confidence in your writing – it’s about being passionate enough about an idea or a plot that you would write it anyway, even if everyone else hated it, just for yourself. You can’t write specifically for a market, first and foremost you need to be true to yourself. Or I do at least, anyway. So I haven’t got any further with it at the moment, but I don’t need to because it’s there, ready and waiting when I need it. The girls go back to school on Thursday and straight away I shall be knuckling down and working on it, kneading it into shape and bringing it to life. I can’t wait.